Bringing Hope to the Climate Change Classroom Through Reading

Note:  This is the second in a monthly series of posts focused on integrating literacy and climate science and energy issues.  The posts are based on discussions in the “Not So Serious Climate and Energy Book Club,” last Friday.  The book club evolved out of some informal virtual discussions between a number of us involved in climate and energy education around the country and is sponsored through ICEE:  Inspiring Climate Change Education Excellence in Boulder, Colorado.  Book suggestions, (especially hopeful ones!) are welcome in the comments area below.

This month’s featured book is The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer.  The book is non-fiction and comes in “chapter book” form suitable for middlewind school on up and young readers form suitable for Pre-K on up.  William’s story is beautifully written and inspiring (in both formats) and details his life growing up Malawi facing the challenges of poverty and drought.  William overcomes these problems by designing and building a windmill to provide electricity and running water to his village.  The windmill creation is based on his reading of old science textbooks and his ability to figure out how to replace the parts he reads about with scrap metal, tractor parts, and bicycle frames.

In this month’s discussion of the book, themes emerged including; how much William values and craves education; engineering innovation and the power of turning simple, common materials in something useful and lifesaving; cross-cultural connections and the description of life in a small Malawi village; and most importantly,as our book club host Susan Buhr pointed out, the fact that one person does matter, especially in terms of social systems.

Some suggestions from the group on how to integrate the book into a classroom situation included:

-Reading the young children’s version and assigning chapters from the older version that focused more on the design of the windmill and the thought process that went into its creation.

-Watching the TEDtalk William Kamkwamba gave

-Reading the book Galimoto to discuss engineering and making complex things from common materials.

-Reading about and watching the story of a nine year old boy who built a games arcade out of cardboard boxes.

Curriculum tie ins include :
Energy 101: Wind Turbines
Wind Turbine Blade Design
Will Steger Foundation’s Citizen Climate, Lesson 3: New Technologies

The next book club meeting to discuss Ship Breaker by Paolo Baccigaluppi will be July 27 Friday, 12:30 PT/1:30 MT/2:30 CT/3:30 ET.  To learn more about the book club join the ICEE forum.

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