Claire Datnow Teacher Resources

Teacher Resources

Language Arts Teachers Inspire Lively Discussions Interweaving the Theme of Climate Change
Cli-Fi—Fictional writing that focuses on the effects of climate change and global warming that is causing disruption.

“As Earth’s changing climate becomes an ever-increasing concern, readers are turning to Cli-Fi as a way to engage their imaginations and deal with their fears in the safety of their present environment. The teens in these stories demonstrate courage, tenacity, compassion, imagination, and foresight . . .. So, although the events may be upsetting, the reader empathizes with the main character, and finish the last page feeling hopeful, resolute, and inspired. For Guiding Questions that stimulate students become more insightful readers and better writers visit:

A few quotes from Red flag Warning:

“Aisyah and her friends will keep on fighting for Weebo, and Simba, and Peanut, and Ludi, and Bama, and Pongo and Abelii, and Swain, and Hestia, and Bultarro and Rocky and for all living creatures on this planet we call home.” p. 256

“One day a monster ate me alive then spat me put as dead . . .” p.129

“I’ve lived through the deadliest fire in California’s history. To me it’s not just something on the news. Perdido is in ruins. Hundreds of people are homeless. When we drive into town from the highway all I can see is an ugly black scar, buildings burnt to the ground, and the mangled shells of cars. Searchers scoured burned down homes for human remains. p.136-7

“One day they’ll dig down through layers of made and ashes and find skeletons of people and animals that lived and walked and breather her. They’ll find them like fossil hunters. The jaw of a man, the skull of a horse, a baby’s first teeth, a gold earring, the steering wheel of a car, shards of glass, and melted plastic.” p.138

“After I was burned I kept asking myself: Why has this horrible thing happened? Why me? Why now? Why us? Why are fires exploding everywhere?” Aisyah blinks and swallows as if as if she has a sore throat.” p.193

Climate Change Education Across the Curricular, Across the Globe
Teaching Environmental Science/Climate Change/ Through Fiction.

* Meet the Author:
View an interview discussing the Story Behind The Cover
This interview could be a springboard to a career talk conversation.
Additional related blogs from the author on:

  • Over Arching Premise: Connecting scientific concepts with storytelling can be a powerful way to make future consequences more immediate to ourselves and our students. Fiction can be woven into teaching environmental science and climate change as outlined in the core curriculum standards. See: Alabama State Standards for Science: (“ … The effect of human activity on the biosphere will be discussed . . . students will chart weather conditions and climate change in addition to studying the effects of humans on the environment that alter the planet's surface.”)

Lesson Plans: Using Red Flag Warning: An Eco Adventure as supplemental reading provides a way to ignite students’ imaginations and integrate the teaching of climate science into the curriculum.

Questions for Classroom Discussion After Reading Red Flag Warning: An Eco Adventure (Note: The questions are geared toward middle grade and up, however, they can be modified appropriate to the grade level. Additional resources are listed in Red Flag Warning)

  • 1. Wildfires and climate change: what’s the connection? Historically, wildfires have not been uncommon in Australia, Sumatra and in the Western US and other places across the globe. What is different about the current fires in the last decade? Answer Key: Climate scientists have correlated the growing incidence and intensity of wildfires with rising global temperatures. Few places seem immune. See:

  • 2. What were some of the immediate effects of the wildfires on Aisyah, Kerri and Hector? Answer Key: They had to recover from the physical wounds and pain caused by the burns sustained in the fire—and overcome the damage to their self image and their confidence.

  • 3. What were longterm effects of these wildfires on Aisyah, Kerri and Hector, their families and communities? How do they overcome the wounds to their self-image and find a way forward? Answer Key: Destruction of their homes, their towns, the animals they love, their self-esteem. The three throw themselves into saving the animals that they love, and to working on community projects.

  • 4. In Red Flag Warning what do the Aisyah, Kerri and Hector know or believe about the immediate causes of the wildfires that trapped and burned them. What do they find out about the causes later on? Answer Key: Aisyah understood that slashing and burning the forest started wildfires. Kirri knew that the dry, hot weather caused the fire. Hector knew that the tinder dry vegetation caused the fires. They find out later that the wildfires were also connected to climate change. “The rise in average global temperatures has led to higher spring and summer temperatures, and importantly an earlier onset of spring. This pattern has led to a rapid melting of spring snowpack, causing soils to dry out earlier and remain dry longer.”

