Fires of Kuwait and the Alaskan Wolves
Solving Environmental Problems through Critical Thinking
A Web Quest by Andrew S. Basler
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Introduction | Task | Process | Evaluation | Conclusion | Teachers | Credits
After the end of the Gulf War in 1991, Saddam Hussein's troops started an environmental disaster. The Iraqi soldiers retreating from Kuwait set fire to more than 600 oil wells. The oil burned at 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, and burned 5 million barrels a day. 10000 fire fighters from 40 countries came to fight the fires, and several unique fighting techniques were used to put them out. The Kuwaiti fires represent the critical thinking skills that are necessary in dealing with environmental problems.
Two years later, in Alaska, there was a huge debate about controlling the wolf population to increase caribou and moose. The moral problems presented in Alaska were much more complex than the problems in Kuwait, yet decisions have to be made. Just as the firefighters had to treat each oil well differently, you will have to treat each problem differently. In addition, critical thinking skills are necessary just as they were in fighting the Kuwaiti fires. You and your classmates will assume the role of policymakers, and use your critical thinking skills to make a decision about what needs to be done.
First, you will watch the IMAX dvd "The Fires of Kuwait" . After watching the movie, you will be broken up into groups. Each group will read an environmental case study on the Alaskan wolf population. You will use critical thinking skills to decide what you would do to fix the problem. Each group will then prepare a visual aid, and give a report to the class on the choices they made and the reasons they made them. Before you start the process, scroll down to the evaluation rubric and read it, so you know what the grade is based on.
1. First, you will watch the IMAX dvd. While watching the movie, think about the different decisions that had to be made in dealing with the fires.
2. After watching the movie, your teacher will divide your class into groups. Each group will be responsible for completing the given task.
3. Use the following internet link to read a case study on the Alaskan wolves. Read the Article all the way through "Public Perceptions and Misunderstandings" Do not read past "The Latest Update."
Alaskan Wolf Plan Controversy
4. After reading the article, one member of the group needs to be the secretary. As a group, brainstorm for the following topics. What are the moral issues involved? What are the different public perspectives? What are the consequences of each course of action proposed? Whom will benefit from each action?
5. Now, put yourself in the shoes of the policymakers. What should you do? Is there a way to make everyone happy? If not everyone is happy, then which side should win? As a group, create a policy that you think best solves the problem. (Hint: the only wrong answer is to not do anything. Your group must take a stand one way or another)
6. After reaching your decision, go back to the article and read the rest of it. What does the author suggest? Do you think his ideas make sense? What would you change?
7. Create a visual aid (poster board, projector sheet, power point etc.) that outlines your proposed policy.
8. Present your policy to the class. Explain the choice you made. Answer the following questions: Who will benefit? Why did you make the decision you did? Why is your policy the best choice?
Your grade will be based upon the following rubric:
|Policy Proposal Rubric||Possible Points||Self-Assessment||Teacher Assessment|
|Completed policy proposal, followed all points of the process.||50
|Class presentation justified all the choices made, answered required questions.||30
|Visual Aid (helpful, neat)||10
|Evidence of Teamwork, every person had a role in decision and presentation.||10|
|Total Possible Points||
Note that the majority of your grade is on completing the project, answering questions, and justifying your policy proposal to the class. Also, small parts of your grade are based on your visual aid, and the evidence of teamwork.
Solving most problems in the real world require tough choices and critical thinking skills. Sometimes those skills are needed for innovation, like in the Kuwaiti fires, where each fire had to be treated differently. Other times, critical thinking skills are needed when the solution is not so clear. There is not really any right answer that could have satisfied both sides in the Alaskan wolf controversy. The best that one can do is to make a stand for what they believe, and provide facts to back it up. Critical thinking skills is important not only in dealing with environmental problems, but in dealing with any tough decision.
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Grade Band: 9-12
Tennessee State Curriculum Standards: Environmental Science
6.0 The student will understand his/her personal and civic responsibility concerning issues related to the environment.
Performance Indicators: At Level 3, the student is able to
Preceding and Ensuing Events of Instruction
Before beginning this Web Quest, the teacher should show the Imax dvd "Fires of Kuwait" (45 mins.) The dvd will introduce the student to the critical thinking involved in fighting the oil fires. After watching the dvd, the students should begin the web quest. Make sure that they read the evaluation rubric and have a clear understanding of the goals and requirements involved. If the students have any questions regarding the article, be prepared to help them. The article is dated back to 1993, so the events are not current. The article is provided as a case study, not a current environmental news. The teacher should feel free to alter the Web Quest in any way necessary to best improve the learning opportunity of the students. The article will take about 30 minutes to read, and the students should be given at least that much time to develop their plan. If necessary, the Web Quest may be completed over the course of several class periods in steps (dvd, article, preparation, presentation). If you want, you may have a class discussion after the presentations are complete, and as a class take a vote and decide a course of action.
Purpose of Web Quest
To enhance student understanding of critical thinking skills and their use in evaluating environmental problems. To promote the internet as a useful research tool. To promote teamwork skills. To promote oral presentation skills. To promote decision making skills.
Slingshot. (1992). Fires of Kuwait [dvd]. Toronto, Canada: Imax.
University of Colorado. (1994). Alaskan Wolf Plan Packs Plenty of Controversy. Retrieved January 26, 2004 from www.colorado.edu/conflict/full_text_search/AllCRCDocs/94-63.htm
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