Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: A River Ran Wild

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Introduction and Summary

A River Ran Wild, written and illustrated by Lynne Cherry, tells the story of the Nashua river in New England.  Children opening the book will see a map of New England in the 1500′s on one side and another map of New England in the 1900′s focusing on the states of New Hampshire and Massachusetts which is where the Nashua flowed.  The “Nash-a-way” got it’s name from the native American tribe Nashau who settled on it seven thousand years ago.  Cherry points out that the Nash-a-way river and it’s surroundings gave the Nashua people everything they needed in life.  “The Nashua people saw a rhythm in their lives and in the seasons.  The river, land, and forest provided all that they needed.”  In the early sixteen hundreds, the white settlers of New England began to settle by the river which they named the Nashua.  They built sawmills that used the river’s current for power and dams to make millponds to store water.  The white settlers cut down the forest and used the lumber to build houses and furniture.  During the industrial revolution, the river was used for paper mills and other factories where all of the waste was dumped into the river.  In a short amount of time, the river was clogged with pulp, dyes, chemicals, and plastics.  The river smelled and all of it’s wildlife, and the wildlife that used it as a resource, “grew sick from this pollution.”  In the end, a descendant of the Nashua people known as Oweana and Marion Stoddart formed a committee to stop polluting the Nashua river.  In the 1960′s, they finally succeeded.  Now the Nashua has been cleared of it’s pollution and the wildlife has returned to it.  “We, too, have settled by this river.  Pebbles shine up through clear water.”

The illustrations in this book are beautiful and most of the pages with print have miniature illustrations of objects and historical events that were a part of people’s lives through time, such as clay pots, bows and arrows, and wooden bowls during the native American settlements through airplanes, automobiles and the Vietnam war in the late twentieth century.

Curriculum Connections

The book opens with a map showing where the Nashua river is located.   This book would be great for Kindergarten through second grade.  The student would see the shape of the northeast part of the United States to include New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island (VA SOL 1.4 c) and will be able to locate land and water features. (VA SOL K.4 c)  Students will also learn about how two different cultures of people affect their immediate surroundings.  The Nashua community took only what they needed from the river and the surrounding environment for food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and recreation.  The white settlers polluted the river thus limiting it as a natural resource.  Through the effort of the community, people were able to bring life back to the river so it could be e resource again. (VA SOL 1.6 and 2.4 d)

Additional Resources

Geology.com is a website that contains maps and geography classroom activities as well as lesson plans for elementary school students.

United States Geography, including Capitals, States, and Landscapes can be found at the Sheppard Software website.  This site has fun and free games children can play.

K Bears has a great site for world geography.  An animated bear will take children on a tour of the world.

General Information

Book: A River Ran Wild
Author: Lynne Cherry
Illustrator: Lynne Cherry
Publisher: Harcourt Brace & Company
Publication Date: 1992
Pages: 30
Grade Range: K-2nd
ISBN: 0-15-200542-0