VII.  Suggested Activities

These activities are suggested for teachers who want to expand upon or move beyond the documents presented here. They can be used in conjunction with the documents in this curriculum, or used separately.

Have students read their local newspaper for a week, tracking environmental issues individually or in teams. Then ask students to take their topic and research the history behind the current controversy. Ask them to present their results in a short paper or poster. Remind them to document how the environmental problem they study has historical roots, how it has changed and evolved over time.

Ask students to collect their dry garbage at home for a week. Then have them bring their “findings” to class. Have students analyze their garbage piles, pick one or two items that interest them, and trace the origins of that piece of garbage. Teachers might want to suggest items that have a regional connection—newspapers, computer disks, etc.—or represent an important environmental concern. You could also do a similar exercise with food, clothing or other materials to illustrate the environmental connections of urban places to other places through networks of trade, transportation, and disposal.

Do students know where their garbage goes? Or where their water comes from? Have students pick one utility—electricity, water, heating oil, natural gas, solid waste disposal, or sewerage—and trace its historical development in your area. Remind them to use historical sources to trace the change and growth of their local utilities.

Organize a debate on the environmental health and future of your region. Assign one group of students to play the prosecution, who will be present-day environmentalists, urban planners, and local citizens concerned about the present state of their community’s ecological well being. Assign another group to play historical figures from your community’s past—timber companies, fishers, real estate developers, or other resource users—who were responsible for shaping the community you live in today. The remaining students can play the jury, who will weigh the charges that present will make against the past.

Organize another debate, this time around a contemporary local environmental issue, real or imagined. Have students split into teams, playing various roles in the dispute. For example, a debate over a proposed real estate development along a salmon spawning stream would include local contractors who would built the site, nearby residents who might fear increased traffic, environmentalists concerned about habitat loss and business people who want to balance growth with environmental health. Be sure to have students research their positions—and to play their roles with zeal!

Ask students to draw a map of their present-day community, noting important environmental and social features. Then have them research and design maps of their community from earlier periods in history, perhaps in ten or twenty-five year increments. After the maps are completed, arrange them on the wall and ask students to explain the origins and results of the environmental and social changes in their community.

Have students find, research, and map the former streams in their local neighborhoods or communities. In many cities and towns, former waterways were converted to storm sewers that now provide habitat for urban wildlife such as salmon, raccoons, and waterfowl.

Have students write an environmental history of their community by using a particular theme. Students might choose to focus on an important animal or plant species, natural disasters, disease, transportation, tourism, parks and urban planning, pollution or another related topic. Remind them to illustrate change over time through careful research of historical documents (e.g. newspapers, diaries, etc.) on their community. Students may want to use William Cronon’s essay, "Kennecott Journey" (cited in the bibliography to this project) as a potential model.

Ask students to create a “map” of their ecological footprint—the resources that they consume and use daily. Ask them to find the connections to their utilities—electricity, gas, water, sewerage—as well as their clothing, food, transportation, and other daily consumer goods. Have students bring their ecological footprint maps to class and compare their individual connections to the environment as consumers.

Have students interview a parent or grandparent about their memories of place and nature growing up. Ask students to focus on changes in transportation, utilities, and household goods, from food to lighting and entertainment. Also ask students to interview their parent or grandparent about changes outside of the home, changes to the larger landscape in which they lived. Students may want to use William Cronon’s essay, "Kennecott Journey" (cited in the bibliography to this project) as a potential model.

Take a field trip to a local utility site—water treatment plant, sewage treatment plant—or park to trace the environmental history of a particular part of your city or town. Have students map how basic utilities—electricity, water, sewage, or natural gas—move into and out of their homes and neighborhoods.

Have students design a guidebook for people thinking about moving to the Pacific Northwest at the turn of the last century. Ask them to think about what attributes of the environment—resources, recreation, scenery—they will emphasize in their imaginary guidebooks. Give them copies of actual guidebooks from the era for comparison.

Main Section II Section III Section IV Section V Section VI Section VIII Section IX Section X
Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest