Students learn about the environmental significance of Canada's national parks and protected areas by writing a letter to UNESCO to promote the selection of one of Canada's proposed World Heritage sites.
Introduction to World Heritage sites
Introduce the class to UNESCO's mission—to identify, protect and preserve cultural and heritage sites around the world. UNESCO accepts one nomination per year. Explain that on the list of 128 proposed cultural and natural heritage sites, there are 11 Canadian sites. Here are some of the proposed Canadian sites:
- Atikaki/Woodland Caribou/Accord First Nations, located in the Canadian Shield
- Gwaii Haanas, located in the Cordillera
- Ivvavik/Vuntut/Herschel Island (Qikiqtaruk), located in the North
- Joggins, located in the Atlantic/Appalachian region
- The Klondike, located in the Cordillera
- Mistaken Point, located in the Atlantic/Appalachian region
- Quttinirpaaq, located in the North
- Red Bay, located in the Atlantic/Appalachian region.
Introduction to UNESCO criteria for selecting a site
Indicate that UNESCO requires that all nominees for World Heritage sites meet these established criteria:
- has an outstanding universal value (is of value to people around the world)
- has laws protecting the site
- is well managed (the long-term preservation of the site is carefully planned and carried out).
In addition, the nominee also must meet at least one of the following criteria:
- contains extreme or superior natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty or importance
- is an outstanding example representing major stages of the earth's history; e.g., contain fossils, shows processes that contribute to the development of landforms
- is an outstanding example of land, fresh water, coastal or marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals
- contains important natural habitats for the conservation of a wide variety of plants and animals including threatened species.
You may want to demonstrate what is required by presenting one of Canada's existing World Heritage sites, such as the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump or Dinosaur Provincial Park.
Research a potential heritage site
Assign the proposed sites to students individually or in pairs. Instruct students to research their assigned site using print and online resources to look for evidence to support each of the UNESCO criteria (see References).
You may want to adapt the materials in Considering Options (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.
Present and rank proposals
After the research is completed, each student or pair may work with three or four other students to reach consensus on the one site that best meets the criteria for a World Heritage site. Arrange for each group to present its nominee to the whole class. Students should choose appropriate and effective presentation strategies. Students may take on the role of Canadian government officials to rank the nominated sites.
You may want to adapt the materials in Ranking Options (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.
Write a persuasive letter to UNESCO
After students have completed their rankings, invite them to write a letter to UNESCO to recommend the site that most deserves to be designated as a World Heritage site. Provide students with a template and rubric for persuasive writing, such as the one found on the ReadWriteThink website (see References). Invite students to share their persuasive letters with other students.