Objective: The purpose of this activity is for students to debate both sides of an issue
concerning draining and reclaiming part of a wetland area for commercial use. Students
will learn that even though an issue may look "black and white", it seldom is.
Materials: Cedarville - A Town Divided story handout, Cedarville dilemma, Citizen role
cards for the wetlands and against the wetlands, Zoning Board placard (optional), Timer
(optional), Copy of local wetlands zoning regulations (optional), Map of Cedarville,
showing Kings Folly Marsh and the intended re-zoned area (optional) - Note: make an
overhead (transparency) of map and use as a backdrop during hearing.
Background: Section 404 of the Clean Water Act regulates the fill or disposal or
dredged materials in a wetland, but it does nothing to regulate draining, excavation, or
flooding. Many states have added to that act (on a statewide basis) by passing stringent
laws regulating wetland use and misuse.
Although there are many regulations in place to protect wetlands, the threat is not over.
Small wetlands continue to be altered without notice. Regulations often don't protect
these lands from all perils. Enforcement measures are often paralyzed by large agency
and court caseloads. Consequently, it is increasingly important that citizens understand
the laws and regulations affecting wetlands and their individual role in this process.
First day: Check with the county zoning board and ascertain what type of wetlands
zoning regulations are in place in your area. Obtain a copy. Make copies for all students.
Explain to students the following: Land use decisions affecting wetlands have become
familiar issues in all areas of the country. In many instances, there are conflicts that
develop over land use issues that are not easy to solve. Read to them the Cedarville
Dilemma to give the class an overview of the conflict that is occurring.
Read aloud in class the Cedarville - A Town Divided story. Send a copy home with the
students for review during their efforts of becoming their assigned character role.
Distribute the citizen role cards to your students. Tell your students that they are
involved in this wetland controversy and must choose sides on the issue based on the
role card they were given. Note: there may be more role cards than students in your
class. Try to distribute an equal number of cards on each side of the issue.
Have students take home the Cedarville story, their individual role card and the wetland
zoning regulations to prepare overnight for the debate in your next class session. To
add interest and fun, encourage students to bring a few items that could be sued as a
"costume" for their character which will be worn during the hearing.
Second day: Have the children who are assigned to be the zoning board, seated in the
front of the class. Each of the other students will be given a specific block of time in
which to testify before the zoning board, stating their case (their wishes about the
issue!). All students should receive the same amount of time to testify. You may want to
allow a few minutes for the zoning board to question each student at the end of their
Testimony starts with the property owners. They need to state their reasons for wanting
the re-zoning. Next have Maxi-Mart speak on the project. After hearing this testimony,
have each of the citizens testify before the board. Upon completing of all testimony, the
zoning board will recess for a short time and then give their decision to the class.
Discuss with your students how people can make a difference in solving problems.
Take your class on a field trip to a local zoning board meeting. Following the meeting,
lead a discussion about the issues brought before the board and have your students
offer suggestions about how the zoning board may have solved the issues differently.
What type of impact on the community would these different solutions bring about?
As a class project, start a fund raising campaign for adoption of a local wetland area, for
a class membership to Ducks Unlimited or for purchase of items that will help the class
Start the production of a school wetland newspaper that introduces facts and issues
about the local wetland. Assign students specific roles in the production - columnists,
photographers, reporters, etc. To involve other grades, run a poster contest (to be
added to the paper), ask for a grade to submit a comic strip about wetlands animals or
habitat, and/or have your students speak in a class about their experiences at the
Controversy: A discussion marked especially by the expression of opposing views
Regulations: Rules or orders having the force of law issued by an executive authority of
Zoning: To partition of a city, borough, or township by ordinance into sections reserved
for different purposes such as for residence, business, manufacturing, agriculture, etc.
Activity adapted from Project WULP, A Comprehensive, Multidisciplinary Wetlands Unit for Middle Schools
Note to Teachers:
1. Citizens who are in favor of draining and construction: Leesa Olsen, Marty Higgings,
Mary Bennet, David Dresser, State and Jane Pinick, Frank Pitts, Gladys Crow, Winefred
Jones, Sandy Vandykstra, John or Joanna Ford (this is 1 student either male or female),
Norman Thompson, Gary Nailenhammer, Helen Nimby.
2. Citizens who are against draining and construction: Bob Henderson, Joe Davidson,
Randy Slater, Shawn Greenberg, Elmer Willas, Jade Sparrow, Diane Kramer, Carol
Goldsmith, Wilma Twobulls, Ingrid Wilhelm, Rothchild Merriwhether III, Russ
Winkelmann, William or Karen Dobson (this is 1 student either male or female),
3. A suggestion may be to laminate the citizens' role cards, the zoning placard and the
King's Folly Marsh map for use in additional class sessions.
4. This activity can be part of a wetlands study unit or a nonpoint source pollution study
Upper Elementary and Middle School
Social Studies, Geography and
SD Standards for 4th grade:
Geography & Government
Observation, Interpreting, Debate,
Prior Preparation: As part of a
comprehensive wetlands study unit,
have students collect water samples
and insects, observe wildlife habitat
and discuss the large variety of plants
that all reside in a wetland. Students
should participate in a discussion
about the benefits of having the
wetlands they're exploring, in the area
(ex. good place to watch for birds,
good place to hike, etc.).
regulations, controversy, zoning