Protecting Our Natural World: Issues of Conservation

Protecting Our Natural World: Issues of Conservation
Pat Nixon: Religion, Social Issues and Reform

Skill: High School/College
Time Required: Four to five class periods


In the summer of 1970, President Nixon formed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to address "concern with the condition of our physical environment--land, water, and air."  These two agencies were especially tasked with understanding and regulating polutants of various kinds, but they were only a part of a larger picture of considervation that had existed in the United States since the middle of the 19th century.


Students who participate in this activity will learn about various historical attempts at conservation and polution control, as well as about current environmental issues, and will gain experience in synthesizing information, creating logical arguments, and comparing and contrasting efforts at conservation over time.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet; access to print materials about the environment and efforts at conservation; access to PowerPoint or other presentation programs; art materials (optional); cameras (optional).


!.  This lesson can be as long or as short as you wish it to be, and can involve only one class (e.g., history) or many classes (e.g., social studies, economics, art, English or language arts, math, science, etc.).

2.  Introduce the lesson by briefly describing the tension between those who wish to exploit the natural resources of this country, both for profit and for "easier living" of its citizens, and those who believe that our natural resources (including living things as well as air, land, and water) must be both conserved and preserved (discuss with students the difference between "conservation" and "preservation").

3.  Depending upon how how you wish the lesson to continue, and using the websites listed below, individual students or small groups of students can investigate any or all of the following:

  • the story of the formation of the first national parks
  • the story of the formation of the National Park Service
  • the responsibilities of the National Park Service
  • Theodore Roosevelt's emphasis on the need for conservation
  • the formation and work of the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression
  • the story of the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency
  • the work of the National Parks Conservation Association
  • the work of the Sierra Club, and the National Wildlife Federation
  • the nature of environmental issues today

4.  Each of the above topics could be a lesson of its own; or, some of all of them can be woven into an integrated lesson that cuts across disciplines.  If an interdisciplinary approach is chosen, it would be a good idea to have some planning time with all teachers involved in the project.

5.  Students should make contact with representatives of the local EPA office, inviting someone to come to school to discuss current environmental issues with the students.

6.  Students can share their research findings in a number of ways:

  • With poster sessions mounted in the cafeteria or other central school location
  • With written papers presented in various venues--perhaps at an in-school conference on the environment
  • With PowerPoint presentations on aspects of the above topics
  • At a school science fair
  • At local environmental meetings, symposia, or conferences
  • By creating an environmental newspaper for distribution around the school

7.  The websites listed below are basic informational ones; many more can be found with a little time and effort.

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson could be extended by having students use cameras (video and still) to document environmental issues in their neighborhoods and communities.

Sources & Resources:



This lesson was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.