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Gene Stratton Porter
Gene Stratton Porter is a prolific writer regarding Indiana’s environment. Most of Porter’s works are focused on her experiences at the Limberlost, located near Geneva, Indiana.
The purpose of this lesson plan is to help students make connections between Indiana’s environment and literature. In addition, this lesson plan will give students a view of what Indiana used to look like before the wetlands were drained for farming.
1) To learn about the wetland habitat.
2) To explore environmental issues presented in the text, such as wetland destruction, deforestation, and habitat destruction.
This is intended to be a five-day lesson plan that provides an in-depth look into Indiana’s natural wetland environment.
After determining the students’ pre-existing knowledge of the wetlands, begin the science lesson.
Discuss with the students:
1) Where the Limberlost wetlands were located
2) What a wetland area looks like
3) What types of plants and animals can be found in a wetland
4) The different types of wetlands, such as bogs, swales, marshes, and wet prairies.
Read aloud the first two chapters of A Girl of the Limberlost. After today, students will read the remainder of the book in nightly assignments.
Discuss with students the destruction of the Limberlost and the reasons they were drained.
Creative writing: Have the students write a creative story about what they think the wetlands looked like before they were drained and clear-cut.
Discuss with the students the habitat destruction due to the draining of the wetlands and the species that used to live there.
Give the students fifteen minutes to pick a passage that they enjoyed from the previous night’s reading. Then have each student share with the class why they enjoyed the passage. Use this to lead into a discussion of the previous night’s reading.
Activity #1: Take a field trip to Geneva, Indiana, to take a tour of the Limberlost restoration project and of Gene Stratton Porter’s home. If the trip to Geneva is not possible for your classroom, simply extend the activity on day five to a two-day lesson.
After touring the Limberlost restoration project, give the students some time
to reflect on what they saw. Then have them write a short poem about what they
Activity #2: Create your own wetland
Split the class into groups of three and have them create their own mini-wetland, as explained on the website http://www.baylink.org/lessons/wetland_right.html. On this website you will find a listing of the required materials for the activity, detailed procedures for the teacher to create two mini-wetland demonstrations, and guidelines for the students to create their own wetlands.
Alternate discussion questions:
1) Why does farmland often flood?
Wetlands act as nature’s sponge. When the land is drained, the water has nowhere to go and ends up flooding the land instead of being absorbed by the land.
2) What is the cleansing function of wetlands?
Wetland vegetation filters out toxic pesticides and herbicides from surrounding farm fields.
3) How does the destruction of the wetlands affect the topsoil, and why is this a concern?
Topsoil is lost because of the destruction of the wetlands. This is a major area of concern for the Wabash River, which runs through the Limberlost, because the silt gets washed into the river, thereby suffocating fish eggs.
Activity #3: Research project
In addition to creating the wetland, students can research what birds, insects, amphibians, and mammals would be left without food or habitat, whether for migration or for breeding, if the wetlands disappeared.