In this challenge, students consider the important responsibility of preserving Alberta's parks and protected areas and prepare persuasive letters or oral statements that express their position on this issue. In preparation for this challenge, it would be useful to assemble several news articles or other media materials that deal with competing uses of natural regions, preservation of the environment and disagreements about the role of designated parks and protected areas.
Introduce the topic by exploring, as a class, the notion of extinct and what is lost when species become extinct. You may suggest that students, individually or as a class, search the Internet to find out about animals and plants that have become extinct.
Invite students to suggest reasons why species become extinct. Draw out two main causes:
- the home or habitat that the species require is changed or destroyed; e.g., trees are cut down so birds don't have a home, the food that animals need is chased away, the soil that plants need becomes polluted
- great numbers of the species are directly killed by humans, e.g., overuse, massive killing, or by natural events; e.g., flood, fire.
Discuss what might be done to protect species from extinction. As students suggest ideas, encourage them to consider:
- whether their proposals would do enough; e.g., Would they provide a long-term solution or temporary help?
- whether their proposals would do too much; e.g., Would they prevent people from harvesting natural resources, making room for housing and agriculture and so on? It may be useful to draw attention to the many ways in which we use natural resources for our daily needs.
If it does not arise after a suitable time, suggest that one solution would be to permanently set aside large areas where natural habitants would be protected, human use would be controlled and special efforts would be made to reduce natural disasters.
If possible, assemble pairs of before and after images of landscapeswhile they were still relatively pristine and after they have been influenced by human development. It is not necessary that the pair be of identical locations; simply suggest that the after site is what the before site might look like if it was not protected. Ask students to look at the pairs of pictures for clues about what is gained and lost by development.
Introduce the idea of national and provincial parks and protected areas. Invite students to brainstorm parks or protected areas in the province that they are aware of or have visited. Add others to the list and show pictures.
If desired, invite students to select a park or protected area to investigate through websites and print materials (see References). Direct students to identify the unique reasons why the park or protected area was chosen for protection; e.g., historical importance, spiritual significance, natural landforms, recreational uses, archaeological or paleontological discoveries, wildlife conservation. Also, ask students to consider why protection of these features is necessary and what might happen if the area was not specially designated. Suggest that students record their information in a chart, such as the one that follows. Visual images created with draw or paint software can be included with the chart. If possible, make the completed charts available online, in a joint document, so students can view others students' information.
Name of Park or Protected Area
Reasons to Protect
Draw students' attention to controversies surrounding parks and protected areas, such as concerns over the adequacy of the protections or requests to reduce restrictions. If you have assembled newspaper articles and other media reports that deal with park-related issues, share them with students. It may be necessary to prepare student-readable versions of actual or realistic issues.
Examining news reports offers an opportunity to introduce students to the notion of fact and opinion. Read aloud each of the key statements in one of the articles and ask students to sort them into two categories:
- statements that describe what is/was actually true; e.g., there are no polar bears in the Rockies, dinosaurs lived in Alberta a long time ago
- statements that indicate what people want or do not want; e.g., I wish we had polar bears in the Rockies, I would love to see a real dinosaur.
As you discuss issues related to park preservation, invite students to consider who might have a responsibility to address the problem. Help students explore the possibility that each of the following groups may have responsibilities:
- every individual person
- people who use the areas
- governments who own and manage the areas
- companies who use or want to use the areas.
Ask students to select one of the groups identified above to receive a letter or to be the imagined audience for an oral statement. The purpose of the letter or oral statement is to convince this person or group of one of the following conclusions:
- what they are currently doing is just right
- they should do more of what they are doing
- they should change what they are doing.
To help them prepare the letter or oral statement, ask students to consider what makes a strong or persuasive argument; e.g., lots of reasons, supporting facts, expert opinions. Have students identify a family member, a character in a book or movie, or someone else they know who has argued persuasively for something. Invite them to share who the person was, what they were arguing for and why their argument was convincing or persuasive. As practice for developing arguments, ask students to identify and discuss convincing reasons for something they would like to see changed in their school.
Explain that, in their letters, students should:
- clarify the statement or position they are trying to support
- outline three or four reasons that defend or support their statement
- include factual details that support the arguments
- consider including quotations from experts that support the argument.
Ask students to present their letter or oral statement to the class and then discuss various opinions as a group. If students chose a real issue, encourage them to send their letter to an appropriate agency or group. Consider adapting Developing Effective Arguments (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.