Cover image showing several printable pages from the Rachel Carson Unit Study and the text "Rachel Carson Unit Study".

Rachel Carson FREE Unit Study

Do you know who Rachel Carson was?  She was quite well-known in the 1950s and early 60s and had a profound affect on our environment. But many don’t know her name today.  She was a writer and biologist who had a talent for writing about the natural world in a way that connected with every day people.

Carson was concerned with how the natural world was affected by human behavior and did extensive research about the effects of pesticides and herbicides.  She brought this research to the American public in the form of the book, Silent Spring.  Chemical companies launched a counterattack to try to keep the book from being published and to refute its findings.  However, the book was published and became a bestseller.  Over the next several years, many laws were passed to help protect the environment.

With the free unit study below about Rachel Carson, you and your children will learn about her path to becoming a writer and scientist.  Then explore something in nature and write about it like Ms. Carson did.  Finally, put what you learn to use by researching ways you can help take care of the natural world today.  Resources are included to walk you through each step.

Pinnable cover showing four printable pages from the Rachel Carson Unit Study and the text "Rachel Carson FREE Unit Study".

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The Books About Rachel Carson

This unit study was created to use with the book, Who Was Rachel Carson? (105 pages).  This book was written for 3rd-7th graders, but could be used as a read aloud with slightly younger children.  Black and white pictures engage readers and the book covers Ms. Carson’s life from birth through her career until she died.  If you would like a shorter (64 pages) book told in a more narrative form, you could read Listening to Crickets instead.

If you have younger children, too, incorporate the picture book, Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World.  And if you want to use this unit study as a jumping off point to learn more about animals, plants, food webs, and ecosystems, then you will enjoy Rachel Carson and Ecology for Kids: Her Life and Ideas, with 21 Activities and Experiments.

If you want to incorporate one of Rachel Carson’s own books, her first book, Under the Sea Wind, would make a good read aloud.  It is one of her shortest books (between 160 and 210 pages, depending on the edition) and is full of descriptive language that paints a picture for the reader.

The Rachel Carson Printable Unit Study

The printable portion of the unit study contains:

Notebooking pages about Rachel Carson’s life.

timeline activity to chart Carson’s life and work.

following direction activity that teaches about different places along the east coast of the United States that Rachel visited while doing her research.

Printable Biography, Timeline, and Following Directions pages from the Rachel Carson Unit Study.

Copy work of some of Ms. Carson’s poetic descriptions of living organisms.

Writing activity with brainstorming sheets to write a poetic description of an organism that lives in your area.

Help the Environment page with the resources to learn about problems the natural world currently faces and what you can do about them.

Five printable writing pages from the Rachel Carson Unit Study.

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    Videos about Rachel Carson

    This is a short video that gives a quick overview of Rachel Carson’s life. (2 min.)

    Watch this video for a more in-depth look at Ms. Carson’s work in investigating DDT. (5 min.)

    Learn more about the current Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute where Rachel did research. (5 min.)

    Click here if you want to watch a longer documentary (45 min.) that was created shortly after Silent Spring was published.

    If you have PBS streaming, American Experience has an episode all about Rachel Carson.

    For older students and parents, there is a two hour documentary about Rachel Carson through Amazon Prime.

    And if you want to learn more about our oceans, The Blue Planet, a series by the BBC, is a great place to start.

    Create and Do Your Own Work

    While Rachel shared the beauty of natural organisms with the world through her descriptive writing, there are other ways to share their beauty.  Taking the time to draw organisms often helps us see details we don’t otherwise notice. You could study an organism and then draw it or if you need help getting started, you can follow one of these tutorials from Art for Kids Hub.

    Working with clay is another way to capture the beauty of an animal or plant.  This video gives some ideas of how to create ocean creatures with clay.  After playing around with the animals in the video, challenge yourself to find an organism in your neighborhood and make a clay model of it!  Polymer clay is nice to work with because it does not air-dry.  This kit is a great one to get you started:

    Help the Environment

    This unit study shares how Rachel Carson’s research, writing, and speaking in the 1950s and 1960s raised awareness of environmental problems and created meaningful change.

    As you are learning about Ms. Carson, think about how you think she would see the world sixty years later.  Would she think her work was done or do you think she would feel as if there was more work to do?

    I imagine that she would feel there was more work to do.  There are many of the earth’s environments that could use our help.  Each of us can not solve ALL the problems, but if each of us picked ONE problem and made some positive changes, imagine how it would all add up to help the earth!

    Below are four challenges our environments face. Check out the resources to help you learn about the challenge and ways that you can help solve the problem. Pick one challenge to work on or research other problems our earth faces. (These resources are also included in the downloadable portion of the unit study so you can access them from your computer whenever you would like.)

    Waste Disposal

    Humans produce a lot of waste, especially plastic and electronic waste and huge amounts of it ends up in places like the ocean.

    Watch The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (4 minutes)

    Do one (or more) of the suggestions in this list to create change.

    Loss of Biodiversity

    Species and habitats are going extinct due to human activity, which causes an imbalance in natural processes like pollination.

    Watch Why is biodiversity so important? (4 minutes)

    Do one (or more) of the suggestions on this list to create change.

    Deforestation

    Loss of trees due to agricultural, residential and commercial projects means less oxygen is produced and less carbon dioxide is removed from the air.

    Watch Climate 101: Deforestation (3 minutes)

    Do one (or more) of the suggestions in this list to create change.

    Pollution

    Release of toxins and gases into the air, water, and soil is harmful to all living organisms.

    Watch Learn About Pollution (6 minutes)

    Do one (or more) of the suggestions on this list to create change.

    Did you enjoy this unit study?  I would love to hear what your favorite part was!  Also, check out our other unit studies…

    Explore Our Other Unit Studies

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    This Post Has 3 Comments

    1. jennifer

      Hello, this unit study looks great! I could not find the link to download it. Did I miss it ? thanks

      1. Randi Smith

        For some reason the form to download the Rachel Carson Unit Study is only showing in Google Chrome and not in other browsers. Sorry for the confusion! I have tried several ways to fix it and haven’t figured it out, yet. In our email this morning that went out to subscribers, there is a direct link to our Subscriber Resource Library where you can grab the printable portion without going through the form. Let me know if you need me to send that link to you in email.

        1. Randi Smith

          The form is now fixed on the Rachel Carson Unit Study page. Thanks for letting us know about this!

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