Green Reflections: Environmental Writing in American Literature
Archdiocese of Milwaukee - Office for Schools

Green Reflections: Environmental Writing in American Literature

Course Overview

In this nine week course students will engage in analyzing the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Sigurd Olson and others.  We will be looking at the authors’ biographies as well as their works to gain a sense of what American environmentalism is.  As a class we will be examining the connection between the natural environment, people, and God. Students will connect texts by famous authors of the past with the current “green” movement.


Course Texts

A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

excerpts from Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson

excerpts from Walden by Henry David Thoreau

excerpts from Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

excerpts from The Singing Wilderness by Sigurd Olson


Course Website

Students will create their own account on the course website. Through this website students will be able to communicate with the instructor and fellow classmates. Weekly and daily discussion questions will be posted with the expectation that students will discuss the various topics posted by the instructor.


Major Writings

Students will write reaction papers to the various readings and discussions throughout the course. Students will write a MLA format research paper on a topic chosen by them from a list provided by the instructor or one of their own creation.


Major Collaborative Project

Students will work together to develop an advertising campaign designed around promoting awareness of the environment. This advertising campaign must include a written press release, print, video, and website advertisement. It will include references to the texts read in the course and independent research. 


Course Objectives

The course will provide high ability learners with opportunities to develop advanced critical thinking and 21st century skills by:

  • using interactive, web-based technology to seek, exchange, and respond to ideas.
  • collaborating with other high ability learners from throughout the Archdiocese.
  • asking and responding to high order questions.
  • discussing the ideas of self, peers, and professionals.
  • developing and refining a range of questions to frame a search for new understanding that goes beyond literal facts.
  • constructing new understandings through applying critical thinking skills in an inquiry-based research process.
  • connecting learning to community and world issues and Catholic truths.
  • using writing and speaking skills to effectively communicate new understanding.
  • creating products that express new understanding.
  • using technology to organize and display knowledge in ways that others can view, use, and critique.

Instructional Hours

The course will run for nine weeks and is designed to replace one class period of each school day. Students may be excused from their language arts/reading class to work independently in a library or resource room setting with Internet access to complete weekly tasks, such as responding to classmates comments or assignments online, completing research, writing, and reading.


Students will meet face-to-face with each other and the teacher for three half-day workshops. During the workshops, students will engage in some of the following:

  • unite with other high ability students.
  • unite with the high school instructor facilitating the class.
  • become familiar with the online classroom.
  • collaborate with group members on shared projects and ideas.
  • present final projects in a presentation format.

Expected Course Calender

Week One: What’s so American about Nature Writing?

Walden, or Life in the Woods, Henry David Thoreau


Week Two: You Don’t Have to be Unabomber to Live Alone in a Cabin

View/Read excerpts from “Into The Wild”


Week Three: Taming the Topography: Frontiersmen and Mountaineers

The Singing Wilderness, Sigurd Olson
My First Summer in the Sierra, John Muir
Chose Topic for Paper
Discuss MLA format


Week Four: Native to this Land: First Peoples’ Response to the Land

Ceremony, Leslie Marmon Silko, A Basic Call to Consciousness
Rough Draft of Paper Due
Making a good paper better

Week Five: “Becoming Native to this Place”

A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold
MLA Research Paper Due
Assign final project groups


Week Six:  Activism by Pen, Protest, and Participation

Silent Spring, Rachel Carson
View film “The 11th Hour”
Write response paper to film


Week Seven: Wilderness Women or Bewildered Women? How History has
Treated Women in the Wild

Land of Little Rain, Mary Austin
Response paper Due

Week Eight: Wisconsin and the Environmental Movement

Aldo Leopold, Gaylord Nelson, Sigurd Olson

Week Nine: Present Final Projects

*Course layout, topics, and texts taken and modified from Jan Goggans, LIT 180
American Nature Writing and Literature of the Environment
(Fall 2006) University of California Merced


Student Identification

Students will be identified by participating schools and enrolled based on ability, space, and discretion. The teacher is not directly responsible for participant identification.

Office for Schools

Mary Mother of the Church
Pastoral Center
3501 South Lake Drive
Milwaukee, WI  53207 (map)

Phone numbers
Janelle Luther: (414) 758-2256
Laura Keller: (414) 758-2254

(414) 769-3408

General email

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