Same Sun Here

The Climate Generation #TeachClimate Book Club read Same Sun Here by Silas House and Neela Vaswani for the month of February 2018. This fictional story, published in 2013, is a quick and fun read. The title refers to the fact that no matter where we live on this planet, we all share the same source of energy that sustains life—the sun. Alongside all the things that make us different from each other, there are challenges that are common to us all.

How did Same Sun Here work as a book?

The story resonated with me in various ways, probably because I am familiar with the locations and environmental issues described by the grandmother of Meena, a main character in the story. Other issues are interwoven into the written conversations of two young kids—one living in New York and the other living in Kentucky. With the careful selection of the character’s names, Meena (meaning “fish” in Sanskrit) and River, we get some indication about how their stories are intertwined even though they live completely separate lives.

As we start following Meena and River’s conversations, we see how both faced emotional challenges early on in life (temporary separation from parents or parents not being available). This allowed a close relationship with their grandmothers to form, and this influence makes them a little bit more mature than their peers in regards to their thoughts, actions, and environmental knowledge.

No matter where we live on this planet, we all share the same source of energy that sustains life—the sun. Read 'Same Sun Here' by @silasdhouse. #TeachClimate Click To Tweet

While I had to research the environmental issues in Kentucky that River mentions in the story for their accuracy of representation, I was able to recognize the locations and issues that Meena describes in context of her life. Meena’s family comes from a region in the lesser Himalayas known as “Garhwal”. Her family was displaced by the construction of the Tehri Dam, considered the highest dam in India and one of the highest in the world. The construction for this dam finished in two stages, stage one in 2006 and stage two in 2012. It was very controversial because of its environmental and safety implications. This dam led to the removal of a huge section of mountain and vast alterations in landscape and habitat due to deforestation, quite similar to the mountaintop removal scenario in Kentucky. And among the many environmental problems caused by these two scenarios, the commonality is the loss of vast expanse of forests and thus a reduction in the natural sequestration of carbon, thereby exacerbating climate change.

In the Classroom

In an elementary classroom, I would bring in many ideas from this book, opening up as discussions and then move into activities. My very first idea that I would discuss with students is communication. The story is based on two young adults who write very detailed narratives to each other. They use images, drawings, lists, and objects to add details to their letters and make them interesting. I would set up a penpal activity in the classroom, where students would write an anonymous letter about themselves (students are provided detailed instructions to do so). Student letters are then distributed in the class, where all students identify their pal based on the letters.

'Same Sun Here' by @silasdhouse follows two young adults who write detailed narratives to each other. Teacher activity? Set up a penpal assignment in the classroom! #TeachClimate Click To Tweet

Elaborating on this idea of writing with details, I will encourage students to observe images/objects and practice making observations, inferences, and explanations about them. Next, I would introduce the carbon cycle and encourage students to identify the various forms of carbon around them. A number of role-play activities are easily available on the internet and one such activity is also available through the resources created by Climate Generation.

Finally, I would encourage students to research and identify organisms that would have been displaced by mountaintop removal in Kentucky or by the building of a dam in the Himalayan mountains. This would also be a place to establish how loss of habitat influences food chains in the environment. Though ambitious, I would definitely try to connect this idea with the carbon cycle idea previously taught.

Alongside all the things that make us different from each other, there are challenges that are common to us all. #TeachClimate #climatechange Click To Tweet

Apart from scientific facts, this story also brought few other aspects of human nature to light. As Meena’s family struggles to settle into their adoptive home —the U.S.— she faces many personal struggles which she shares with River. Through these interactions, various questions that River has (some about people that are not like him) are answered, and he finds himself opening up to an Indian couple he has known but never conversed with. Thus reinforcing the message of Same Sun Here — troubles both personal and environmental can be so different, yet at the root are so common.

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