Lesson 2 – Aldo Leopold: A Sand County Almanac

Aldo Leopold is often called the father of the modern conservation movement in the United States. His idea of the land ethic brought attention to the human duty to protect and preserve the ecosystems, organisms, and habitats that should be counted as part of our community. In this lesson, students will use excerpts of A Sand County Almanac to understand the themes and descriptive style of Aldo Leopold, and how they still influence society and modern thought.

Learning Objectives     Iowa Core Requirements     Background Information     Activities     Q&A

Learning Objectives

  1. Students will be able to describe the main themes and style of Aldo Leopold
    1. Students will be able to explain the background and contributions of Aldo Leopold
    2. Students will be able to identify the major themes and the stylistic qualities of Aldo Leopold as seen in A Sand County Almanac

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Iowa Core Requirements

  1. Literacy: Grade 11
    1. Students can comprehend what they read in a variety of literary and informational texts.
      1. Students can draw conclusions, make inferences, and deduce meaning.
      2. Students can interpret information in new contexts.
      3. Students can determine the main idea of a text.
      4. Students can identify the writer’s views or purpose.
      5. Students can recognize aspects of a passage’s style and structure and can recognize literary techniques.
  2. http://www.corecurriculum.iowa.gov/Standards.aspx?C=Literacy

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Background Information

  1. The Aldo Leopold Foundation
    1. About Aldo Leopold
      1. http://www.aldoleopold.org/AldoLeopold/leopold_bio.shtml
  2. University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
    1. The Aldo Leopold Archives
      1. http://uwdc.library.wisc.edu/collections/AldoLeopold
  3. The Encyclopedia of Earth
    1. Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic
      1. http://www.eoearth.org/article/Aldo_Leopold%27s_Land_Ethic
  4. Treelink
    1. A Classic, Ever New
      1. http://www.treelink.org/woodnotes/vol2/no1/sandcnty.htm
  5. Google Books
    1. A Sand County Almanac
      1. http://books.google.com/books?id=Gxq72yz1z6EC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

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  1. Nature Writing
    1. Have students read one of the first twelve chapters of A Sand County Almanac. Take the students to a spot outside (e.g. by a prairie, stream, forest) and have them compose a one-page nature writing piece that mimics Aldo Leopold’s themes, tone, and point of view.
  2. Land Ethic
    1. “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”
    2. As a class, have students use the quote above to brainstorm what sort of things would fit into Leopold’s categories of “right” and “wrong”. Individually, have students choose one thing from each list. Have them write a paragraph explaining how each thing affects our surroundings individually, and how the two things connect to each other.
  3. The Aldo Leopold Foundation: A Discussion Guide for A Sand County Almanac
    1. Have students read excerpts and answer the corresponding discussion questions in small groups or as a class.
    2. www.makingwisconsinhome.org/uploads/media/Sand_Co_Disc_Guide.pdf

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Potential Student Questions and Answers

    Q: How did Aldo Leopold’s work influence society?

      A: Many call Aldo Leopold the father of the modern conservation movement in the US. His book, A Sand County Almanac, helped drive the conservation movement, particularly by introducing the idea of the land ethic. Many think of it as a cornerstone for ‘modern conservation science, policy, and ethics’ (The Aldo Leopold Foundation).”

    Q: What is the land ethic?

      A: Aldo Leopold understood that ‘ethics direct individuals to cooperate with each other for the mutual benefit of all. One of his philosophical achievements was the idea that this ‘community’ should be enlarged to include non-human elements such as soils, waters, plants, and animals, ‘or collectively: the land’’ (The Aldo Leopold Foundation). This suggests that humans have a responsibility to protect and preserve the health of this expanded definition of a community’ (The Aldo Leopold Foundation).

    Q: Why does A Sand County Almanac include so much descriptive writing compared to argumentative writing?

      A: The description present in the first parts of the book serves as a basis for the main arguments presented later in the book. Rather than catering exclusively to a reader’s reason and intelligence, Leopold makes his argument more powerful by first creating an experiential foundation for his readers through his eloquent descriptions. He argues for “the supremacy of awareness over book learning…The sense that land is to be loved and respected, one of Leopold’s basic tenets, is created not by argument (how can one prove an idea like this by logical proofs?), but rather by letting us experience the wild beauty of his land” (Treelink).

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