Continuum activity

Logging the Frontier Forests

As we know, deforestation is one of the causes of climate change. The trees and others plants absorb carbon dioxide. That is why deforestation contributes to higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. More trees have been cut down in the last 100 years than in all the history of civilisation.

Here is an activity written by Alanda Greene that we found in Green Teacher, Issue 54, Winter 1997-98.

Situations in which there is no right and wrong are far more common in life than those in which a simple "yes" and "no" will serve, yet students have little opportunity to experience this in school.

The activity "Where do you stand" allows students to explore the grey areas that lie between black and white polar opposites of an issue. It asks each person to find a place on the continuum between absolute agreement with a position and absolute disagreement. While everyone must take a position, the activity does not have to do with defending territory or trying to convince others that one is right. Rather, its salient feature is recognition of the knowledge, opinions, attitudes and values supporting various positions.

This emerges as people discuss their current position and reason they chose it. Those whose stands are based on poor information or reasoning are not considered "wishy-washy" if they change their positions after listening to others, but rather are encouraged to recognize that this is what responsible, open-minded, thoughtful, learning people do as they acquire more information. Thus the activity encourages an open mind and a willingness to change with learning and listening.

The activity can be used at many levels, from primary to secondary, and requires involvement from everyone in the group. Even though some participants may not express an idea, they must choose a place to stand.

Learning to be flexible, open, and responsive is what this activity is designed for, and thus it does not depend on students' having any special expertise on an issue. Used at the beginning of a unit, it may stimulate further research, writing and discussion. Repeated at the end of a unit, it can access what the students have learned over a period of time and how their views have changed as a result of their learning.

Procedure

The activity is simple to conduct. Using a space large enough to accommodate the group, designate one end of the space as "Totally Agree" and one end "Totally Disagree". A line connecting these two opposite poles can be marked with masking tape on the floor to represent the continuum of positions that lies between.

Read a scenario aloud, perhaps twice if needed. Then ask students to find a position which reflects their opinion on the issue. Once everyone is in place, ask for explanations of why they chose their particular stand. Students should be encouraged to respond to opinions stated by others but not allowed to attack another's choice. Explain that they are free to adjust their positions as they hear ideas which they had not previously considered. Back to top

Scenario

A major international study recently revealed that only about one-fifth of the world's wild forests, called frontier forests remain on the planet. The study determined that all the frontier forests have been eliminated in Africa and the Middle East, and nearly all are gone from Europe. In the temperate climate zone, which includes Canada, about three per cent of the frontier forests remain.

Carla works with an environmental group in British Columbia that wants all logging in these forests to stop. She says that these wild, natural forests need protection because they are home to many species of plant and animals that can live only in these environments. Carla maintains, "There have been so many forests destroyed. We want to keep what remains, not remove it. Too much has already gone."

Ali's father and brother work for a logging company that plans to clear-cut some areas of a frontier forest in the coming months. She claims that the best timber is located in these forests and that loggers have a right to take some of it. "We are just as entitled to use these forests as are other people and animals. We should be able to take a share. We need to make a living. We have a right to use this timber."

Where do you stand on the view that logging should stop in this frontier forest (Carla's view?)

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