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Lesson Plans

Wildfires scorch the western United States

September 9, 2020

Full Lesson



UPDATE: NewsHour produced this piece on Sept. 10th: “Residents face harrowing escape from ‘unprecedented’ western wildfires.” Summary: Wildfires are sweeping across more of the West Coast, with no relief in sight. Dozens of fires have wiped out small towns and destroyed hundreds of homes in Oregon, Washington state and Northern California. At least eight people have been killed.

You can watch this segment in addition to completing the lesson as it is laid out here.

Directions: Read the summary, watch the video, and answer the discussion questions. To read the transcript of the video above, click here

Summary: Record wildfires are still raging across vast swaths of California, and major fires have burned parts of other states including Oregon, Washington and Montana. The flames have burned more than 2 million acres, destroying scores of homes and other buildings. Hundreds of people have been stranded by the blazes, requiring rescue by helicopter in dangerous conditions.

  1. Have your students identify the 5Ws and an H:
    • Who is the story about?
    • What is different about this fire season?
    • When and where is this happening?
    • Why are these fires happening now?
    • How are officials and others trying to address the problem?

Then have students share with the class or through a Learning Management System (LMS).

2. Focus question: California Governor Gavin Newsom said that the fires were proof of climate change. What evidence is there that climate change has contributed to the severity of these fires?

3. Media literacy: What information would you want to appear in a news story about a natural disaster such as forest fires to help you assess whether or not that disaster can be linked to climate change?

Dig deeper: What other evidence is there that climate change is contributing to wildfires? Watch the video below and write down all the evidence provided by the host and interviewees that climate change might be a contributing factor to the spread of fires.

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