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 statement.

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 preserve wetlands.

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 wetlands area.

Vocabulary Glossary:
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 a government
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), Samatha Reynolds.

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 unit.
Grade Level:
Upper Elementary and Middle School

Subject Areas:
Social Studies, Geography and Government

SD Standards for 4th grade:
Social Studies

Geography & Government


Observation, Interpreting, Debate, Analysis

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

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