Article written by Helen Jacobs

The Most Beautiful Roof in the World: Exploring the Rainforest Canopy by Kathryn Lasky is now utilized as a key component in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) learning units in several states. The story is of particular interest to this website because it is based on the journey of ‘CanopyMeg’ and her children into the rainforest, and addresses the specific scientific investigations they undertook in a novel format.

Seeing ecoliteracy embraced in a formal capacity across the nation is a wonderful indictment of our country’s growing awareness and understanding of the importance of education around environmental issues and the wider world around us. What’s more, it is teaching this in a way that is enthralling and engaging, helping to bring new generations of potential biologists to the fore to help us better understand and protect our planet.

Understanding Ecoliteracy

Ecoliteracy is an essential skill for children to learn from as early an age as possible, and this book provides a wonderful introduction into that world that can be accessible to children of all ages, with the right support. It encourages conversations around the issues of rainforest biology, and introduces the life of the biologist (and her family) on a personal level, encouraging children to make the interpersonal connections that are often essential for learning in children at this level.

The novel is ideal for instilling confidence in young people who have ambition to achieve great things, but don’t feel able to share these hidden ambitions or even work towards their dreams and goals, because they don’t believe they are possible. Many individuals suffer with extensive feelings of uncertainty in their own abilities and are also prone to self-criticism. This is particularly true if they already struggle with an existing mental health problem (such as depression, anxiety, or a history of addiction or eating disorder). Engaging with literature and reading a novel has been shown to have proven benefits in helping to overcome anxiety and other mental health problems, meaning that engaging with the concept of ecoliterature is good for more than just the environment: it is also good for mental and physical wellbeing.

Recognising the Importance of Ecoliterature

Ecoliterature is now considered to be a valuable part of the education system in many states. The Center for Ecoliteracy is dedicated to cultivating education for sustainable living in children of all ages and, although based in California, operates national schemes to make important ecoliterature works (such as “The Most Beautiful Roof in the World: Exploring the Rainforest Canopy”) available to hundreds of children.

On their website the Center proposes that their mission is: “to recognize that students need to experience and understand how nature sustains life and how to live accordingly. We encourage schools to teach and model sustainable practices.The Center leads systems change initiatives, publishes original books and resources, facilitates conferences and professional development, and provides strategic consulting. We work at multiple levels of scale, with local, regional, state, and national programs.”

Mentoring Children and Promoting Science

As well as promoting itself as an important form of ecoliterature, “The Most Beautiful Roof in the World: Exploring the Rainforest Canopy” also serves a vital role in promoting science and scientists to children who may not have considered their role in society before.

It is vital that children see scientists that are positive role models, and that those role models take time out of their busy work to mentored interested children, to ensure that more young adults consider science as a potential career path, and see that this is a valuable and important role, as well as one that can be performed by both men and women. ‘CanopyMeg’ is presented as a role model within the book, and provides a strong and positive example of a female scientist to readers. This is both important and valuable.

If you are looking for a novel that will introduce your children to biodiversity, the rainforest, and introduce a strong and accessible female role model then “The Most Beautiful Roof in the World: Exploring the Rainforest Canopy” is a fantastic book, and one that is well worth exploration.