Project Description

Building Background Knowledge/Connecting to Nonfiction

Most of The Neptune Project is set in the ocean. Give students an opportunity to immerse themselves in that setting by doing a “Content Pass” on ocean life. Gather a collection of nonfiction trade books, printed articles and websites. See Additional Resources below. Using the “Content Pass” worksheet (see printables), give student 3-5 minutes to survey the resource, record two facts and one question. When time is up, students pass the resource to the nearest student or move to the computer station. After 15-20 minutes, each student will share one interesting fact they have learned. Create a list of questions for further independent research. This activity could also be done with the topic of climate change.

Introducing the Genre

The Neptune Project is a work of fiction that falls within the tradition of dystopian literature. Introduce the term, “Dystopia” and its antonym, “Utopia.” Have students generate a list of other dystopian novels they have read. Display a selection of dystopian (teacher approved) novels in your classroom. As students begin to read The Neptune Project, post a large sheet of paper where students can record evidence from the text that they have entered a dystopian world (examples: curfew, crackdown, Western Collective, secret police, locator chip, work camp, illegal technology etc.).

Making Predictions

Using the cover art and the title, ask students to make predictions about the book’s genre, setting, characters and problem. Record student responses and refer back to them after Chapter One is read and later, as the story unfolds. Ask students who Neptune was and what feelings are conjured up when they hear the word, “project.” Have they ever been involved in a project? Was it a positive or negative experience?

Monitor Predictions

Have students look back at their initial predictions and discuss the direction the book is now heading. In what ways are students surprised? Have any of their predictions been confirmed? Working in small groups, students will review a chapter to determine the most important event in that section. Using all the students in each group, students will create a frozen scene of the event. Groups will take turns presenting while their classmates will guess which event is being depicted. Referring back to the book is encouraged. This activity could also be completed by making a video. Alternatively, students may create a mural of an event and other students will guess which scene it is from.

Freeze Frame

Working in small groups, students will review a chapter to determine the most important event in that section. Using all the students in each group, students will create a frozen scene of the event. Groups will take turns presenting while their classmates will guess which event is being depicted. Referring back to the book is encouraged. This activity could also be completed by making a video. Alternatively, students may create a mural of an event and other students will guess which scene it is from.

“Fluency Idol”

On Monday, have students pick a passage from The Neptune Project they would like to perform. Students should practice the passage all week, giving careful attention to accuracy, expression and appropriate phrasing. On Friday, students will perform their passages in front of the class. Try this with five different books from the 2014-2015 Texas Bluebonnet Master List. Some suggested passages from The Neptune Project: p. 3 opening paragraph of the novel, p. 66 the last two paragraphs of chapter nine, p. 273 (bottom paragraph) or p. 274, but students can also select their own. Students can complete this activity by making videos.

Analyzing Characters

Students complete the character chart provided in the printables section by providing evidence from the text to support their claims. This can be extended into a short writing assignment.

Compare and Contrast Characters

Using the interactive Venn Diagram on the ReadWriteThink website, or a paper diagram. Have students compare two characters. Possible pairs to include are: Nere and Kyel, Nere and Dai, Nere and Lena, Nere and Tobin or Tobin and Dai.

Searching for Similes

The Neptune Project is full of sensory details and similes that keep the reader fully immersed in its setting. Share the following examples: My mind feels like it’s full of sea sludge (page 76). My stomach starts twining and twisting like an octopus (page 196). When I surface, I see at once that the Kestrel is gone, and my heart sinks like an anchor (page 225). Ask students what the author is comparing in each simile. Have students decide whether or not the simile enhances their understanding. Challenge students to find and record similes as they read. You may want to post a large sheet of paper where student can record and share similes or students can keep individual recording sheets of similes. Challenge students to find 10 similes in The Neptune Project. Can they find more? (See Printables)

Nonfiction Connections

As student read The Neptune Project, they will be introduced to the biological diversity of the oceans. Create a classroom alphabet book of marine life or an illustrated dictionary. This can be done on the computer or with paper. Each student or pair of students will research and write about a different species or aspect of marine life. Possible topics are listed alphabetically below:

The Neptune Project: Marine Life from A to Z

A- Abyssal Plain, Anemones, Algae

B- Barnacles, Bat Rays

C- Coral, Crabs, Continental Shelf

D- Dolphins, Dead Zone

E- Eels, Echolocation

F- Fish such as Sheepshead, Fans (sea fans)

G- Giant Squid, Grouper

H- Humpback Whales, Hydroids


J- Jelly Fish

K- Kelp Forest

L- Lobsters, Lionfish

M- Marine Compass, Mako Shark

N- Nudibranch

O- Oysters, Octopus, Otters (sea)

P- Phytoplankton


R- Rock Wrasse

S- Scallops, Sharks, Sponges, Sardines, Sea Lions, starfish

T- Turtle (sea)

U- Urchins (sea urchins)

V- Vents (Ocean Vents)

W- Wrecks (Shipwrecks), Wasp (sea)


Y- Yellow Fin Tuna

Z- Zebra Perch

Chapters 1-11

1. In the opening chapters, Nere exhibits physical limitations on land. What are those limitations? How do those limitations affect how Nere views herself? What physical strengths and mental skills does Nere possess? How do Nere’s physical strengths and weaknesses shape your initial view of Nere?

