Keep America Wild and Beautiful!

“In 1846, when he was 29, Henry David Thoreau tried to climb to the top of Mount Katahdin in Maine. Living in Massachusetts, where the virgin forest was long since cut down, Thoreau had never seen true wilderness, and the sheer power of the wild Maine woods sent him into an ecstasy of spiritual overload. ‘This was that Earth of which we have heard, made out of Chaos and Old Night,’ he proclaimed, rejoicing in the ‘rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks! the solid earth! the actual world! the common sense! Contact! Contact!”‘ R. Powers, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post  with Answer Key

Beautiful painting by Frederic Edwin Church – Mount Katahdin from Millinocket Camp.


Excerpt: Keep America Wild, by Richard Powers, the New York Times

“Lost in fog at Katahdin’s upper altitudes and defeated by the rugged mountain, Thoreau never did reach the summit. But his words have lived on in the deepest parts of the American mind, shaping this country’s conscience toward nature. Last year, President Obama designated 87,563 acres of the land that so moved Thoreau as the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument — a win for the solid earth, the actual world. In a few weeks, Thoreau will turn 200, giving the nation a cause for celebrating. But just in time for the bicentennial, the  [current] government administration is considering stripping Katahdin Woods and Waters of its new designation.

Basin and Range National Monument in Nevada | by mypubliclands

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke visited Katahdin this week as part of a systematic review of more than two dozen national monuments being considered for delisting. He’s acting under the executive order of [the current] government administration. Other targets for possible delisting include Basin and Range in Nevada, Canyons of the Ancients in Colorado, Grand Canyon-Parashant in Arizona, Craters of the Moon in Idaho and Giant Sequoia in California.

Canyons of the Ancients, Colorado. Reddit

Grand Canyon-Parashant in Arizona.

A few of those locations might arguably have some economic potential beyond their incalculable worth as tourist destinations. The oil and gas industries have begun circling around the culturally significant Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, for example, with hopes of fracking it.

Fantastic Craters of the Moon in Idaho. trip101

To his credit, Secretary Zinke concluded his visit to Katahdin by saying that he, at least, is comfortable with the site remaining in ‘public hands.’ But the fight over this and other monuments across the country is far from over.

Giant Sequoia in California.Daily Nova

In Walden, Thoreau wrote that a ‘man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.’  For Thoreau’s 200th birthday, let’s let the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument — and all those other deeply treasured, absurdly beautiful American vistas — alone. We can afford to.”

“If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.”~Henry David Thoreau~

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions:  Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance. 

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Thoreau wanted to reach the summit.
  2. His poems helped shaped this country’s conscience toward nature.
  3. President Obama designated Katahdin Woods and Waters a National Monument.
  4. Mount Katahdin stands as the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
  5. Thoreau got lost in fog at Katahdin.
  6. People celebrated the bicentennial of Thoreau’s birth.
  7. They had a systematic review of many national sites.
  8. Other targets for possible delisting include YellowStone Park.
  9. Some locations might have some economic potential.
  10. The fight to deprive the country of this public treasure feels like pure tribalism.

Reading Comprehension


Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences  taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

Mount Katahdin___ as the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, the___and departure point of that 2,200-mile trek through what___of Eastern American___. The mountain___Thoreau to his ___core, and it still rocks countless ___visitors who each year make the journey to experience it. How can it ___us, to care for such a prize and its surroundings in common? Once we “free it up” and spend these___ in the name of development, what then?

WORD LIST: lands, threaten, innermost, wilderness, shook, American, stands, arrival, remains,


 Grammar Focus: Prepositions

Directions: The following sentences are from the news article.  For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.

Prepositions:  in, for, of, with, by,  on, at, to, as, into, across, around, over,  through, from, during, up, off,

Paul R. LePage, the Republican governor ___Maine, opposed President Obama’s creation___the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, and he continues ___oppose it.

His opposition seems little more than an attempt___incite partisan rancor and now___ingratiate himself___the [current] administration, ___an eye ___aggrandizing his own political future.

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups  and  have each group compose a letter or note to a  person mentioned in the article telling her/him their thoughts on the topic. Share the letters as a class.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.


Category: Climate, Environmental