Teaching Ideas for Youth Climate Activism: The Tantrum That Saved the World
The Tantrum That Saved the World
Written by Megan Herbert and Michael E. Mann
Illustrated by Megan Herbert
Published by North Atlantic Books in 2022
Written primarily in rhyming couplets and iambic pentameter, The Tantrum that Saved the World centers on a young child who decides to do something about climate change. The story opens as Sophia was “minding her business one day” when “quite without warning a bear came to stay” because “the ice he had lived on had ceased to exist” and he “hoped that Sophia would kindly assist.” Following the polar bear, more displaced people and animals arrived at Sophia’s door asking for support. Sophia had to do something. So, she approaches leaders, depicted in monochromatic business attire, who dismiss the child. However, Sophia was not dissuaded. Instead, she “saw red” and “kicked off a tantrum to save the whole world.” She and others engage in cooperative action to build communities of climate change supporters both locally and internationally to influence policies and laws. Illustrated in a cartoon-like style in watercolor paint and mixed media on paper, this picturebook is an invitation for teachers and students to learn about the climate crisis and to be part of the solution. The back matter includes informative descriptions about the ways global warming is associated with melting sea ice, sea level rise, habitat loss for food pollinators, gaps in ecosystems and food chains, ocean acidification, rising temperatures, droughts, deforestation, diminished biodiversity, and loss of jobs and infrastructure. Just in time for Earth Day, in the classroom The Tantrum that Saved the World offers an action plan to help students, families, and communities to work together in preserving the planet for future generations.
At The Classroom Bookshelf, we have endeavored to introduce children’s books and resources that provide important information about global warming and offer hope in identifying the ways in which children can contribute to the guardianship and conservation of natural resources that benefit all living beings. Over the years, we have highlighted several books and teaching invitations to raise awareness about the climate crisis in local classrooms. Below, please find a list of Classroom Bookshelf entries that are perfect for Earth Day and every day in being community stewards of the planet. What follows is a brief selection of teaching invitations that correspond with The Tantrum that Saved the World.
Meet Young Climate Activists. Learn about the real-life children, teens, and young adults like Sophia in The Tantrum that Saved the World. The resources listed under Further Explorations, below, include biographies about the young people across the planet who are rallying their communities as climate activists. Invite students to work in pairs or teams to investigate, prepare, and deliver brief presentations to the class about one or more of the youth activists. Encourage them to brainstorm ways youth could engage in similar work in their own local communities.
Poet Youth Activists. Read The Tantrum that Saved the World alongside the nonfiction children’s anthology, No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History. Invite students to work in pairs or trios to create a fifteenth entry for No Voice Too Small that features Sophia from The Tantrum that Saved the World. Students might develop a found poem from The Tantrum to represent Sophia’s fictional activism. As an extension, students could create additional entries for the youth climate activist highlighted in the list of Further Exploration resources below.
Investigate the Impacts of Climate Change. In The Tantrum that Saved the World Sophia experiences the consequences of climate change as displaced animals and people ring her door bell in search of support. Use the descriptions at the back of the book as springboards for learning more about the way climate change is associated with melting sea ice, sea level rise, habitat loss for food pollinators, gaps in ecosystems and food chains, ocean acidification, rising temperatures, droughts, deforestation, diminished biodiversity, and loss of jobs and infrastructure. Encourage students to collaborate in teams to explore these topics and to teach others about not only the information they learn, but also the ways in which their own local communities are part of broader ecosystems and can help to combat climate change. Consult the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s abundant list of resources for educators and students to support these classroom investigations. Pair these investigations with Lilly Williams’ informational picturebooks about the dangerous consequences of disappearing wildlife and ecosystems (e.g. If Polar Bears Disappeared).
Get Involved. Learn about the ways students and school communities can combat climate change. One of the things Sophia and her peers do in The Tantrum that Saved the World is to educate others about the practical things they could do everyday to “have an effect in a positive way.” The illustrations suggest that they teach adults about the importance of reducing the use and/or consumption of products that warm the planet, recycling, reusing materials, repairing items, and learning to rot (i.e., compost) plant-based materials. Consult both local resources, such as your community’s energy, water, and waste management organizations, and the digital resources below on everyday ways to get involved. Then, work with students and the members of the school community to identify ways in which to educate adults and leaders locally, nationally, and globally.
Environmental Trailblazers through Biographies. Today’s youth climate activists are preceded by many scientists and environmental activists. Gather together a collection of picture book biographies about conservationists, such as Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World, Me… Jane and The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps, and Life in the Ocean: The Story ofOceanographer Sylvia Earle, Read across the texts to identify: how the subjects developed an interest in conservation; their fields of study and work; and key influences and accomplishments. Extend this focus by researching various career paths connected with conservation. Invite a local conservationist to speak about his/her work with your students in person or via video conference. (A version of this invitation first appeared in the Classroom Bookshelf entry for Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World).
Text Sets that Celebrate Earth. With the help of your school or local librarian or bookseller, gather a collection of picture books that are about the wildlife, plant life, habitats, and/or natural resources of the Earth. Read through these titles with students, comparing and contrasting information, perspective, and author’s purpose. For example, you might construct a text set with The Tantrum that Saved the World alongside Thank You, Earth: A Love Letter to Our Planet. Ask students to compare and contrast the language that each author employs and then consider how that affects the overall tone and message of the book. Alternatively, pair Thank You, Earth with Living Sunlight, by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm, which is about the interconnection between plants and animals and the role of photosynthesis in all life on earth. Ask students to use Living Sunlight to expand upon the statements in Thank You, Earth. You might also ask students to search for additional books about the earth that they love and to create text sets of their own to celebrate the earth. (A version of this invitation first appeared in the Classroom Bookshelf entry for Thank You Earth).