2. What clues does the author give you that the setting of The Neptune Project is very different from the United States of today? Find a specific example in the text. What mood is the author creating?

3. Why do you think Cam is willing to help rescue the smugglers? Why might Nere be willing to help? Given the circumstances, would you? Why or why not?

4. In Chapter 3, Nere says she wishes she and her mother weren’t so awkward together. How is Nere and Gillian’s relationship depicted as awkward?

5. How will the government edict impact Nere’s life?

6. How do Nere, Lena and Robry each react to the knowledge that they have been genetically modified?

7. Do you think Gillian was right to keep the project a secret from Nere? Do you sympathize with Nere’s anger toward her mother?

Chapters 12-29

1. Describe Nere’s relationship with the dolphins. Do any of the dolphins provide emotional support to Nere as well as physical protection?

2. What is Nere’s initial impression of Dai and how does that impression change or deepen over time?

3. Why is there tension between Nere and Kyel? How would you describe Kyel’s leadership style? Do you think Kyel is a good leader?

4. Which characters are the strongest telepaths? Which characters are the weakest telepaths? Nere’s telepathy is so strong she can break through other people’s mental shields and read their thoughts. So can Dai. Do you think this is a positive or negative ability? If you could be telepathic, would you? Why or why not?

5. Reread the exchange between Nere and Dai on pages 120-121. What is Dai’s attitude toward the dolphins and the ocean? What is Nere’s? Whom do you agree with?

6. Why do you think Nere finds Tobin calming to be around? Why is Dai so unsettling to Nere?

7. What qualities does Nere appreciate about Thom? About Tobin? Why is Nere glad they met up with Thom and Tobin?

8. On page 164, Tobin says to Nere, “You and Dai, it’s like you’ve lived in the sea all your life. Most of us are scared out of our minds, but you look like you were meant to be here.” What do you think about Tobin’s observation?

9. At the end of Chapter 22, there is a debate over whether or not the Neptune kids should risk burying Sara on land. On page 166, Robry says, “I think we’re really arguing about how we’re going to live down here.” What does Robry mean by this? Do you think there are certain norms and rules a group of people must abide by? If so, what are they? Is marking the passing of human life one of them?

10. When Nere goes ashore to bury Sara, she must face the truth that she will never be at home on land again. How does this realization impact her? How does this raise the stakes?

11. Before her life in the ocean, Nere felt invisible. Now she begins to feel important to the group. How does that make her feel?

12. What is the mission of the Neptune Project?

13. In Chapter 26, Nere compares the fanatical light in Kyel’s eyes to the way Gillian once looked talking about the Neptune Project. What does it mean to be fanatical about something? What was Gillian fanatical about? What is Kyel fanatical about? What are the pros and cons of fanaticism?

14. Dai tells Nere that she can ask him five questions about himself. If you could ask questions of one of the characters in The Neptune Project, whom would it be? What five questions would you ask?

15. James refers to himself as a “flawed prototype.” How does his failed Neptune transformation isolate him from others? How does his ability to be a “controller” isolate him further?

16. Why do you think Nere is so reluctant to become the leader of the group? Why does she finally accept that position? What qualities make her a good leader?

17. When Kyel is dying, he says to Nere, “I wanted to fight the Western Collective until the day I died. Now that’s here and everything I did and all the friends I lost, we didn’t change anything. Maybe the best way to beat them is to survive and build something more free and fair in the sea.” Do you agree or disagree with Kyel’s statement? Can you think of a time in your own life or in history when this was true?

Chapters 30-42

1. Give an example of a time when Nere feels the weight of being the leader.

2. Would you allow Penn to stay with the group? How would you vote? Why?

3. Do you think the survival of the group is more important than an individual’s particular desire or need? What qualities make someone a valuable member? What qualities are undesirable?

4. The dolphins play a key role in the survival of the Neptune Project kids. Throughout the book, the dolphins show themselves to be highly intelligent animals. Do you think dolphins are capable of thinking? Do you think your pet thinks? Are animals of higher intelligence of more value? Why do you feel that way?

5. In Chapter 32, Lena reveals to Nere why she stopped being Nere’s friend. In light of this new information, how does Nere feel about Lena? Does this insight change your view of Lena’s attitude and behavior earlier in the book?

6. In addition to the external conflicts Nere faces, she also battles internal conflicts. What do you think those conflicts are? Give an example of Nere overcoming an internal conflict.

7. What clues does the author give you that Dai might have a secret he is not sharing? How does that feeling build in Chapter 39?

8. In Chapter 40, Nere and the others encounter Wasp who says she and her mutant gang are not afraid of dying. How does this encounter change the mood? How does one deal with an antagonist who claims to have no fear of death?

9. Why do you think Dai deceived the group? Do you find him a sympathetic character or do you also feel betrayed by his actions?

10. When Nere is reunited with her father, he says, “I’m glad you’re finally here, but I think my little girl has grown up a great deal in the past two years (page 341). How do you think Nere has grown during the course of this story? Where do you think her story will go next?