Drawings that show the beauty and fragility of Earth

A lesson based on Zaria Forman’s TED talk (2016)

Before you watch

1  Discuss the following questions.

  1. Would you like to travel to Greenland and/or the Maldives one day? Why (not)? 

  2. What environmental problems are often associated with these places?

  3. Are you interested in art? Think of a work of art you really like and describe it. What’s so special about it?

2  You are going to watch Zaria Forman’s TED talk. Zaria Forman is a famous modern artist. Look at two of her drawings and discuss the questions below.

  1. Do you like these works? What do you (not) like about them?
  2. What feelings and ideas did the artist seek to convey through these works? Why do you think so? Which of the words and phrases on the right could you use to describe them? Look up all the unfamiliar words.



  • the urgency of climate change
  • nature is both powerful and fragile at the same time
  • compared to the vast, sublime universe, humans are tiny and insignificant
  1. How does the artist expect the viewers to respond to her works? Three of the phrases below are used by the speaker in her talk. Which ones? Make predictions.
  • to emotionally connect with a place they might never have the chance to visit
  • to visit remote places


  • to preserve and protect [these places]
  • to focus on the positive rather than the negative

While watching

3  Watch the talk and check your answers to the questions in Task 2. 

4  Which of the following ideas are expressed in the talk?

  1. Modern art is too abstract. Viewers cannot connect with it emotionally.
  2. The problem of rising sea levels is alarming.
  3. Low-lying islands are slowly disappearing under the water.
  4. A work of art can have a greater impact on our mind than a news report.
  5. Art can help people fight deadly diseases, such as cancer.

5  Watch the video again and make notes about the following.

  1. the way Zaria Forman creates her works
  2. the speaker’s family
  3. the places she mentions
  4. the environmental problems she is worried about the most.

After watching

6  Discuss the following questions.

  1. Do you like realistic paintings (or drawings) that look like photos?
  2. What makes people create works of art these days? Why do you think photos have not replaced paintings or drawings?
  3. Go to Zaria Forman’s website. Which of the works on this page do you like the most? What do you like about it? What feelings does it convey? What does it make you think of? Use some of the words from Task 2 in your answers.

This lesson was created by Tatiana Shustilova, an English teacher and materials writer.

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