YAL - Young Adult Literature Presenter Unit 2015/2016



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Blue Gold
by Elizabeth Stewart


YAL Presenter Unit 2015/2016

Subjects: English
Grade Level: 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
Posted: 2015, CCSS, Common Core State Standards
Unit Created by: Beverly Rowls


What makes this a good YAL choice...

When was the last time you thought about where your smartphone came from? The vast majority of us have probably never heard of coltan, or "blue gold," the rare mineral essential to the manufacture of electronic devices people depend on daily. As the world becomes a more technologically driven society, learning about this substance, and the human prices being paid for the technology, becomes a matter for social justice examination and evaluation. Westerners have no idea how their privilege negatively impacts the lives of others living in areas of the world they barely know exist. It is time they knew.

Elizabeth Stewart’s captivating novel of three young girls on three different continents gains reader’s sympathies through the stories of each girl and how their lives are affected by coltan in different ways. While heightening readers’ awareness of this international situation, Ms. Stewart uses these stories to teach readers the intricacies of the complex politics that fuel the constant desire to have more, better, cheaper, and the most up-to-date electronic devices for our personal use. Her essay at the end of the book outlines the facts and statistics, and far-reaching actions and consequences of the desires for these electronic devices.
The novel is fast-paced with a powerful message. Readers will be engaged and enlightened as they learn about coltan and its power. While none of these issues can be easily solved, readers are given an opportunity to think. Teens might ask themselves how they can become more responsible consumers, how they can become wiser users of technology, and how they might take action to support people around the world without giving up their essential devices.

For these reasons, Blue Gold by Elizabeth Stewart is an excellent book for the GEAR UP Young Adult Literature Conference. — Beverly Rowls


YAL Conference Workshop Description
Rare Minerals, Technology, Global Social Justice, and You
Beverly Rowls, Presenter

You possess a dynamic piece of technology, right in your pocket, purse, or hand. Most of us feel we couldn’t live without our Smart phones, cell phones, or computers. But our ability to have this technology comes at a cost that few in the Western world are aware even exists.

Blue Gold by Elizabeth Stewart takes the reader into three separate, very distinct modern worlds: Fiona of middle-class Canada, Sylvie of the Nyarugusu Refugee Camp in Tanzania, and Laiping of industrial China. All three girls are linked by a rare mineral called coltan, a required component in all the electronic gadgets we value so highly. This novel intertwines their lives and experiences into a mosaic that could also include you. Our demand for the latest piece of technology comes at a high cost to the lives of people throughout the world.

This workshop will combine content from Geology, Geography, Current Events, and English/Language Arts to form a cross-disciplinary unit to examine how the use of every day technology (to us) has a great impact on the lives of our brothers and sisters with whom we share this Big, Blue Marble. We will examine the point-of-view of each character and how coltan impacts their lives. We will gain knowledge of rare minerals and their impact on the lives of others from around the world. We will inquire into the concept of being our brother’s keeper, and whether we should care that our comfort comes at a tremendous expense to others. Join us as we explore the complex world of our increasing need for and use of technology in our daily lives.

Beverly Rowls — Workshop Description for YAL 2015



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