The House of the Scorpion is a YA text that is an excellent candidate for a multi-disciplinary approach. Below is a description of the book, an overview of main ideas and a list of resources that can be used in the classroom to connect the book to other disciplines and enhance the understanding and discussion of the book in the classroom.

Between the U.S.A. and Aztlán (once called Mexico) lies a strip of land, known as Opium, the name of its chief product. It is ruled by a 146-year-old drug lord known as El Patrón. His fields are tilled by illegal immigrants, called "eejits," who have computer chips implanted in their brains so that they can be kept in slavery. Matt, a boy who is confined in a cottage on El Patrón estate, manages to break out, only to find himself treated like an animal. Eventually he learns why. The tattoo on his foot, "Property of Alacrán Estates," means that he is a clone of El Patrón--and that he is being raised to provide spare body parts for his original. With the aid of Tam Lin, his bodyguard, Matt escapes from Opium but that is not the end of his troubles. He is imprisoned in a brutal labor camp for orphaned boys in Aztlán and leads a rebellion to rescue not only himself, but the other "Lost Boys."

Summary Taken from

Ideas for discussion in the classroom:

  • Cloning: In the book, humans are cloned to harvest body parts to help people live longer. Most clones' brains are damaged at birth and they are treated as animals or oftentimes even worse. This opens the door to look at what has actually been done with cloning, and what potential does cloning have for the future. Science can be integrated into the language arts classroom as students explore the facts on cloning as well as discuss how they think cloning can and should be used.
  • Opium: The book mentions but does not talk at length about Opium. This is a great opportunity to integrate health related issues as well as current events into the language arts classroom. Students can learn about opium, why it is illegal, and the issues surrounding opium and heroin today.
  • Second-class citizen: In the book, Matt is seen as a second class citizen because he is a clone. This can bring up discussion on what people are seen as second class citizens both in the United States and around the world, why people are seen and second class citizens and what can be done about it.
  • Outsider: As the only clone that lives the life of a "normal" human boy, Matt is definitely seen as an outsider. This is a great topic for students to make personal connections to the text and reflect on times that they felt like an outsider and how they handled those situations.
  • Labor laws: Forcing "eejits" (people with brain implants that cause them to not be able to do anything without being ordered, and can only perform simple tasks) to work the poppy fields almost until death brings up the issue of labor laws. Awareness of what labor laws are today in the U.S., how they differ from other countries, and how people are exploited (example: undocumented aliens working for low wages in hazardous conditions) can bring awareness to how these ideas relate to real issues. Also looking at slavery abroad and our history of slavery in the U.S. relates to the concept of people being forced to work against their will.
  • Corruption and Power: There is a lot of corruption that is seen in government system in Opium. This provides an opportunity to discuss the corruption that can happen in government, and how the government system in the book differs from various systems around the world, as well as instances throughout history where similar types of corruption have taken place.


Author's, Nancy Farmer, website
Can be used to provide background information on the author as well as other things she has written.

Map of United States and Mexican border:
This map will give students an idea of about where Opium resides.


Cloning Fact Sheet by Human Genome Project
This website gives students a general idea of what cloning is, how it has been used and the potential for how it may be used in the future.

Website by the University of Utah that has a variety of information on cloning.
This website has a number of resources related to cloning including lesson plans, information on cloning, activities, fact vs. fiction, risks, and more.

A couple of highlights from this website:

A lesson plan that has students create a timeline of major cloning events by organizing and discussing articles on cloning.

A lesson plan that has students discuss the possibility and implications of human cloning

A Time Magazine article discussing cloning humans (1993),9171,979522,00.html


Information on Opium.
This includes general facts on Opium.

OPB’s Frontline special on Opium
This has a number resources including how poppies are turned into heroin, interviews, maps and charts, effects of opium, and a timeline of opium throughout history

Article on deaths during an opium drug raid

Second Class Citizen

An article titled "Why Palestinians Are Second-Class Citizens in Lebanon"

An article on women as second-class citizens in South Africa

Labor laws:

An article on labor abuses toward migrant workers.

An article on how one politician proposes to act on illegal immigration