Earth Day Read-Alouds, Day 3

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This week, I have created a series of Earth Day Read-Alouds, specifically focused on endangered animals. On Thursday, I shared a PowerPoint of 22 endangered animal profiles with printable research and vocabulary activities. Yesterday, I shared a list of six picture books to read aloud with ideas for discussion with your students. Today is the third and final post in this series (because Earth Day is Monday!).

Today’s post will discuss three novels about endangered animals. As I did with the picture books, each novel is accompanied by video and discussion ideas for your students. I have done all three of these lessons with different sixth and eighth grade classes this week. For all three, students were engaged in the discussion. The teachers were also engaged in the discussions and complimented the lessons. I plan to do more lessons like these in the future!

FLUSH by Carl Hiaasen

Earlier this week, I read several news articles about how Carnival Cruise Lines may be prohibited from docking in US ports. According to this article from Huffington Post, Carnival has not sufficiently complied with a five-year plan to clean up their act. They continue to dump waste including oil, food, sewage, and gray water into the ports. There were additional accusations of illegal fuel burning in port and falsifying of records to cover it up.

This story reminded me immediately of Flush, where a boy named Noah’s dad gets arrested for stealing a casino cruise ship in Florida. Just before the story opens, Noah’s dad stole the ship, which had no passengers on it, a little ways into the port and sank the front end of it in twelve feet of water. The dad does this to bring attention to the cruise ship’s dirty secret: that cruise workers are dumping raw sewage into the port. Unable to prove this to the authorities, Noah’s dad sinks the ship to bring attention to the dirty deeds. Now it’s up to Noah to prove his dad’s accusations so he can hopefully exonerate his dad and clear his name.

So last week, I shared the Carnival news story, along with some photos of my own Carnival Cruise back in July 2017. We had taken several pictures while on the ship in port in Galveston, TX. I wanted to share photos of our cabin since most of my students have never been on a cruise. I also wanted to see if I had any photos of the ports that showed the gross port water I remembered. These are two photos of my boys at port in Galveston, TX. I asked my students if they would want to swim in this water. That was a resounding no. Check it out:


(5 minute read-aloud) Start with Ch. 1 and go through to p.9 (I have the paperback). Stop with the paragraph that begins with “I locked my bike.”

(2-minute read-aloud) For a shorter read aloud, you can start with p. 7 with the paragraph beginning “The Coral Queen had gone down stem-first…” and end with p. 9 “I locked my bike…”


Though Flush is a fiction story, art most definitely imitates life. This video is from 2017, when Princess Cruise Lines (owned by Carnival) were found to be illegally dumping waste at sea. Considering the potential port ban Carnival currently faces, it appears this kind of waste-dumping is still going on. It’s just over two minutes long, but it explains what the cruise did and will sufficiently gross out your students without being overly graphic:



I did this read-aloud with an eighth grade class last week. To introduce the book, I showed the video below and talked about the illegal pet trade. We talked about the movie Rio, where the only two remaining blue macaws get kidnapped by illegal pet traders. We talked about how according to this 2016 article from the World Wildlife Fund, there were more tigers in captivity in the USA than in the rest of the world all together. All this made for super-interesting conversation with my eighth graders!


Start with the first chapter and read to p. 5. End with the sentence, “One hundred American dollars,” the man said. “One hundred dollars and you can have him.”


I need to start by saying that as an international school in Asia, my school has students who have lived all over Asia. Some of them–maybe lots of them–have certainly seen the illegal pet trade first-hand. I tried very hard to find a video about the pet trade that did not have lots of blood or violence or dead animals in it. This one isn’t easy to watch, but it was the least graphic I could find. Know your students. I showed this video to my eighth graders.




I have loved this book for many years. I first read it on my own, then I read it to my boys, then about ages 5 and 7. Ivan is based on the true story of Ivan, a silverback gorilla kidnapped from Africa as a baby and sold as a pet in the USA. As Ivan got bigger, he grew destructive and difficult to handle, so the “owners” put him in a mall zoo. Ivan spent 27 years of his life in this mall zoo. As the only gorilla in the zoo, Ivan was lonely and bored. This is Ivan’s story, from his imagined voice. It’s no surprise that The One and Only Ivan won the 2013 Newbery.


Start with the first page (“Hello”) and read through “the exit 8 big top mall and video arcade.” Be sure to show the illustration of Ivan on the mall billboard. These scenes introduce readers to Ivan and where he lives. It will take about five minutes to read aloud.


I had hoped that the movie trailer for The One and Only Ivan movie would be available by now, but it has not yet been released. IMBD reports that it was in “post-production” in 2018, so I’m hopeful we will get a sneak peek soon. In the meantime…

This 8-minute video was released by Zoo Atlanta, where Ivan lived most of his life after being rescued from the mall. The story about the burlap bags (around 3:15) is really cute and will make your students smile. This video is fine for elementary students also. It’s mainly a little information about Ivan and some cute stories about some of the funny things he did. I like how the zookeeper in the video refers to the book several times and tells viewers about what was true and not true from the book.

If you prefer a shorter video, this one is set to music and about two minutes long. It is a collection of videos of Ivan at Zoo Atlanta, which produced the video.





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  • Thank you so much for these Earth day recommendations. I used the Ivan one with my fourth graders and the Flush on with fifth graders.


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