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NOW with Bill Moyers

You Be the Judge
Starter Exercises


The following adaptable classroom activities suggest various approaches for introducing and/or extending learning on environmental v. business concerns, as they relate to the Clean Water Act.

1. How Has the Clean Water Act Changed Since 1972?
In 1972, the Clean Water Act was signed into law to address serious pollution problems in United States waters. Thirty years later, the law is still in place, but has undergone various modifications over time. Introduce students to the Clean Water Act by showing them the approximately 15-minute 12/20/02 NOW with BILL MOYERS' story on a court case related to the Clean Water Act. (Note: A free transcript of this story is available on the NOW Web site. Teachers may also tape the broadcast off-air and use it in the classroom for one year. Alternatively, programs are available for purchase from ShopPBS (http://shop.pbs.org).) While watching the segment, have students take notes on the Clean Water Act's purpose, any changes it has undergone, and the perspectives of those who both support and criticize the law. Next, have students examine NOW's summary of the main provisions of the Clean Water Act, the first page of the Environmental Protection Agency's Introduction to the Clean Water Act (http://www.epa.gov/watertrain/cwa/index.htm), and the Natural Resources Defense Council's Press Release on America's Wetlands in Danger (http://www.nrdc.org/media/pressReleases/020723.asp). Have students organize what they've learned about the Clean Water Act in a graphic organizer showing the original scope of the Clean Water Act, how it has changed over time, and the concerns of groups who find the law too restrictive and too lenient. Students can then summarize their findings in 1-2 short paragraphs that accompany the graphic organizer.

2. Business vs. Environment: An Ongoing Battle
The 12/20/02 NOW with BILL MOYERS' story on a court case related to the Clean Water Act raises issues of environmental v. business interests. (Note: A free transcript of this story is available on the NOW Web site. Teachers may also tape the broadcast off-air and use it in the classroom for one year. Alternatively, programs are available for purchase from ShopPBS (http://shop.pbs.org).) Have students watch the story, read its transcript, and/or review the key arguments for the case on the NOW Web site. Ask students to list the main points made by the environmental and business groups. Then, have students conduct research about other business v. environment cases that have made it to the U.S. Supreme Court. The following sites will be helpful in student research: Links to United States Supreme Court Resources: Penn State
http://www.clubs.psu.edu/SCTSociety/links.htm

The OYEZ Project at Northwestern University
http://oyez.nwu.edu/

Supreme Court of the United States
http://www.supremecourtus.gov/

Each student should find several cases spanning a period of time specified by the teacher (i.e. over the past 30 years, 50 years, 100 years). As students research, they should record the name of the case, the issue, the decision made by the court, and the reasoning behind the decision. Once research has been completed, work in a large group to construct a timeline covering the specified time period. Place the basic information about each court case on the timeline. Finally, as a class, construct a "scorecard" that notes which decisions sided with business interests and which sided with environmentalists. Discuss any specific trends that appear in the decisions. (Ex: Was the Supreme Court more or less likely to rule in favor of environmentalists when the economy was good?)

3. What is the Bush Administration's Record on the Environment?
The 12/20/02 NOW with BILL MOYERS' story on a court case related to the Clean Water Act mentions some helpful environmental activities of the Bush Administration and some actions that could potentially endanger the environment. (Note: A free transcript of this story is available on the NOW Web site. Teachers may also tape the broadcast off-air and use it in the classroom for one year. Alternatively, programs are available for purchase from ShopPBS (http://shop.pbs.org).) Overall, has the Bush Administration been harmful or helpful to the environment? Have students conduct research on President Bush and his current environmental policies. What types of environmental issues does he support? What environmental issues is he against? Are there issues where the President will be forced to side with either environmentalists or business interest groups? Once students have completed their research, have them create a poster, cartoon, persuasive speech, letter to the editor, report card, bumper sticker, or some other medium to express what they have learned. Students should share their projects with their classmates and justify what they have created/portrayed by sharing the evidence they found when conducing their research.

4. An Environmentalist's Perspective: What Role Do Wetlands Play?
Environmentalists expressed deep concerns about wetlands in the 12/20/02 NOW with BILL MOYERS' story on a court case related to the Clean Water Act. (Note: A free transcript of this story is available on the NOW Web site. Teachers may also tape the broadcast off-air and use it in the classroom for one year. Alternatively, programs are available for purchase from ShopPBS (http://shop.pbs.org).) What is a wetland? How is the Clean Water Act designed to protect wetlands? To explore these questions further, invite a local ecologist, water expert, EPA representative, or other related guest speaker to come speak to your class. Ask the speaker to give students specific examples of how their community would be different if the Clean Water Act was not in place or if more of America's wetlands were to disappear. To help students prepare for the guest speaker, have them learn more about wetlands by studying the Environmental Protection Agency's Wetlands Resources (http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/). Once students have some basic background information, ask each of them to write a specific question for the guest speaker related to wetlands or the Clean Water Act as it relates to their local ecosystem. To help illustrate the complexity of protecting wetlands, consider also having students review the arguments of business interests in the court case featured on NOW who feel the Clean Water Act is too restrictive. Students could then also develop questions for the guest speaker from a business perspective.

About the Author

Lisa Prososki is an independent educational consultant who taught middle school and high school social studies, English, reading, and technology courses for twelve years. Prososki has worked with PBS TeacherSource and has authored many lesson plans for various PBS programs over the past five years. In addition to conducting workshops for teachers at various state and national conventions, Prososki has also worked as an editor and authored one book.