This lesson introduces students to the concept of wilderness and the role that wilderness preservation has played throughout American history. Students will conduct research on different historical wilderness issues or events, and analyze those events in the context of the political and cultural climate of that particular time.
Connections to the Curriculum:
Geography, Environmental Studies, American history
Standard 6: How Culture and Experience Influence People’s Perceptions of Places and Regions
Standard 13: How the Forces of Cooperation and Conflict Among People Influence the Division and Control of Earth’s Surface
Standard 14: How Human Actions Modify the Physical Environment
Three to four hours
Wilderness fact sheet: www.wilderness.net/nwps_agencies.cfm
Wilderness timeline www.wilderness.net/nwps/learn.cfm
Students will be able to:
· Define wilderness;
· Describe key players and events in the history of wilderness preservation;
· Research and analyze one historical wilderness issue or event;
· Design a newspaper from the day of their assigned wilderness event; link the wilderness event to politics, culture, and other historical events.
Possible quotations to use:
We simply need wilderness available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. —Wallace Stegner, 1960
(Wilderness preservationists) worship trees and sacrifice human beings to those trees. They want to save things they like, all for themselves. — Charles Fraser, paraphrased in Encounters with Archdruid, by John McPhee 1971
Wildlife once fed us and shaped our culture. It still yields us pleasure for leisure hours, but we try to reap that pleasure by modern machinery and thus destroy part of its value.— Aldo Leopold 1948
Without enough wilderness America will change. Democracy, with its myriad personalities and increasing sophistication, must be fibred and vitalized by regular contact with outdoor growths—animals, trees, sun warmth and free skies—or it will dwindle and pale. — Walt Whitman
In wilderness is the miracle of life, and behind it our scientific accomplishments fade to trivia. — Charles Lindbergh, 1967
We did not think of the great open plains, the beautiful rolling hills, and winding streams with tangled growth, as “wild.” Only to the white man was nature a “wilderness” and only to him was the land “infested” with “wild animals” and “savage” people. To us it was tame. Earth was bountiful and we were surrounded with the blessings of the Great Mystery. —Chief Luther Standing Bear, of the Oglala band of Sioux.
Nature is no great mother who has borne us. She is our creation. It is in our brain that she quickens to life. —Oscar Wilde
Wilderness lovers like to speak of the equal rights of all species to exist. This ethical cloaking cannot hide the truth that green missionaries are possibly more dangerous, and certainly more hypocritical, than their economic or religious counterparts. — Ramachandra Guha
Despite protests from wilderness supporters, President Wilson signs law allowing a dam to flood Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley, 1913
Sierra Club director, David Brower, leads successful opposition to development at Dinosaur National Monument, 1955
President Carter signs Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), adding 56 million acres to the National Wilderness Preservation System, 1980
California Desert Protection Act brings the National Wilderness Preservation System up to 104.7 million acres, 1994
Have each group of students create a newspaper or front page of a newspaper that includes their assigned headline. They should research other events that took place during that year and can include in their paper other news stories, editorials, advertisements, cartoons, etc.— as long as they are all historically accurate in both content and style. The article corresponding to their assigned headline should be an analysis of that wilderness event that:
· Provides basic factual information about the event or issue;
· describes any debate that led to this event, describing the main arguments of those supporting this action and those opposing it;
· links the event to other events occurring in the United States at the time; explains what, if any, influence the current political climate had on their wilderness event.
Have each group give an oral presentation of their newspaper to the rest of the class. One option is to present a skit in which a group of people or a family reads their newspaper and discusses the day’s news with each other. They could also present a news “broadcast” that highlights the day’s events.
Give the students copies of all of the groups’ newspapers. Using the newspapers as the main resource, have each student write an essay on trends in wilderness preservation history, and on how wilderness preservation has been linked to other events and political issues throughout American history.
Have the students role-play a debate on one of these historical wilderness issues, or have them research a current wilderness issue and analyze it within the context of politics and culture. One issue the students could research is the current debate about drilling for oil in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge. Have the students design a current newspaper front-page, summarizing the ANWR debate and the most relevant related issues and news stories. OR, ask the students to predict how this issue will be resolved in the future and have the students design a newspaper front page in the year 2007.
Have the students pretend that Congress has proposed a new holiday to honor or commemorate American wilderness. Have the students submit a “design proposal” for that new holiday to Congress that includes a description of what this commemoration should be like. Should it be a happy celebration? A somber memorial? How should the history of American wilderness be represented? Their design can include sketches, maps, or whatever they need to make their proposal compelling.