Mini Unit Plan: Rachel Carson

Posted by on Aug 22, 2004 in Science | No Comments
Mini Unit Plan: Rachel Carson

At the end of this high school science unit, students should understand Rachel Carson’s role as founder of the modern environmental movement.

They will also examine difficulties she faced being a woman speaking out against the established scientific community.

They should also understand the importance of her book, Silent Spring, in exposing the pervasiveness of the environmental pollution present at the time.

Students should be able to put Carson’s work into context by understanding previous environmental movements, including John Muir and Roosevelt’s WPA, and the changes that occurred in environmentalism and environmental laws as a result of Carson’s work.

Through this, students will gain an understanding of the impact, both negative and positive, that humans have on their environment.

Essential Question

How did Rachel Carson change environmental issues in the United States?

Day 5—Culminating Assessments

Group Assessment (40 minutes)

Stakeholder Debate: 

bronze bust of rachel carson - environmentalistRachel Carson has long been recognized as a pivotal figure in the modern environmental movement.  At the time she wrote Silent Spring, she was not valued for her views, however she overcame this adversity and made her voice heard.

Four decades after her call to re-evaluate our relationship with the natural world, we are still debating the questions she raised.  Numerous people became involved in the debate including the following:

  • Chemical Companies (Monsanto—the manufacturer of DDT)
  • Rachel Carson’s fellow scientists
  • farmers
  • governmental officials
  • environmentalists
  • regular citizens.

Divide the class into the following groups:

  • Chemical Company X—has made millions of dollars creating chemical products to aide the agricultural pest problem.
  • Carson and the scientists supporting her—have documented proof that DDT is detrimental to the environment—specific citings include robin’s egg shells, mortality in offspring, etc.
  • Other scientists—not in support of Rachel Carson, scientists in postwar America were considered God and the majority was male.
  • Farmers—highly in favor of getting rid of the pests, which ruin their crops and make them lose money every year.
  • Government officials—accused Carson of being a communist and aiding America’s enemies, discounted her thoughts as a woman and as someone who was questioning the government.
  • Environmentalists—want to save the environment and wildlife no matter what it takes.
  • Citizens—believe that the government is right, but are concerned that Carson has some validity.  Concerned for their own health, their children’s health…have been exposed to “Mosquito trucks” that spray DDT for years.

Have students get into groups to take the side of one of these groups regarding Carson’s findings in Silent Spring.  Set up the situation that summer is approaching and towns are starting to mobilize for the new crop and mosquito season.  To spray or not to spray…that is the question.

Individual Assessment (20 minutes):

Creative Illustration:  The students are given the opportunity to illustrate the changes that have occurred in the environment since Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.

They can either illustrate what has happened since or illustrate what the world be like if she had not voiced her findings and people had not listened.  The illustration must show before and after pictures and can be depicted as a drawing or as a timeline.


Co-written with D. Barkow and Y. Myricks
Photo: Some rights reserved by catface3

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