Notes for teachers

The Stone Gate is a Young Adult fiction book set in Australia that explores climate change and sustainable living. It can be used to explore the topic of climate change and sustainable living for Years 6-9. Please read these notes if you are a teacher and interested in using the book in class. I’m happy to work with you to create teaching material. Please  email me .

Imagining climate change and sustainable living
The Stone Gate moves through four imagined, but carefully researched, scenarios: a “survivalist” wilderness, a fictional “Aboriginal” Australia, a near-future in which the worst predictions of global warming are becoming manifest, and a more “sustainable” near-future society. By doing so, it helps young readers visualise the big, abstract issues – global warming, sustainability, the environment – that will dominate their lives. What will global warming, or a more sustainable society, actually look like, right here in Australia?   

These scenarios can be used to stimulate class discussion or student projects/assignments. For example, in the book’s climate change scenario, large numbers of refugees have led to a “fortress Australia” with closed borders. Why might climate change create refugees? Coastal Australian cities are being abandoned as people flee inland to avoid rising sea levels. But will it be any better inland, with bushfires and drought?   

In the sustainable world, there are among other things, “de-construction crews” who turn roads into parks and take houses apart piece by piece, and bread made from ground insects. Why are these things “sustainable”?

Indigenous life
Another “world” in the Stone Gate depicts a “hunter-gathering” life – a way of living still found in various places around the world, and once common to all our ancestors. It gives a sense of what it might be like to live in such a society. What would it feel like to live in a world where there is no “indoors”? Where would you sleep? 

The role of imagination
The Stone Gate uses fiction and imagination to talk about climate change. Students can explore how journalists, politicians, advertisers and others use imagination and storytelling in persuasive communication as a way to engage people more emotionally, and why this is so effective. Students might analyse famous political speeches, advertisements or TV news bulletins to identify their use of these techniques. They can consider how the paradox that people are often more emotionally invested in fiction (films, TV shows, books, etc) than in real life issues. Students could devise a survey that compares people’s fears (of sharks, spider bites, being electrocuted at home, car crashes, a virus) with the statistical reality to explore test the idea that we are more afraid of things we can imagine more vividly.

The Stone Gate is fiction, but based on careful research into climate science and principles and proposals for sustainable living. All attempts to predict the future will inevitably be wrong: students can research what aspects of the book they think could, or could not, happen.

Suggested discussion points

  1. How has climate change affected Noah and Sara’s world? Do you think this could really happen?
  2. Why is Beth’s world “sustainable”? In what ways would it be better, and worse, than our lives today?

Suggested research and creative writing projects
Having read The Stone Gate, students can be encouraged to think about climate change, sustainability and pre-1788 indigenous life in relation to their own town or community. Through research and classroom discussion they can explore what scientists and experts predict will happen with climate change, what makes something sustainable, etc. This work can finish with a piece of creative writing. The key aim is to stimulate students’ interest in the topics through imagination …

  1. Describe a day, in the near-future, where you live, if predictions about climate change come true.
  2. Describe a day in a more “sustainable” society where you live.
  3. Describe a day living in a society with no cars, computers, electricity, houses, roads, plastic, etc. How would you eat? What would you do for fun?
  4. You are lost in the woods, or some other “wild” environment. How would you survive? What would you eat? What if it rained?