* 5. How did they three teens figure out the causes of wildfires? (clues are woven throughout the story) Do the characters in the novel take notice of things we are all seeing around us: fewer birds/butterflies/fireflies etc. Plastic trash in the rivers, oceans, and beaches. Invasive plants, and more extreme weather-related events.) Answer Key: Aisyah’s mentor, Ranger Eka helps to provide accurate information about climate change. Hector’s science teacher, Mr. Hawkins helps him make connections between the wildfires and climate change. Hector also finds reliable explanation on the internet. Kirri is able connect the dots between extreme hot and dry weather resulting the wildfire that almost killed her.)

  • 6. What did Aisyah, Kerri, and Hector loose in the wildfire that matters the most to them and why? Answer Key: The three suffered from severe injuries in the wildfire, loss of self esteem and self confidence. In their own way, however, they take advantage of new opportunities to work at animal rescue centers to save the animals they love. Kirri becomes a champion of handicapped athletes, too.

  • 7. In what ways might all of us be impacted by the wildfires? Answer key: As wildfires grow in frequency, intensity, and the amount of area burned, they pose serious health risks. Air pollution from wildfires can drift hundreds of miles away and cause people and animals to get sick.
  • 8. What are some ways in which the three teenagers chose to take action to help themselves, and the other victims—human, animal, and environmental—of wildfires? Answer Keys: see Answer Key. Aisyah, Kirri, and Hector inspire other students to understand the causes and the damage of wildfires, and the take action in their communities. See Red Flag Warning chapters 21, 22, 23.
  • 9. Wildfires are becoming more common and more severe in many parts of the world. Have you had an experience that made you aware of this problem than before?
    • 10.  Does the threat of wildfires feel connect to your life in some way? Why or why not?
    • 11. In what ways might we all feel impacted by wildfires even if it is happening far away?
    • 12. What did the three teenagers find out about the role of global climate change in causing more frequent and larger wildfires?
    • 13. What do climate demonstrators, like Greta Thunberg, hope to accomplish? Who are they targeting to motivate them to take action to slow down climate change? What groups, organizations, or protesters are the marchers focusing on?
    • 14. Discuss what are some ways in which you and your peers can take action to halt climate change? What approaches do you think might be most effective
    • 15. Is this an issue that feels relevant to your life currently? Why or why not?

    • Student Projects, Individual and Small Group Activities:
    Everything is STEAM focused on the small group activity that could include:
    Building something or a technology component.
    Creating a new ending to the story, for example what happens next to each of the characters?
    Writing their own environmental stories/poems.
    Reviewing some of the vocabulary in the story.

    2. Role Playing Cards for Monarch Mysteries
    3. Driving Questions from The Adventures of the Sizzling Six

    I read Claire Datnow’s eco mystery series, The Adventures of the Sizzling Six, with great pleasure. The way she weaved lessons in ecology, economics, civics, group dynamics, and growing up into a good read accessible—no, engaging—to younger readers, is inspiring. I very much admire the authors commingling of poetic scene setting with clarity of exposition of complex subjects out of reach of common understanding, with editorial advocacy. Datnow has developed the skill of making clarity from complexity. Thank you for your commitment to writing books.

    George Terrian, environmental architect

    Dear Teacher,
    Each time I write a new eco-mystery for the series, The Adventures of The Sizzling Six, I am amazed at what I learn about the species central to my story. I have developed this unit to share the excitement of learning with students. It is my hope these lesson plans will inspire them to take action in their own communities, and, ultimately, become wise stewards of the earth’s precious natural heritage.
    Feel free to download and print the curriculum unit How to Become and Eco Detective. Lessons can easily be correlated to the Common Core State Standards Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects. You can also print up the Role Playing Cards and the Driving Questions for use in your classroom.
    I would be honored if you would share your students’ work with me at:
    Please feel free to adapt the lessons plans to suit your students’ needs, time constraints, and grade levels.

