Asian Americans Advancing Justice - LA

Building upon the legacy of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center

Poetry on Climate Change: Central Idea

Download lesson [docx]
GRADE 4-5     SUBJECT English Language Arts

*Lesson Prep: Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner’s background may require you to explain or facilitate a brief discussion around what a climate activist is and define unfamiliar terms. These explanations will help students better understand the significance and impact of Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner’s work. See the shaded box below for some tips and definitions.

LESSON
 

  1. Today we will learn about poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner and focus on two of her poems.*
    • Born in the Marshall Islands. Moved to Hawai’i at the age of 7. Moved back to the Marshall Islands at the age of 25
    • Climate activist. Addressed United Nations’ Climate Summit in 2014
    • Writes about nuclear testing conducted in the Marshall Islands, militarism, the rising sea level as a result of climate change, forced migration, racism in America
    • From 1946 to 1958, the U.S. conducted 67 nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands.
      • Equals 1.6 Hiroshima-size explosions per day
      • During WWII, in 1945, the U.S. dropped two nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
  2. Explain the concept of central idea to the students:
    The central idea of a passage is the message that the author is trying to get across to the reader. A central idea is stated in a sentence, not just one to two words.
  3. Have students popcorn read “2 Degrees”, stopping after each stanza to give students a chance to ask questions about unfamiliar words or phrases. [AdvancingJustice-LA.org/AAPIWomenPoetry, p.6]
  4. “2 Degrees” Central Idea Handout: Go over the first row with the class.
    • Pick a student to read the lines on the left in the chart and ask them what they think the lines mean.
    • If necessary, guide them to the key words/phrases of 2 degrees (the title of the poem as well), catastrophe, warm the world, etc. to help them arrive to an interpretation that mentions climate change and 2 degrees being the maximum/tipping point.
Lines from the Poem Your Meaning
Scientists say if
humans warm the world
more than 2 degrees then
catastrophe will hit
Example Meaning: Scientists & experts warn that if the Earth warms more than 2 degrees Celsius, many different natural disasters, such as storms, fires, rising sea levels, will happen and harm the world.

*Students will likely need definitions for militarism, forced migration, “Hiroshima-sized” explosions (see below). Point out that Kathy’s themes in writing come from her own experiences and priorities—climate activism and her home, the Marshall Islands.
  • Militarism: “the belief that it is necessary to have strong armed forces and that they should be used in order to win political or economic advantage” (Cambridge Dictionary)
  • Forced Migration: “a general term that refers to the movements of refugees and internally displaced people (those displaced by conflicts within their country of origin) as well as people displaced by natural or environmental disasters, chemical or nuclear disasters, famine, or development projects (Columbia Public Health)
  • Hiroshima-sized explosions: razed and burned 70% of all buildings; estimated 145,000 deaths by end of 6 months; increased rates of cancer and chronic diseases among survivors; over 90% within quarter mile of where bomb was dropped died, 33% at within one mile, 10% at 1.2 miles (AtomicBombMuseum.org)

CLASSWORK
2 DEGREES

  1. Read “2 Degress”: AdvancingJustice-LA.org/AAPIWomenPoetry [p. 6]
  2. Draw a star by the lines that make you think differently about the title of the poem, “2 Degrees”.
  3. Fill in the table, explaining the meaning of the lines from the poem in the left column in your own words.
    Lines from the Poem Your Meaning
    Scientists say
    if humans warm the world
    more than 2 degrees
    then catastrophe will hit
    Example Meaning: Scientists & experts warn that if the Earth warms more than 2 degrees Celsius, many different natural disasters, such as storms, fires, rising sea levels, will happen and harm the world.
    Thousands, millions displaced
    left wandering
    wondering
    what
    happened?
     
    As I watch I think about futility
    I think about the world
    making the same mistakes
    since the industrial revolution
     
    So so tired, wandering wondering
    if the world will
    wheel us out to rest in the sun
    or will they just
    dust their hands of us, wipe
    them clean
     
    That beyond the
    discussions are
    faces
    all the way out here
     
    Walking wobbly
    on the edge of the reef
    not yet
    under water
     

  4. What is the central idea of the poem?
  5. Using the chart on the previous page and looking back on the poem, find which lines support the central idea. Write three of those lines or phrases below:
    1)

    2)

    3)

  6. Reread the last stanza of “2 Degrees”. What message is Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner sending in the last stanza?

