Legacy of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring Mark as Favorite (10 Favorites)
In this lesson, students will read an article to learn about the impact Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring has had. Arguably, the U.S. EPA was formed as a result, and a Nobel Prize-worthy discovery was banned after the book was published. There are a series of activities to help promote literacy in the science classroom related to the reading. This lesson could be easily used as plans for a substitute teacher since most of the activities are self-guided.
This lesson will help prepare your students to meet the performance expectations in the following standards:
- HS-PS2-6: Communicate scientific and technical information about why the molecular-level structure is important in the functioning of designed materials.
- HS-ESS3-4: Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.
- Scientific and Engineering Practices:
- Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
- Engaging in Argument from Evidence
- Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
By the end of this lesson, students should be able to:
- Realize that not everyone accepts science at face value.
- Understand that chemicals can have both positive and negative effects on their surroundings.
This lesson supports students’ understanding of:
- Environmental Chemistry
Teacher Preparation: 10 minutes
Lesson: Approximate times for students to complete each activity in the lesson:
- Reading: 20 minutes
- History Exercise: 10-15 minutes
- Science, Society, and Silent Spring: 15-20 minutes
- Science and Decision Making: 20-25 minutes
- Concentration and Solubility: 15-20 minutes
- Reading document and desired handouts to accompany the reading.
- No specific safety precautions need to be observed for this activity.
- This lesson plan was originally developed through the American Chemical Society’s National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program. Under this program, ACS grants Landmark status to seminal achievements in the history of the chemical sciences and provides a record of their contributions to chemistry and society in the United States.
The lesson includes multiple components as outlined individually below. The Reading is essential for all of the activities. Teachers can choose to do one or all of the included activities. Student handouts and corresponding answer keys are provided for each item described below:
- Introduction: Before diving into the article, you could introduce the content by asking students about banned substances. What justifies banning something? Or not banning something?
- Reading: Legacy of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring
- Activity: History Exercise: Chronology of Carson’s work and DDT
- On a timeline, students place events from Carson’s life as well as events related to DDT discovery. They will discuss how Carson’s background led to her writing Silent Spring.
- Activity: Science, Society, and Silent Spring
- Recognize that groups of people can have different reactions to scientific work.
- Activity: Science and Decision Making
- Realize materials or technology have both benefits and drawbacks. Identify specific drawbacks related to DDT’s benefits, devise arguments both in support of and against an idea, and consider additional information that would be needed to make a decision on a green chemistry scenario.
- Activity: Concentration and Solubility
- Explore the concentration of a solution and the ability of substances to dissolve in water or fat. Predict the effects that ingesting fat-soluble DDT can have on organisms in a marsh food chain.
- Infographic: An infographic created to supplement the reading, focused on topics of Bioaccumulation and magnification, is available for student review.
- Related classroom resources from the AACT library that may be used to further teach this topic:
- AACT Lab: Solubility and Compound Type
- AACT Activity: Would You Drink It?
- ACS Reactions video: Zika, Mosquitoes, and How to Not Get Bitten
- Ingenious Video: The World’s Smallest Water Treatment Plant Comes in a Packet
- Other useful links: