Silent Spring

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  1. Scientific writing is sometimes characterized as dry and overly technical. Perhaps for that reason, people often shy away from reading books and articles based on science topics. One blaring exception is science fiction. But can the students think of other written or visual media that are science based which people read or watch for fun? Some examples the students may come up with are: National Geographic (magazine and television show), Scientific American, Popular Science, Nova, The Discovery Channel, etc. Another example of great writing that contains accurate scientific information conveyed through moving prose is Rachel Carson’s seminal work Silent Spring.

  1. Go through the table of contents of Silent Spring with the students. Have them imagine what a short story, poem, painting (or other work of art), or even a scientific article might be about for some (or if time permits, all) of the chapter titles:

    1. A Fable for Tomorrow

    2. The Obligation to Endure

    3. Elixirs of Death

    4. Surface Waters and Underground Seas

    5. Realms of the Soil

    6. Earth’s Green Mantle

    7. Needless Havoc

    8. And No Birds Sing

    9. Rivers of Death

    10. Indiscriminately from the Skies

    11. Beyond the Dreams of the Borgias

    12. The Human Price

    13. Through a Narrow Window

    14. One in Every Hour

    15. Nature Fights Back

    16. The Rumblings of an Avalanche

    17. The Other Road

  1. Give the students time to write down their answers. Then they can share their ideas in a class discussion or they can get into small groups to compare their musings.

  2. Give the students some background information about Rachel Carson. A few helpful websites are:

  1. From her biography the students can see that Rachel Carson wrote passionately and

accurately about environmental issues. Knowing this they should read chapters 8: “And

No Birds Sing,” 12:”The Human Price,” and 17: “The Other Road.” Depending on how

much homework is appropriate for your student population, you may wish to either have

the students read the chapters as part of their classroom activities or as an outside

assignment. Suggested activities for the chapters are:

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