Recycling & Upcycling. In The Tantrum that Saved the World Sophia teaches adults about recycling. Connect this picturebook with other books about reuse of materials such as The Patchwork Bike and Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay. Isatou Ceesay, the subject of One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia, realizes she can not only recycle the dangerous plastic bags in her community, but upcycle them into something new. Research with students how people across the world are upcycling to create art towards social change. Gather recyclable items in your classroom as a part of an upcycling center. Photograph student creations and support them to share their story on Miranda Paul’s website. Finally, pair the reading of One Plastic Bag with The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney drawing connections to the ways Isatoo and the fictional character Leila demonstrate ingenuity and creativity by using found objects to create something new and useful. (A version of this invitation first appeared in the Classroom Bookshelf entry for One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia).
Grades 4 and Up
Eyes Wide Open. In The Tantrum that Saved the World, Sophia is rebuffed by the adults in business attire who argue that “fixing these [global warming] problems will put us in debt” and children are “too young to grasp all of the issues at hand.” Invite students read Paul Fleischman’s Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines. This book provides young readers with a framework with which to approach learning about climate change and how environmental issues are written about, debated, and discussed nationally and internationally. Have students try to write about their own understanding of the relationship between businesses that cause global warming and climate change. As students read one another’s work and provide feedback, have them identify when and where they see the student author’s beliefs and understandings influencing the writing. (A version of this invitation first appeared in the Classroom Bookshelf entry for Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed the Earth).
Resources About Young Climate Activists
Young climate activists demand action and inspire hope (UNICEF).
Greta wasn’t the first to demand climate action. Meet more young activists. (National Geographic)
Gen Z on how to save the world: young climate activists speak out (The Guardian)
7 Young Activists Share What Made Them Join the Climate Movement (Global Citizen)
10 Inspiring Young Climate Activists Leading the Way on Global Climate Action (Earth.Org)
Resources About Getting Involved
Earth Day 2022 Action Tool Kit (Earthday.Org)
Act Now (United Nations)
Climate Action Superheroes (United Nations)
How to Get Involved in Climate Action (UNICEF)
52 Ways To Invest In Our Planet (Earthday.Org)
Young Voices for the Planet
Youth in Action (United Nations)
Informational Resources about Climate Change and Youth Activism
Global Youth Statement on Climate Change
Articles on Youth Climate Activism (The Conversation)
Government Resources about the Impacts of Climate Change on the Planet
Climate Change Resources for Educators and Students (Environmental Protection Agency, EPA)
Global Climate Change Resources (NASA)
Teaching Climate (Climate.Gov)
Resources for Educators (Global Change.Gov)
National Parks Climate Change Resources for Educators
National Ocean Service Climate Change Resources for Educators
Relevant Classroom Bookshelf Entries and Invitations to Teaching for Climate Activism and Environmental Awareness
All the Water in the World (Lyon & Tillotson, 2011).
Anywhere Farm (Root & Karas, 2017).
Bloom Boom! (Sayre, 2019).
Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed the Earth. (Bang & Chisholm, 2015).
Can We Help?: Kids Volunteering to Help Their Communities (Ancona, 2015).
Diana’s White House Garden (Carbone & Hill, 2016).
Gabby & Grandma Go Green (Wellington, 2011).
Grand Canyon (Chin, 2016).
Handle With Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey (Burns, 2014).
Here Come the Humpbacks! (Sayre & Hogan, 2013).
Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera (Fleming & Rochmann, 2020).
It’s Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden (Ancona, 2013).
Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot (Montgomery, 2011).
Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle (Nivola, 2012).
Me… Jane (McDonnell, 2011); The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps (Winter, 2011).
Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story (Yezerski, 2011).
No Monkeys, No Chocolate (Stewart & Young, 2013).
No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History (Metcalf, Dawson, & Bradley, 2020).
One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia (Paul & Zunon, 2015).
Over in the Wetlands: A Hurricane-in-the-Bayou Story (Rose & Dunlavey, 2015).
Planting the Wild Garden (Galbraith & Halperin, 2011).
Poetrees (Florian, 2010).
Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World (Lawlor & Beingessner, 2012).
Sea Bear: A Journey for Survival (Moore, 2019). https://theclassroombookshelf.com/2019/03/18/a-subtle-call-to-action-for-planet-earth-in-debut-picture-book-sea-bear-a-journey-for-survival/
Thank You, Earth: A Love Letter to Our Planet (Sayre, 2018).
The Beetle Book (Jenkins, 2012).
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Kamkwamba, Mealer, & Zunon, 2012).
The Case of the Vanishing Honeybees: A Scientific Mystery. (Markle, 2013).
The Great Big Green (Gifford & Desimini, 2014).
The Patchwork Bike (Clarke & Rudd, 2019).
The Wisdom of Trees: How Trees Work Together to Form a Natural Kingdom (Judge, 2021).
Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees (Prevot & Fronty, 2015).
Water is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle (Paul & Chin, 2015).
We are Water Protectors (Lindstrom & Goade, 2020).
Wild About Bears (Brett, 2014).
Wild Ideas: Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking (Kelsey & Kim, 2015).
Wonder Walkers (Archer, 2021).
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