Frightful’s Mountain and DDT | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G6:M4:U1

Frightful’s Mountain and DDT

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In this first unit, students are introduced to the central theme of this module: the delicate balance between human needs and the needs of the natural world. Students launch their reading of Frightful's Mountain, focusing their learning about the natural world by reading through the perspective of Frightful, a peregrine falcon. Students then begin to analyze informational texts and videos about DDT, a pesticide used widely throughout the world to fight malaria, but banned in the United States in 1972 due to its harmful environmental consequences. In these articles and videos, students to learn to trace and evaluate an author's argument, claims, and evidence.

In the mid-unit assessment, students read a new informational article and watch a new video, completing a graphic organizer identical to the one they have been using to trace the author's argument during lessons. In the second half of the unit, students grapple with the central question of this module: Do the benefits of DDT outweigh its harmful consequences? Students reflect on the novel, the articles they read, and the videos they watched as well as a variety of new visual information in the form of charts, graphs, and maps. For their end of unit assessment, students participate in a Fishbowl discussion in which they are expected to advocate their position in response to the central question, using their own visual aids to help them support their position. This unit uses science content to teach literacy standards, but is not intended to replace hands-on science instruction. 

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • Do the benefits outweigh the harmful consequences of DDT?
  • How do human actions affect the natural world?
  • How do authors make claims and support their arguments with evidence?
  • How can I use speaking and listening to advocate my own position persuasively?
  • Human actions have environmental consequences.
  • Authors use claims and evidence to support an argument. 

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards as students read literature and informational texts about DDT and the natural world. However, the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies practices and themes to support potential interdisciplinary connections to this compelling content.

These intentional connections are described below.

Big ideas and guiding questions are informed by the New York State Common Core K-8 Social Studies Framework:

Unifying Themes (pages 6-7):

  • Theme 4: Geography, Humans, and the Environment: The relationship between human populations and the physical world (people, places, and environments); impact of human activities on the environment; interactions between regions, locations, places, people, and environments.
  • Theme 9: Science, Technology, and Innovation: Applications of science and innovations in transportation, communication, military technology, navigation, agriculture, and industrialization.

Social Studies Practices, Geographic Reasoning, Grades 5-8:

  • Descriptor 2: Describe the relationships between people and environments and the connections between people and places (page 58).
  • Descriptor 3: Identify, analyze, and evaluate the relationship between the environment and human activities, how the physical environment is modified by human activities, and how human activities are also influenced by Earth's physical features and processes.

Social Studies Practices, Gathering, Using, and Interpreting Evidence, Grades 5-8:

  • Descriptor 1: Define and frame questions about events and the world in which we live and use evidence to answer these questions.
  • Descriptor 2: Identify, describe, and evaluate evidence about events from diverse sources (including written documents, works of art, photographs, charts and graphs, artifacts, oral traditions, and other primary and secondary sources).
  • Descriptor 4: Describe and analyze arguments of others.
  • Descriptor 6: Recognize an argument and identify evidence that supports the argument; examine arguments related to a specific social studies topic from multiple perspectives; deconstruct arguments, recognizing the perspective of the argument and identifying evidence used to support that perspective.


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 5-20 lessons. The “unit at a glance” chart in the curriculum map breaks down each unit into its lessons, to show how the curriculum is organized in terms of standards address, supporting targets, ongoing assessment, and protocols. It also indicates which lessons include the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments.

Texts and Resources to Buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please download the Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
Frightful's Mountain
by Jean Craighead George
One per student
ISBN: 978-0141312354, 0141312351


Optional: Community, Experts, Fieldwork, Service, and Extensions


  • Invite a local expert on peregrine falcons to speak with your class.
  • Invite an editorial writer or journalist to discuss the development of writing an argument.
  • Invite a New York environmental lawyer and advocate for the natural world to discuss the balance of human needs and the natural world.
  • Invite a representative from the Department of Health, or similar organization, to discuss the ways in which we control diseases, such as malaria, in our own area.

Several areas around the state of New York have nesting falcons. Consider visiting a local falcon nest to make observations.

Consider having students share their position papers.


  • Consider cooperating with a science teacher to help students develop a deeper understanding of the complex scientific content of this module.
  • Consider cooperating with an art teacher to help students create more beautiful, polished visual displays. 

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