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CNN Presents Classroom Edition - Educator Guide

Summer of Fire

June 6, 2003
Web posted at: 6:12 AM EDT (1012 GMT)

Suggested Activities

1. Scientists say that forest fires do have a purpose in nature, yet human intervention over the past 200 years has altered the effects of forest/wildland fires. Refer student groups to the Web sites provided and other resources to learn about how fires function in the ecosystem. Have groups create posters depicting the life cycle of a forest fire. Posters should reveal how forest fires might function in an ecosystem without human interference and show how human actions can affect the system. After groups present their posters to the class, ask: What are the advantages and disadvantages of forest fires? Should forest fires be allowed to burn unrestrained? Why or why not? What benefits do we gain by preventing wildfires? How can we reduce the negative effects caused by our efforts to prevent forest fires?

2. In recent decades, scientists have begun to assess the impact of human actions on the environment. One of the areas that has been most studied is global warming. In 2002, scientists determined that forest fires burning in Indonesia greatly increased the Earth's greenhouse emissions for that year. Challenge your students to learn more about the research surrounding global warming and the effects of human activities on increasing greenhouse gasses. Have students work in groups to collect information and report their findings. Ask: What effect can forest fires have on global warming? What can you do personally to reduce greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere?

3. The U.S. government has a responsibility to ensure the safety of U.S. citizens, preserve the environment and promote the economic health of the country. These responsibilities may conflict with one another when it comes to forest fire management. Have students conduct research to understand and assess the forest fire management proposals by the Bush administration and the president's critics. Ask the following questions to help guide students' research:

• What are the dangers of forest fires for humans and the environment in general?

• What are the advantages of forest fires?

• What are the basic points of Bush's proposal for reducing forest fires?

• What are the benefits of the president's plan?

• Is Bush's plan based in scientific research? Explain.

• What are the main criticisms of Bush's plan?

• On what do the critics of Bush's initiative base their arguments?

Have students report on their findings, and then write proposals about how forest fires should be managed and/or prevented. The proposals should include a description of how to balance the following three factors: the safety of U.S. citizens, the preservation of the environment and the promotion of the economic health of the country (e.g. the logging industry).

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