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Wetland Curriculum Resource
Unit 5. Environmental Issues -

(Level: 7 : 10 acad : 10 appl : 11 appl : 12 acad :: Urbanization)

Purpose: To examine the effects of urbanization on wildlife habitats and to look at ways these effects can be minimized.

What You Need: paper to cut into different shapes :: large sheet of paper for each group :: tape

Wetland habitats change as a result of land use practises. Ideally we seek a balance in providing for the needs of people and wild life. However, human needs sometimes have negative impacts on wildlife habitat. Changes in the surrounding land use can effect the wetland.

What You Do:

  1. Divide the class into groups and have them draw, label, and cut-out squares of various sizes to represent: shopping and restaurant district, a gas station, a chemical factory, houses with lots, a farm and cornfield, a fire hall, a woodlot, a school and schoolyard with playground, a food processing plant, a train or bus station, a gravel road, a highway, and a park. (One set for each group.)
  2. Assign each group a special interest to focus on:
    • farmers who want to use the land for raising livestock and corn
    • residents who want to live on the landbusiness people who want an economic return for the investment they have made in the land
    • park planners who want recreational resources available to the community
    • roads department officials who want efficient road systems for moving people
    • other interests that you think are locally important to your community.
  3. Give each group a large sheet of paper on which you have drawn a large irregularly-shaped pond with inflow and outflow streams are marked. Include a small marsh adjacent to the pond and mark the direction of the waterflow.
  4. Have students arrange their land use pieces (they may touch but not overlap), on the large paper. Use small loops of tape to fasten the cutouts so that your students can change their minds.
  5. Wildlife habitat often needs all the assistance it can get. In some cases the only choices are to minimize the impact of development rather than avoiding it altogether. Encourage students to consider habitat creation such as the construction of farm ponds in which some species of amphibians can be found. For example, the clearing of woodlots for farmland might lead to a decline in woodlot amphibians (spring peepers), but an increase in farm pond amphibians (green frogs).
  6. For advanced students - Add contour lines to show the slope of the land on their proposed urban site. The students should consider the slope of the land when designating land use. A prevailing wind (west to east), and the direction of ground water flow can also be included.

  7. Choose one of student arrangements and sketch it on the blackboard. With the class, discuss the effects of the community on the wetland. What impact will different aspects of the development have on the wetlands? For example, will the industrial effluents and farm runoff effect the communities water supply?
  8. Lead a class discussion on the effects of community land uses on wetlands. How might these effects be reduced? Are there alternatives to traditional industrial practices? Encourage students to recognize the very real needs of the members of the community and not to form value judgements about who should have access to the land or the use of the land. What can students personally do to reduce downstream effects on the environment?


  1. Ask students to bring in newspaper articles on land use conflicts in the community. Discuss ways in which the conflicts can be resolved.
  2. Discuss the need to let local planners and politicians know that development does not necessarily mean the loss of wetlands. Have students write a letter to the provincial or federal government, or local newspaper on the importance of wetlands to the community.

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