    An Interdisciplinary Unit for Writing Across the Curriculum
    Claire Datnow

    An ecological mystery is a scientific investigation and a mystery combined into an exciting story. In an eco mystery the role of villain is played by an unknown ecological problem that is harming a species. The characters are affected by the problem, and like good detectives they must carry out an investigation that will identify the problem and then help solve it.
    1. Warming Up: 
    Begin by reading an excerpt from one of The Adventures of The Sizzling Six. You may choose an excerpt—with lots of dialogue between different characters—from one of the eco mysteries for the students to read as a play. The purpose of this activity is to get kids curious about a species and wanting to know more.
    Next, discuss the meaning of the term Endangered Species with your students. How does a species get selected to be included on the list of Threatened, Vulnerable, or Endangered Species?
    Have students read at least one eco mystery, The Adventures of The Sizzling Six, as a model for writing their own eco mysteries. For younger students you may want to read these aloud in class (below fourth grade).
             How do scientists find out if a species is in some way endangered? Note: I suggest that students select a species that lives in their state to facilitate research.
    For a handy overview of the topic visit:
    2. Select a Species  
    Next students select the species they want to investigate—plant or animal. You might want to narrow the selection by starting with your own county, or state. For a complete list of US endangered species see these links:
 (interactive web site!)
    Give students time to look over the possibilities before making their final selections.
    3. Research the Species:
    Now students begin researching the species they have chosen.
    —Observations: Where possible, take field trips to nature centers to observe the species in their natural habitats. If possible, visit the habit that serves as the setting of their story—forests, lakes, or streams. Make notes and observations on the animals, plants, sights and sounds, and on how they are related to the mystery.
    —Interview local experts, or email them. Invite them to do a presentation in your classroom. Contact local organizations that promote wildlife and nature conservation, such as the Audubon Society, Water Watch, Nature Centers, and Wildlife Refuges.
    —Read books, both fiction and nonfiction. Find articles on the Internet. Watch documentary movies about their species.
     (Set a deadline of about one-six weeks for the students to complete their research, depending on the depth of the investigation.)
    For more detailed lesson plans on research click on the pdf file below:

    4. Experiment:
    If possible, carry out your own experiments to test the air, water, soil that the species lives in. As you make discoveries, you may begin to find the solution to your eco mystery, and a possible way to save the species. Invite or consult local agencies to explain, or demonstrate how to test for air, water, and soil pollution.

    —Investigate the Problem. Perhaps there is a landfill upriver from your site, a dam, a factory, a shopping mall, or housing development—this may be a possible ‘villain’ that is harming their species. At the completion of their research students should complete a worksheet that includes: Species Name, Appearance, Habitat, Behavior, Life Cycle, and Reasons why they have become threatened or endangered. See Example:
    5. Explain and Draw Conclusions:
    –Solving the Mystery: Review your problem and the results of your observations, research, experiments, and investigations. Can you suggest a cause for the ecological problem that is damaging the species? Once you understand the cause of the problem, and a possible solution you are ready to tell your story. You will take the reader through everything you did, while developing the characters, place, time, setting and a plot.

    6. Create a Real-World Project see link to Project Based Learning by:
    Writing the Eco Mystery and/or
    Becoming a Citizen Scientist (visit this link about Citizen Science)

    Have students read at least one of eco mystery of
    The Adventures of The Sizzling Six. Go over the major elements of writing a story, adjusting it to the level of the students: Plot, Protagonist, Antagonist, Setting, Character, Point of View, Dialogue, Theme. Create a main character who has a reason to care about your ecological problem. Perhaps it is a daughter of a zoo specialist, the son of a forest ranger, or a field biologist who spends time working in the woods, at a lake, or a river, behind the scenes of the local zoo, wildlife rehabilitation center, or in a research laboratory.
    —Develop a few supporting characters who can play key roles in your plot—perhaps the manager of a wildlife refuge who would know something about each of the creatures in the refuge. As your character works through the mystery, these experts can be a source of information.
    —Provide some background on the main character as the story goes along to draw the reader into ‘knowing’ your character.
    —Include ‘red herrings’. Every good mystery has some distractions, which misdirect the main character’s investigation. This keeps the readers guessing until you are ready to tell all in the conclusion to your eco mystery.
    —End the story where the actions of the main character(s) help to solve the problem that is harming the species.
    For More Details on Literary Connections and My Blogs go to this link:
    7. Publish and Share.
    Suggests ways in which the book can be published for distribution in the classroom, the school, with environmental organizations, or for wider audiences.
    For school DISCOUNTS AND BULK ORDERS of The Adventure series please contact:
    The Adventures of The Sizzling Six are also available for downloading as ebooks
    Links to Additional Resources:
    Project Wildlife Resources
    Project Learning Tree
    Audubon Teaches Nature
    Alabama Wildlife Federation
    Wildlife Habitat Assessment
    Alabama Wildlife Conservation Status
    Alabama Endangered, Threatened Species List
    Interdisciplinary Unit on Endangered Animal

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