HOMEWORK 1
TELL THEM

  1. Read “Tell Them”: AdvancingJustice-LA.org/AAPIWomenPoetry [p.7]
  2. Fill out the table below with what you think the lines from the poem mean.
    Lines from the Poem Your Meaning
    And when others ask
    you where you got this
    you tell them
    they’re from the Marshall Islands
    Example Meaning: The author wants her friends to tell others that the baskets, earrings, etc. are from the Marshall Islands, so that more people know about the islands.
    Show them where it is on a map
    tell them we are a proud people
    toasted dark brown as the
    carved ribs
    of a tree stump
     
    Tell them our islands were dropped
    from a basket
    carried by a giant
     
    Tell them
    we are days
    and nights hotter
    than anything you can imagine
     
    Tell them about the water
    how we have seen it rising
    flooding across our
    cemeteries gushing over the
    sea walls
    and crashing against our home
     
    Tell them // we are afraid
    tell them we don’t know
    of the politics // or the science
    but tell we see // what is in our own backyard
     
    But most importantly tell them
    we don’t want to leave
    we’ve never wanted to leave
    and that we
    are nothing without our islands.
     
  3. What is the central idea of the poem?
  4. Using the chart on the previous page and looking back on the poem, find which lines support the central idea. Write three of those lines or phrases below:
    1)

    2)

    3)

HOMEWORK 2
WRITE YOUR OWN POEM ON CLIMATE CHANGE

Writing Your Own Poem on Climate Change
Instructions: Following the theme of climate change, write a poem following the style of “Tell Them”. Your poem should have an original title and have at least three stanzas. Each stanza should be at least four lines long and must use the phrase “tell them” in it at least once.

Helpful Hint: Think about the consequences of climate change, such as natural disasters, rising sea levels, air pollution, droughts, etc., and the effects that these issues have on people, whether it’s your community or something you read about, as you find inspiration for your poem. Also, think about what you can do about climate change, such as telling your friends and family about it, starting a recycling program at your school, and more.

Example stanza:
     When you overhear your friends saying
     “Maybe this climate change thing is fake news”
     Tell your friends
     How California was burning for weeks.
     Tell them how families left their homes
     Fleeing for safety, afraid
     They’d never see home again.

Now, write your poem below, using the back of this page if necessary.

WORKS CITED
Jetnil-Kijiner, Kathy. “A basket of poetry of writing from Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner.” Wordpress, 2011. Web, accessed Sept. 20, 2016. jkijiner.wordpress.com/2011/04/13/tell-them/

Jetnil-Kijiner, Kathy. “Poem: 2 Degrees.” Wordpress, June 30, 2015. Web, accessed Sept. 20, 2016. kathyjetnilkijiner.com/poem-2-degrees/

Zak, Dan. “A ground zero forgotten: The Marshall Islands, once a U.S. nuclear test site, face oblivion again.” The Washington Post, Nov. 27, 2015. Web, accessed Sept. 20, 2016. washingtonpost.com/sf/national/2015/11/27/a-ground-zero-forgotten

Curriculum Developer:
Prabhneek Heer
AAPI Women Voices: Untold Stories Through Poetry>
Untold Civil Rights Stories Main Page >

For Legal Help

Advancing Justice - LA’s hotlines prioritize assistance to low-income persons in the following areas of law: family, immigration, consumer, public benefits, employment, housing, and civil rights.

English: 888.349.9695
需要協助嗎: 800.520.2356

ត្រូវការជំនួយជាភាសាខ្មែរ:

800.867.3126
도움이 필요하십니까?: 800.867.3640
Tagalog: 855.300.2552
ต้องการความช่วยเหลือ: 800.914.9583
Cần sự giúp đỡ: 800.267.7395

 

Our mission is to advocate for civil rights, provide legal services and education, and build coalitions to positively influence and impact Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders and to create a more equitable and harmonious society.