Interdisciplinary Teaching Ideas

Brief description:

Where the Crawdads Sing tells the story of Kya Clark, and abandoned child living on her own in the North Carolina wilderness.  Called the “Marsh Girl” by the local population, she observes the marsh and the creatures who call it home.  When she finally becomes involved with a man from town, she is embroiled in a mystery that shakes the small community.  The novel was a Reese’s Book Club pick and is slated to be turned into a major motion picture starring Daisy Edgar-Jones in 2022.  It may be of interest in multiple disciplines, notably environmental science, psychology, English, education, criminal justice, and legal studies.

Below are some reading group guides to the novel, followed by general teaching suggestions based on discipline and areas of interest as well as scholarly sources dealing with the novel or topics contained therein.  (Discussion questions are also included in the back of the college-purchased text).

Reading groups guide for Where the Crawdads Sing

Delia Owens Webpage Book Club Kit



  • Base any visual art project on scenes from the novel.
  • Research the various covers issued for the book. Design your own cover for a new edition.
  • Compare/analyze/design movie posters for the upcoming film adaptation of the work.
  • Base art on images from ecological studies of the marsh similar to those published by Kya, The Marsh Girl.



  • Mabel helps Kya plant a garden to supplement her diet. Botany/agriculture students could find the sequences in the novel dealing with the garden of especial interest.
  • Research the best crops for the type of soil Kya would have available near her marsh dwelling as well as challenges such as pests specific to the area.



  • Descriptions of the marsh, the creatures it contains (especially birds), and the local flora will be of interest to environmental studies students.
  • Broome, Stephen W., et al. “Establishing Spartina Alterniflora Marsh in North Carolina.” Environmental Conservation, vol. 3, no. 3, Sept. 1976, p. 185. EBSCOhost,
  • Gunnell, John R., et al. “How a Marsh Is Built from the Bottom Up.” Geology, vol. 41, no. 8, Aug. 2013, pp. 859–862. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1130/G34582.1.
  • Lawson, Daniel M., et al. “American Black Duck Nesting Ecology in North Carolina.” Journal of Wildlife Management, vol. 85, no. 5, July 2021, pp. 989–1000. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1002/jwmg.22062.
  • Owens, Delia and Mark Owens, “Social Dominance and Reproductive Patterns in Brown Hyaenas, Hyaena Brunnea, of the Central Kalahari Desert, Animal Behaviour, Volume 51, Issue 3, 1996, pp. 535-551, ISSN 0003-3472,
  • Voss, Christine, et al. “Marsh Macrophyte Responses to Inundation Anticipate Impacts of Sea-Level Rise and Indicate Ongoing Drowning of North Carolina Marshes.” Marine Biology, vol. 160, no. 1, Jan. 2013, pp. 181–194. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s00227-012-2076-5.



  • The barter system Kya employs may be a jumping-off point for discussion.
  • Technology is noticeably lacking from Kya’s life. Discussion of the communication/computing available to the rest of the community during the time period of the novel could be useful in these classes.



  • Kya’s trial and the investigation that leads to her arrest will be of interest to students in these disciplines. Local laws during that time period may also serve as the basis for classroom discussion and/or projects.
  • Discuss the realism or lack thereof of the trial process in the novel.
  • Property laws may be discussed in terms of Kya’s possession of her house.



  • The upcoming film will be directed by Olivia Newman. Review her short films.
  • Adapt the novel (or a portion of it) for the stage.
  • Listen to portions of the audiobook and record vocal performances of parts of the novel.



  • The reception Kya receives when she attends school for the first and only time can provide the basis of discussion on a variety of educational topics such as access for low-income students, bullying, classroom readiness, etc.
  • Discussion grit and resilience in the face of adversity as Kya manages to learn to read and eventually author her own books. How are schools incorporating lessons on resilience into various subject areas?
  • Discuss the emergence of outdoor education and the lessons imparted in “nature’s classroom” as opposed to the traditional school environment.



  • Compare language regarding the natural world versus that used to describe the town and the trial.
  • Discuss the ending of the novel and the ways in which is does/does not constitute a satisfactory ending to the story.
  • The book may be examined in the tradition of isolated or marooned individuals, especially children (Julie of the Wolves, Peter Pan, The Jungle Book, etc.) In what ways does this narrative perpetuate/diverge from the “feral child” trope?
  • As with any novel, this work may be examined in light of any of the literary elements typically discussed in literature classes, such as point of view, symbolism, character, plot, etc.
  • Assign the virtual lecture by Wake Tech Professor of English Eileen Sweeney (located in YouTube and Canvas Commons format).



  • Film students may wish to examine other films dealing with children growing up in isolation and their reintegration into society. Some examples might be Tarzan, The Blue Lagoon, World War Z.
  • Movie adaptations of previously published works may be a topic for examination in conjunction with Where the Crawdads Sing and its upcoming film adaptation. How a work goes from novel to script is another possibility for projects or class discussion.



  • After reading, classes may discuss why shared reading (such as our college novel) is required on many college and university campuses nationwide.  See the description of our college novel initiative on the college website.  What is the purpose of the novel and how does that relate to a liberal arts education? How might that be tied into the themes of resilience, determination, and a drive for education presented in Where the Crawdads Sing?
  • Foundations is designed to provide incoming college students with an introduction to the college environment and higher education. Where/how does Kya gain information about education, publishing, etc.?



  • Compose a movie poster or book jacket for Where the Crawdads Sing.
  • Illustrate any scene or theme from the novel.
  • Design a cover for any of Kya’s books.



  • Examine the role of race in the novel in light of the civil rights movement in the South, especially North Carolina.
  • Discussion of the structure of the trail in light of the historical context (jury selection, rights of prisoners awaiting trial, etc.) could be used in both of these disciplines.



  • The press plays a role in Kya’s murder trial. What are the rights and responsibilities of journalists in the instance of sensationalized murder cases such as this one?
  • Research news stories regarding topics in the novel, such as children raised in isolation, local murder cases, etc. from differing eras to compare reporting styles.



(Contributed by Professor DeHart)

These videos are short enough to be shown in class and present material that can be appreciated by students regardless of their math backgrounds. Students can be asked to discuss how the videos connect to Where the Crawdads Sing and to consider whether they are inspired to explore any of the mathematical connections.

  1. Nature by Numbers: The Golden Ratio and Fibonacci Numbers by Cristóbal Vila

This short video (3.43 minutes) beautifully illustrates the connections between mathematics and nature and invites further exploration.

  1. Painted by Numbers: Mathematical Patterns in Nature

This video (14.06 minutes), narrated by Professor Marcus du Sautoy of Oxford University, explores mathematical representation of patterns in nature.

  1. Physics of Foams

This fascinating video (8.25 minutes) from the University of Nottingham investigates patterns that appear in nature from the quantum world to the distributions of galaxies in the universe.

  1. The Mathematics of Love by Hannah Fry

Mathematician Hannah Fry’s Ted Talk (17.01 minutes) about the mathematics of love features a scatter plot used to evaluate online dating and discussion about how an algorithm that can be used to pick your best mate is similar to a process employed by fish in the wild.



  • Early portions of the novel deal with Kya’s his attempts to survive an abusive parent and then remain alive and stave off despair when she is abandoned. Examination of her reactions and strategies to maintain personal wellness in the face of total isolation.
  • Study of psychological profiles of children reintroduced to civilization after living alone could be studied in conjunction with and compared to the fictional case of Kya.