Planet in Peril Prompt: Thinking like an animal


I ran an eco-poetry workshop for 15 to 18-year-olds, focusing on poetry prompts and how we can write about various different aspects of climate change. I realised that despite my target audience, these prompts may be enjoyable for all to experiment with! Some aspects of the workshop can be found below.

Our impact on animals: Based on the "Dynasties" series, narrated by David Attenborough! These are quickfire prompts, so don't overthink your responses!

Prompt 1: Poisoned Meat

Attenborough brought the death of Lions by a human intent, to our attention in the new series of "Dynasties", where villagers chose to illegally farm and leave poisoned meat for the predators to eat, to avoid the Lions devouring their cattle.

I want you to decide a perspective from which you are writing:

  • From the dying Lions' perspective

  • From the perspective of the Hunter

  • From the perspective of the film crew, filming the dying Lions

Pick three words or phrases which describe how you are feeling, exploring all senses which contribute to this: taste, smell, sight, hearing; touch. What does guilt/victory feel like?

If you are the animal, what does your fur feel like? What can you taste?


Prompt 2: Similarities

David the chimpanzee captured the hearts of a nation as he battled to maintain his alpha male status in the pack. His expressions and his behaviour was, at times, so human that it was easy to see similarities between humans and chimps, who share 97% of their DNA.

For this prompt, I want you to look at an image of the chimpanzee hand and observe your own hand. What does your hand tell you about your life – do you do lots of manual labour, do you have chipped nail polish, do you have soft hands, do you bite your nails? What does the image of the chimpanzee's hand tell you? How many fights have they been, how old are they, how strong are they? What makes them human, what makes you an animal?Write these down in draft form and see if the poem emerges.


Prompt 3: A day in the life of a penguin

I would like you to write down words and images that you associate with the emperor penguin (choose an image if this helps!)

Using these associations, see if you can imagine what it would be like to live as an emperor penguin.

This narrative poem style can be dramatic or silly! I would like you to imagine the whole day, from the morning you wake up as a penguin to when you go to sleep. I can tell you that this time of year, it's -35° in Antarctica and most of your life will be spent in the sea, where you are vulnerable to predators.


Life cycle of a penguin and fun facts:

  • Around April every year (the start of the Antarctic winter) emperor penguins meet to breed on the thick Antarctic ice. By the time the female lays her egg (usually around June), she”s worked up a big appetite! She passes the egg to the male before journeying up to 80km to the open ocean where she can feed her hungry tummy on fish, squid and krill.

  • During this time, the males are in charge of keeping the egg safe and warm in the breeding ground. They do this by balancing the egg on their feet and covering it with feathered skin, called a ‘brood pouch’. It takes about two months for the eggs to hatch.

  • The females return in July, bringing with them food in their bellies which they regurgitate (or throw up) for the chicks to eat. The females now take over babysitting duty, leaving the males to head to the ocean for their own fishing session.

  • As the youngsters grow, the parents leave them in groups, called ‘crèches', whilst they head to the ocean to fish. Come December, the warmer temperatures break up the ice that the penguins occupy, bringing open waters closer to the nesting site. By this time, the chicks are old enough to swim and fish, and take to the ocean themselves!

Happy writing!

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