Predators: Speak Your Mind
IDEAS FOR THE INFORMAL SETTING
- Have the teacher prepare for the hearing as a pre-visit activity and conduct the hearing on the field trip.
- Combine with a live wolf presentation.
Students play roles in a simulated public hearing about wolf relocation.
- Experience the process of making decisions about complex issues
- Formulate and verbalize opinions about an issue
- Apply learned concepts to a “real life” situation
Social Studies, Government, Science
conservation, endangered species, threatened species
NATIONAL SCIENCE EDUCATION STANDARDS
This activity supports the following National Academy of Sciences Science Education Standards (Grades 5-8):
- Standard C: Life Science—Regulation and behavior
- Standard C: Life Science—Populations and ecosystems
- Standard C: Life Science—Diversity and adaptations or organisms
- Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives—Populations, resources, and environments
- Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives—Risks and benefits
Species management under the Endangered Species Act is a complex issue involving varying political opinions as well as scientific information. When a species recovery location is on public lands, the government often holds public hearings to give a forum to opinions and assess public demands. The public needs to have their opinions heard, and invariably, there are many different interests represented at public hearings.
Gray wolf recovery efforts faced unprecedented opposition when announced to the public. A great deal of public input received by the federal government was generated at public hearings, where all have the opportunity to voice their opinion, including individual citizens, coalitions, and interest groups. A coalition is an alliance of people or organizations who band together to make their voice stronger. Similarly, an interest group consists of people who share a common view and work together to implement their ideas.
Simulation activities are models of real life problems and issues. This simulated public hearing activity deals with the reintroduction of wolves to a national park. While the situation is fictitious, it is based on the real life proposal to bring the wolves back to Yellowstone National Park by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is an agency of the US Department of the Interior, the department that protects endangered and threatened species. Real wolf introduction efforts have involved great compromise. For example, vital to Yellowstone’s efforts has been a reimbursement fund. This fund reassures ranchers by giving them the cash value of livestock proven to have been killed by a wolf.
During this simulation activity, students will gain experience in examining a problem by weighing facts; weighing alternative solutions and consequences; and arriving at a decision. They may also experience the heated emotions that often influence decisions. Remind them that this is a role-playing activity and that their classmates should not be held accountable for the opinions they portray.
This activity does not require an in-depth knowledge of relocation efforts. The key concepts identified in this section and the handouts provide a good start.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
1. Based on your class size, determine how many students will be in each of the seven groups.
2. Make copies of the
Recovery Team Issue Statement
Get the Facts
WHAT TO DO
1. Review key concepts from the background section.
2. Introduce the activity by explaining to the class that they will participate in a mock public hearing about wolf recovery. Tell them they will take the role assigned to them and, using prior knowledge and the information provided, attempt to persuade the recovery team to adopt their recommended action.
3. Hand out role assignments and have students form their groups. Hand out
Get the Facts
Team Issue Statement
to each group.
4. Have the Recovery Team leader read the issue statement to the group. Other Recovery Team members should introduce each of the proposed options.
5. Give each group time to review the handouts and discuss their position. Have the Recovery Team Group become familiar with roles 2-7, so they are better prepared. Groups may choose to support one of the proposed plans or present one of their own plans. They should provide the reasons why they support the plan they have chosen. Allow the groups at least 30 minutes to develop their positions and summarize their main points on large sheets of paper (or overheads) and decide how to present their opinions. Each group should choose a spokesperson to present the group’s recommended action.
6. When groups have prepared their presentations, reconvene the entire class. You may want to set up the room so the Recovery Team sits at a table in the front. Allow each group three to five minutes to present their recommendation. As the groups present, their summary sheets should be displayed. Students will need this information later for the assessment so educators should encourage note-taking during the presentations.
7. After the presentations, have the Recovery Team meet for 10 minutes to make its decision based on the strengths of the presentations. The team then announces its final decision to the group, explaining its reasoning and commenting on the varying opinions stated by the interest groups.
8. Allow time for questions about the decision and final comments from the groups.
9. When the activity is completed, have participants drop their assumed roles and discuss the following questions:
a. Why do some people feel differently about wolves than other people do?
b. Could any of the interest groups form coalitions? Why would they want to?
c. Were you able to relate to the feelings of the interest group you represented? Did the activity help you understand why people have strong feelings about issues such as this one?
d. Would it have helped to have more background information? If so, what? Can you find this information and share it at the next class meeting?
e. How does the decision made by the Recovery Team compare to the real life decisions made in Yellowstone National Park?
Have students write newspaper articles covering the hearing. Articles should include information about each of the six views presented during the role-play exercise.
Needs Improvement—Article fails to capture the main points of hearing or reflects only one or two views.
Satisfactory—Article captures the main points of hearing and clearly reflects four or more of the views presented.
Excellent—Article captures the main points of hearing and clearly reflects all six views presented.
- Have students conduct a survey of willing participants to determine how to respond to the Recovery Team Issue Statement. Data for creating the survey can be drawn from Get the Facts and from the list of Possible Alternatives for the Wolf Recovery Plan. Based on the findings tabulated from the survey, students could write a recommendation for which alternatives should be followed.
- Research other wolf topics and write reports or develop multimedia presentations. Possible topics include Red wolf recovery, Mexican wolf recovery, status of Yellowstone wolves, Nez Perce involvement in recovery efforts, status of wolves in another country, and status of wolves in Minnesota.
- Explore how wolves are portrayed in literature. Discuss how literary portrayals might affect perceptions of wolves and influence management decisions.
- As an alternative to role-playing, students could predict the consequences of each Plan option. Then research what was implemented in Yellowstone National Park and compare their predictions to the actual outcomes.
For information on gray wolves and wolf-human interactions, visit National Wildlife Federation’s Web site at
From the Wolves Action Pack, National Wildlife Federation. © 1999 National Wildlife Federation.
Note to Teachers: This lesson and others relating to National Geographic’s Strange Days on Planet Earth can be found online at