On Valentine’s Day, we visited the 3rd graders at Walnut Hills Elementary in Waukee, Iowa! During the visit Emily Rice read The Lorax, a Dr. Seuss classic personifying the relationship between industry and the environment.
If you aren’t familiar, the book is told in a flashback by the Once-ler to a small boy. From a grim and gloomy setting, he recalls a fantastical land full of brilliantly colored Truffula Trees that helped support an ecosystem of Bar-ba-loots, Swomee Swans, and Humming Fish. All those years ago, upon discovery of the Truffula Trees, the Once-ler began to manufacture Thneeds out of their fibers. Much to the dismay of the Lorax, who “speaks for the trees” and all the other inhabitants of the area, and despite warnings of the devastation his Thneed plant was causing, the Once-ler increased production until the fruit of the trees was gone, the sky filled with smog, and the water with glup; driving all those who depended on those resources out of the area. To this evidence the Once-ler shrugged his shoulders; he was making a product everyone needed and getting rich in the process! That was until the last tree fell, prompting the Lorax to take leave.
At the end of his tale the Once-ler tosses down the last Truffula seed as he recounts the meaning of the Lorax’s last message, UNLESS: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not!” He asks the boy to replant it in hopes that the Bar-ba-loots, Swomee Swans, Humming Fish, Truffula Trees and even the Lorax will return.
Although we didn’t get in to the environmental movement, energy efficiency or even literary elements like personification, the kids did recognize the underlying message of greed; one boy even shouted “everyone doesn’t need a Thneed!” Now they are looking forward to seeing the movie adaptation! And whether it was the book or the chocolates we handed out that convinced them, the kids promised to help take care of the environment by not polluting and by picking up after those who do.
What a lovely experience! The kids’ enthusiasm left us with euphoric and hopeful feelings. We welcome any suggestions for ways to continue to reach out to our youth to talk about sustainability, energy efficiency, and environmental stewardship!