The Planet Assignment #1: Space for Life

Your task in this assignment is to describe in as much detail as possible a space you know well as an environment for living things. Your space may be any size—very large or very small—but it should have boundaries you can identify. In addition to describing the physical characteristics of the space, you should also describe any biological beings that inhabit that space, whether they are always there or only pass through.

Audience: Readers who are unfamiliar with the space

Format: 1000 words (3-4 pages); MLA style

Advice: The best essays will include sufficient detail to allow readers unfamiliar with the space to imagine being there. Since the task is to describe the space “as an environment for living things,” essays should account for characteristics of the space that sustain life, characteristics that threaten or diminish it, and impacts on the biology of the space from external forces.


Type: Analyze a single primary source to support an arguable thesis

Rationale: The purpose of this assignment is to give students practice with using details to create coherent description. Students should be encouraged to reflect on Williams’s discussion of the ways writers have included or excluded man and his effects in describing natural environments. The reason for emphasizing an audience of readers unfamiliar with the space is to encourage students to experiment with tone and style in their writing.

Pre-Draft Activities:

  1. In-class writing, critical reading, and discussion activities focused on Williams’s “Ideas of Nature,” for example, having groups present on sections of the article and/or having students write summaries of its main points
  2. “Previewing” and annotating descriptions of bounded spaces drawn from scholarly and literary writing
  3. In-class writing focused on writing detailed and engaging descriptions and developing a coherent structure
  4. In-class writing and peer review focused on making clear connections between details
  5. Revision exercise to eliminate forms of “to be” and/or use of the pronoun “I”

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