Teaching Civics with Children's Literature: Common Ground

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Molly Bang does an incredible job making the reader ecologically aware.  She breaks done the reasons for the earth's depleting resources into elementary vocabulary.  Bang gives an example that makes it possible for a young reader to follow.  This book has the potential to change a generations to come.

Common Ground: The Water, Earth, and Air We Share is a story of the history of mankind not being able to share.  Bang begins the story with the story of a village whose occupants were not able to share equally and ended up abusing the resources- or grass in this case.  Bang goes on to discuss the ocean in reference to fishing and the forest in reference to lumber.  The book does a wonderful job telling stories and giving examples the reader can relate too.  "Today each lumber company wants to cut down as many trees as it can, to sell for wood, paper, and fuel (17)."  The book also discusses the short run and long run affects on the plant.  The boy walks the reader through the solar system and explains the different plants and stars that make up the system.  "The more trees the lumber company cuts down, the more money it makes, – in the short run (18)."  After the example, Bang emphasizes the problem and does makes that the reader realizes the potential for damage that is present.  "But after cutting down so many trees, there are fewer and fewer forests (19)."  Bang does a wonderful job teaching a lesson with this book while making it an entertaining read.

Curriculum Connections
The student will learn the about the importance of sharing and utilizing resources.  Common Ground: The Water, Earth, and Air We Share is a great way to introduce sharing if working with civics or recycling if working with science.  This book is a perfect tool for instruction when attempting to teach Civics K.8a.

Additional Activities

  • Try giving students the opportunity to contribute on the creation of classroom rules.
  • Try a game with the students.

Book: Common Ground: The Water, Earth, and Air We Share
Author/Illustrator: Molly Bang
Publisher: Blue Sky Press
Publication Date: 1997
Pages: 32
Grades: K-5
ISBN: 0590100564