Lesson 1C: The Historical Context of Conservation

Lesson 1C: The Historical Context of Conservation              Grade level: 6-8        Time Length:  1-2 class periods

Cross Curricular/Cross Lessons: 1A: The Gilded Age; 2C: Consequences and New Ideas; 3B: Conservationists, Preservationists and Capitalists; 3C: Government Power; 4A: Conservation vs Preservation; 5A: The Modern Era; 6E: Pol. Cartoons; 6G: What Might Have Been.

PDE Academic Standards: 1.1.8/11; 1.2.8/11; 1.6.8/11; 5.1.9; 5.2.9/12; 6.3.9/12; 7.4.9/12; 8.1.6; 8.1.9/12; 8.3.6/9/12



–Students will develop a sense of chronology of conservation attitudes and practices

–Students will examine the evolution of methods of conservation through laws and policies

–Students will gain an overall picture of conservation through the last 150 years and find their own place in it



Seeking the Greatest Good

PDEP Website:  http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/environmental_heritage_timeline/13844/history_1600_%E2%80%93_present/588309

Library of Congress Website: http://memory.loc.gov:8081/ammem/amrvhtml/conshome.html

The Gilder Lehrman Institute website:  http://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/politics-reform/resources/theodore-roosevelt-and-conservation


Anticipatory Set:  (2min)      “Moment of Zen”       Discuss the quote as it relates to both students and the topic.

“The aim of the historian is to know the elements of the present by understanding what came into the present from the past.  For the present is simply the developing past…the goal of the historian is the living present.                                                                                                                                    -Frederick Jackson Turner           


Pre-Activities Discussion Questions  (*Adapted from the The Gilder Lehrman Institute website)

These questions are designed to stimulate interest in the Conservation Movement. If the class cannot answer some of the questions, the teacher may give the students the answer or require the answers to be found.

What do you know about early conservationists?                     What does it mean to conserve?

What does it mean to reclaim something?                    What do you think a national forest /grassland is?

What does the word “green” mean in the context of conservation and politics today?

What grade would you give our nation on the conservation of natural resources?

About how many national parks are in the US today? (Fifty-eight national parks)

About how many are national forests and grasslands are there in America?

What does our government do to protect threatened animals, birds and fish?

Can you think of wildlife that our government has had to protect?

What does Theodore Roosevelt have to do with or natural resources in America?


–Show Chapter I of Seeking the Greatest Good

–Create an environmental timeline using the chronology available on the Pennsylvania State and Library of Congress website as a resource.  Have the students divide their work into three Eras – 1600-1850 (Pre Pinchot); 1850-1950 (Gilded Age, Progressive Era and Public Works); 1950-present.  Or, create a timeline as a class that is visible around the entire room for reference throughout the unit. Be sure to include other events the students are familiar with in order for them to gain a context.


How can we trace the attitude toward conservation by looking at the timeline?   (quantity/quality/frequency)

What do you want to know about past and current conservation policies?  Have they worked?

Have past and present conservation practices always been based on scientific knowledge?  Why or why not? What do we know now that they did not know then?

Closure/Summary:            (3min)

Key Question:

Describe the nation’s attitude toward conservation in the years before Pinchot and the years after Pinchot.


Evaluation: Students will be evaluated on their responses to the Key Questions and the class discussion.

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