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Explore the pros and cons of drilling in Alaska

Lesson Plans by subject 

August 3, 2001
Web posted at: 3:47 PM EDT (1947 GMT)
lesson plan

Overview: Should drilling begin in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? Discover characteristics of this area, which has been the center of controversy over oil drilling. Students can engage in activities that would allow them to determine the advantages and disadvantages of drilling in the refuge.

Curriculum connections: Environmental studies


Students will be able to:

  • Identify characteristics of the Arctic refuge and determine if it is a "ecological wonderland" or a "frozen desert with few signs of life."
  • Predict the advantages and disadvantages of drilling in the refuge from the perspectives of congressional committee members, consumer advocates, environmentalists and oil company executives.


    Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning Life sciences, Standard 6, grades nine - 12 High school students need to know ways in which humans can alter the equilibrium of ecosystems, causing potentially irreversible effects (e.g., human population growth, technology, and consumption; human destruction of habitats through direct harvesting, pollution, and atmospheric changes)

    Materials article, "House OKs bill to drill in Arctic reserve"
    Internet access
    Magazines or newspapers

    Suggested time

    Article and questions only: 30 minutes
    Full lesson plan: Two to three classroom periods


    1. As students enter the classroom, ask them to list 10 adjectives to describe the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Invite students to share their responses. Then ask: What is the controversy surrounding this area? Does it affect how you view this area? Explain.

    2. Have students read the article, "House OKs bill to drill in Arctic reserve", and ask the following:

  • How is the passing of the energy package in the House a victory for President George W. Bush? What are some reasons given by supporters to begin drilling in the Arctic refuge? What are some reasons given by opponents to prevent drilling? Do you think it is possible to drill for oil while at the same time preserving surrounding ecosystems? Explain. How do you think Congress should weigh the environmental value of the refuge against the economic value of the oil beneath it? Given that the demand for oil is increasing, how do you think the U.S. should meet this demand?

  • Do you think the vote against raising fuel mileage standards for sport-utility vehicles is consistent with the broad energy bill? Discuss. Representative Christopher Shays says, "We're not resolving our energy needs because we're not conserving." Explain both the meaning and the significance of this statement.

  • What are some examples given in the article which House members consider environmentally friendly provisions? From what other programs are Democrats suggesting funding for this energy plan might be taken? Do you think this argument would affect people's opinions about drilling? Explain.

  • Who led the study to determine a national energy strategy? Why do you think the White House will not identify various interest groups that participated in the study? What were the goals of the recommendations from Vice President Cheney's group? According to labor leaders, how could drilling impact the job market? Do you think this should be a consideration in the decision to drill in the Arctic refuge? Discuss.

    3. Pair students. Have each pair conduct further research into the Arctic refuge by determining if it is an "ecological wonderland" or a "frozen desert with few signs of life." Each pair can create a chart listing considerations that would support each expression. Survey the class to identify how many students agree that the refuge is an "ecological wonderland" and how many agree that it is a "frozen desert with few signs of life." Invite students to share their findings.


    Have each student discuss both the advantages and disadvantages of drilling in the Arctic refuge from the perspectives of congressional committee members, consumer advocates, environmentalists and oil company executives. Then ask: Based upon your research, do you think drilling should occur in the Arctic refuge. Why or why not?


    Visual/spatial Students can illustrate a scene from the Arctic refuge based on the information they have gathered. Speculate how the scene may change during and after drilling.

    Students can identify other areas in the United States in which drilling has occurred and compare those environments to the Arctic refuge. Students can determine the similarities and differences between the environments. Then ask: What factors do you think should be considered before drilling for oil? Discuss. What environments do you think should be considered for drilling? Why?

    • National Energy Policy
    • Natural Gas

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