Biodiversity Debate

    Biodiversity Debate

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    To evaluate the biological, aesthetic, ethical, social, and economic arguments with regard to maintaining biodiversity.


    In this lesson, students will hold a debate about the construction of a dam in terms of the biological, aesthetic, ethical, social, and economic arguments with regard to maintaining biodiversity. Students will be assigned different roles to argue either for or against the construction of the dam.

    See discussion questions for background information and leading questions to help guide discussion.

    The lesson is designed in four parts:

    1. A classroom activity that helps students understand water management;
    2. a classroom debate where the students will take on a role in the community and discuss the construction of a dam on a nearby waterbody;    
    3. follow up STEM activities, discussion, data analysis and presentation of results;
    4. and watershed connections.

    Materials Needed:

    • What's in the Water
    • Riparian Review
    • Who Lives in the Water
    • Missing Macroinvertebrates
    • That's Predictable

    Classroom Activity:class activity

    1. Ask the students to define the term biodiversity, (biological diversity in an environment is indicated by numbers of different species of plants and animals). Ask the students to give a biological, aesthetic, ethical, social, and economic reason to maintain biodiversity.

    2. Discuss with the students how biodiversity may change due to a change in the ecosystem. Ask the students if a change in biodiversity is always negative. Specifically, discuss with the students the different impacts of a dam on the biodiversity of the river system and surrounding plant community. 

    3. Divide the students into eight groups. Tell the groups they will be assigned different roles as community members in a community that is proposing the construction of a dam on the river in their area. 
    4. Tell the students that they will be holding a debate on whether the dam should be constructed or not. The students will need to discuss their role in the community and, based on their assigned role, debate on whether or not they support the construction.  Remind the students to keep in mind the idea of maintaining biodiversity when preparing their debate (e.g., is biodiversity something they value or not?).

    Classroom Debate:

    debate1. To help this activity run smoothly, assign one student the role of facilitator. They would be in charge of coming up with a list of questions to keep the dialog moving. Alternatively, the teacher may play this role.

    2. You may want the students to come up with their positions in a short amount of time, or have them research their positions further as an assignment and hold the debate another day.

    Follow-up STEM Activity:


    • Have the students research actual case studies (or follow a local situation in the news) where two parties have had conflicting views about a natural resource/biodiversity issue.

    • Have the students interview people in their community about their thoughts on dams in relation to biodiversity.


    • After the debate, have the students write a brief summary of the arguments presented.


    • Have the town vote on whether the dam should be constructed.

    • Have the town consider alternatives or strategies for reducing negative impacts of a dam.  

    Watershed connections  

    Watersheds are natural outdoor laboratories. Use the map below to find the watershed you teach in. Use the watershed connections in the Stream Side Science lessons to learn how you can use specific stream locations, local data sources, local contact and other information in your area to make the Stream Side Science experience more relevant to your students.   

    What watershed do you live in?

    If you live in Utah, the map below shows all of the watersheds that either drain into or out of Utah.
    OR go to Surf Your Watershed to locate your watershed anywhere in the U.S.


    Curriculum and Teacher Materials 

    Core Alignments by Grade:


    Materials and Worksheets: