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Environmental Issues

Standards: 4.8 Humans and the Environment, 4.9 Environmental Laws and Regulations

Duration: 30 to 40 minutes

Setting: Inside, Outside – GeneralForest, StreamWetlandFarm

Vocabulary: perspective, communication, diversity, conflict avoidance

Summary: Students use various exercises to learn to share perspectives on nature with each other and how to see through differences.

Objectives: Students will gain a deeper understanding of how to communicate their experiences with their peers and also how to understand different backgrounds and influences.

Materials: something to act as a line, either tape, marker, or a line drawn in the dirt


To a large degree, environmental issues are social and cultural in character.  In other words, in addition to the science behind environmental concerns, issues are greatly based on different perspectives of how nature should be treated and the types of values we have.  While some feel that the environment is here for use however we like, others feel that we should not should not kill or harm any other animals at all.  These are two extremes and most people fall in-between.  However, these types of differences are what create environmental issues and form the basis of our concerns.

Our different backgrounds, experiences, and knowledge greatly influence our perspectives.  Some people are hunters and based on their experiences outdoors, they may look at nature differently than people who are not.  Likewise, some of people are farmers and, from working with plants and the soil, they may have a different appreciation for these resources than others.  These different perspectives and understandings are very healthy and allow for unique and creative ways to solve problems.  However, this diversity can also create conflicts.

One of the primary ways that we can deal with environmental issues is to recognize our differences as being healthy and to be able to work together.  While it is not necessary to agree with others, it is important to recognize how diversity is natural and beneficial.  As we go through life, we will be exposed to many different opinions and perspectives and things we will not always agree with, but we need to be able to have respectful conversations with those people.


Warm Up:

This is a simple activity to break the ice but also to emphasize diversity of tastes and perspectives.  Ask students variety of questions and have them separate into two groups based on their answers.  After you read a question, the students will move to one side of a line or the other.  If you want, you can have a middle line for those who feel the same about both.  Here is a list of possible opening questions. Which do you prefer:

Math or Writing

Country Music or Classic Rock

Painting or Building

Hiking or Riding Bikes

Swimming in the river or swimming in a pool

Baseball or Football

Dancing machine or Wall flower

Vegetables or Fruit

Dog or Cat

From this activity, students should get more comfortable expressing themselves, albeit silent, and hopefully will be more willing to participate in the next expression activity.


Now that the students have loosened up, tell them that they are going to be discussing some issues with each other.  You are going to be asking them a question that they have to rank it, 1-10; 10 being that they strongly agree and 1 being that they strongly disagree.  They will line up based on this ranking, 10’s being in one end of the line, 1’s being at the beginning and all the others in the middle.  Then discuss how you will break the line and have them rearrange like you did in the Bird Call activity.  When they are with their new partner, tell them they are going to be given about 2-3 minutes for one partner to list the reasons they agree or disagree while the other listens.  Then they are to switch roles and the other partner is to listen.  After they are finished, they can spend about 1-3 minutes discussing the issues before moving on to the next issue.

Read the first question and have them line up.  Then tell them to rank their answer and lineup. Break the line, pair them, and have them begin.  Do as many rounds as you have time for but try to leave time for the last activity.

Values on the Line:

1.) It is important for people to preserve wilderness areas even if the vast majority of people will never visit them.

2.) The world’s natural resources exist for people to use.  Preserving these resources as wilderness is a luxury we often cannot afford.

3.) People have a responsibility to protect all life forms on Earth

4.) Protecting a country’s natural resources and natural heritage is primarily the government’s responsibility.

5.) People should be able to use their own land (i.e. farming, housing, logging, wildlife habitat) in whatever way they see fit.

6.)  When an issue arises between protecting wildlife and protecting jobs for people, we should consider the needs of people first.

7.) The fate of the human race is tied to the fate of other living things; if people are to survive, we must protect all species and their habitats.

8.) Recycling is the most important thing people can do to help improve the environment.

9.)  We should behave environmentally only when the price is right.

10.) It is necessary to make lifestyle changes to protect the environment, such as car pooling to school than driving separately.

Bonus Activity:

Discuss that the students are going to be separated and blind folded and that they then have to find each other.  The way they find each other is by calling for each other but using a bird call that they create.

To pair them, have them form a line.  Split the line in the middle and bring the middle to one end so that half of the line is facing the other half and each person has a partner directly across for them. Have the students then spend just a few minutes developing a specific bird call while the teachers assist by passing out blindfolds.

Point out the boundaries and separate the students to opposite ends.  Tell them to assist each other in putting on the blind folds.  Also have the teachers assist in doing this.

NOTE:  Describe that they should walk with arms out and palms up like Frankenstein, when they are trying to find each other.


Ask the students if they had some differences of opinion and perspective on issues.  Discuss with them that because everyone has such different backgrounds and experiences, they will always run into differences of opinions and perspectives (ask them if they ever disagree with their parents).  It is important to recognize, respect, and embrace the diversity of people and their perspectives.  Often we have to work or live with people who have different ideas and ways of doing things.


Have students form debate teams and talk about these questions in more depth in a respectful and thought-out manner.


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