As an urban teacher, the idea of nature seems theoretical as the city is not the first place one visualizes when visualizing this concept. My students would agree with that. To my students, nature is not a tangible concept but something that is not available to them. In my school, the opportunities for experiences in the outdoors seem increasingly limited once students complete fifth grade, the last year by law they are required to have recess. Students enjoy being outdoors so it would seem important to provide them with opportunities to experience nature and consider what role nature can play in their learning as part of their educational experience.
Because of this, I have developed a unit around Matt Dembicki’s book, Trickster: Native American Tales: a Graphic Novel, a collection of short origin stories presented to the reader in graphic novel form. This book allows the opportunity to explore several different aspects of nature. Specifically, this text was chosen as the subject of the unit because of the increasing demand and acceptance of graphic novels in the classroom. Among my students, this genre is incredibly popular, with many drawn to Jeff Kinney’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” The use of illustrations allows struggling readers the opportunities to engage in texts in a way that is more comfortable to them and allows them to dig deeper into a text comfortably. I see this as an opportunity to re-engage reluctant readers into the literacy process. To build on the visual aspect of the text, students will be asked to do visual notetaking described in detail below. While engaging with the graphic novel, students will be asked to complete some assignments outdoors as a source of inspiration and calming. As part of their demonstration of understanding, students will be asked to draft their own story using details from the natural world.