The Lorax, written by Dr. Seuss in 1971, is the inspiration for a new movie. Seussville has a Lorax Project with discussion questions for the book, printable activity sheets, and ideas for Earth Day. Classroom decorating is easy with Eureka Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax Guide to Green Bulletin Board Set and the Lorax Guide to Green Deco Kit, which has individual bulletin board pieces with environmental tips. All in all, it’s a great time to read The Lorax in your classroom.
The two main characters in the story are the Lorax, “who was lifted away,” and the Once-ler, who tells the story — if you pay him. The Once-ler comes to the beautiful setting of the story and begins making thneeds from the native Truffula trees and selling them. The Lorax, who speaks for the trees, challenges the Once-ler, but the Once-ler continues growing his business, using up all the trees and having extensive negative effects on the environment. When the last Truffula tree has been cut, the Lorax leaves along with all the people who were helping the Once-ler in his business, leaving the Once-ler alone in the wasteland he has created. Having told the story, the Once-ler drops the last Truffula tree seed to you, exhorting you to plant a forest of Truffula trees.
The Lorax is certainly an environmental cautionary tale. Here are some environment-focused lesson plans:
However, the story of the Lorax and the Once-ler is also an interesting one from the point of view of economics. If you go past the simple idea of a greedy businessperson using up all the resources in order to get rich, you could think about the Once-ler’s business plan. Here are some questions to discuss:
- The Once-ler liked the Truffula trees because they were beautiful and useful. He used them to knit thneeds. Does knitting actually require the destruction of the source of the fiber? Have students think about sheep if they have trouble with that question.
- The Once-ler’s business plan was not sustainable. He just planned to use up all the resources and then stop knitting thneeds. Have students create a business plan for the Once-ler that would allow him to knit thneeds without destroying the trees.
- Cutting down the trees affected the other creatures that lived in the forest. Ask students to find real-world examples of this. Did the people who prosper by using the raw materials from the trees consider alternatives?
- The Once-ler also polluted the air and the water with his factory. Again, ask students to look for real-world examples. Have cleaner alternatives been found?
- After they complete their research, students can decide whether the Once-ler was typical of businesspeople. Have things changed since the 1970s when the book was written?