Introduction

In recent years, we have begun to recognize the importance of conserving and preserving our environment for future generations. Conservation is the care and protection of the earth so it can persist for future generations through using natural resources responsibly. Though the word “conservation” is used interchangeably with “preservation” by many, preservation attempts to keep the earth safe through protecting the environment from harmful human activities. By teaching about environmental conservation and preservation, educators will give students the opportunity to learn about the two different approaches to keeping our planet safe and the importance of protecting our earth which will ideally help them become more engaged outside the classroom regarding confronting environmental issues!

Resources

There are many resources available online for teaching about environmental conservation and preservation. Educators who also want their students to learn about more topics which all have some connection to environmental conservation and preservation or the lack thereof in the past

should check out United 4 Social Change’s topic resources on Teaching about Climate Change, Teaching about Affordable and Clean Energy, and Teaching about Sustainability and Sustainable Development.

Lesson Plans

  1. Conservation vs Preservation and the National Park Service: The National Park Service provides a lesson plan on the conservation versus preservation and how the National Park Service plays a role in each. During this lesson, students will participate individually, in pairs, and as a whole class to brainstorm about the similarities and differences between conservation and preservation, learn about the mission and history of the National Park Service, and ultimately decide which philosophy best adheres with their own.
  2. Environmental Education Lesson Plans: The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) offers lesson plans and corresponding activity sheets for educators teaching students in grades PreK-3, 3-6, and 6-12. The collections of  resources cover various topics under the umbrella of environmental education. For students in grades 3-6 and 6-12, there are three lesson plans on recycling and conservation. These lessons include an aluminum can challenge, a recycle every day word search, and a lesson that focuses on where garbage goes and why the reduction of the waste stream is beneficial.
  3. Teaching Guide – Exploring Environmental Preservation in the Progressive Era: PBS LearningMedia provides a teaching guide on exploring environmental preservation in the Progressive Era. This teaching guide offers educators a specific primary source set and corresponding discussion questions, classroom activities, and primary source analysis tools. For educators who are interested in teaching their class about how events, such as American industrialization and the expansion of railroads, during the Progressive Era led to increased pollution and environmental destruction and spurred environmental moments calling for either conservation or preservation, this resource will be extremely helpful!
  4. Environment and Conservation Lesson Plans & Activities: Share My Lesson has put together a collection of environment and conservation lessons and activities for students at the high school level. Some examples of topics covered in these resources include the 6Rs of sustainability, natural hazards, the Haiti earthquake, and energy use. To access any of these lessons, educators will only have to make a free account for the website. 

Articles

  1. 3 Reasons Why Conservation Is So Important: Pure Leisure Group offers three reasons as to why conservation is so important, which include protecting wildlife, the earth, and human health. This brief article may serve as a good introduction to the topic of environmental conservation and its importance for educators who are planning a more detailed in-class lesson and would prefer if their students had an idea of why conservation work is so important before walking into class!
  2. Why We Should Teach the Next Generation About Conservation: The Natural Habitat Adventures and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has published an article on why we should teach the next generation about conservation. The article explains why it is important for modern kids to learn about conserving wild places and protecting wild animals, which include the fact that it is their planet too, they are disconnected from nature, and they can make a difference. There is a video linked in the article showing a child encountering polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba to help adult readers remember when they were young and what it was like to feel childlike wonder about the natural world around them.
  3. Empowering Students to Protect the Environment – Teacher Tips: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) provides a brief article on teacher tips to empower students to protect the environment. The article discusses how teaching about climate change and environmental protection can be difficult and quotes a few educators across the country as they describe how they tackle the tough and complicated subjects in their classrooms. 
  • Fearless Kids Around the World | Pablo Cavanzo: HMH offers a webisode series known as Carmen Sandiego’s Fearless Kids. With their episode on protecting the environment, students will follow Carmen Sandiego on a trip to Colombia and meet teenager Pablo Cavanzo who decided to take action against the deforestation of the Amazon. 
  • Caring for the Environment: HMH also offers a free lesson for grades 4-8 named “Caring for the Environment.” In this lesson, students will find a social issue or problem they are passionate about, which in this case will be related to environmental conservation and preservation, and propose a way to address it.

Informational Sites

  1. Conservation and Preservation: National Geographic provides encyclopedic entries on both conservation and preservation in their resource library. Reading through these two brief informational articles will give students an understanding of the similarities and differences between conservation and preservation. 
  2. What’s the Difference Between “Conservation” and “Preservation”?: Piedmont Environmental Alliance (PEA) has published a blog post on the difference between conservation and preservation. The post provides a definition for both conservation and preservation and explains what its supporters generally believe.
  3. Conservation – History and Future: EnvironmentalScience.org offers an article explaining the history and future of conservation. The article discusses the definition of conservation, the connection between conservation, ethics, and philosophy, conservation as restoration, the history of conservation, subdivisions of conservation, conservation success stories so far, and conservation areas of concern.
  4. How Can We All Help Conserve Nature?: Frontiers Media offers an article that explains how we can all help conserve. This article discusses how protecting nature is ensuring our future and what actions we can take to help conserve nature. These actions are grouped into three main categories, which include actions to reduce our ecological footprint, actions to conserve nature, and actions that help us connect with nature.

Conclusion

Teaching students about environmental conservation and preservation is a very important task and is becoming increasingly relevant in today’s day and age. While conservation and preservation differ in the ways that they approach keeping the environment safe, they both have the common goal of protecting the earth for future generations, so hopefully learning about both of these methods will make students think twice before they buy another one-use plastic bottle or crumple up and throw out pieces of paper. In the best case scenario, students may even go on to advocate for more environmentally-friendly policies in their schools and beyond!

Additional Resources

  1. 10 Ways to Conserve the Environment: Its Nature has put together ten ways to conserve the environment, which include recycling, reducing water consumption, reducing the use of electricity, planting a tree, growing vegetables and more.
  2. Conserve Energy Future – Energy Conservation: Conserve Energy Future provides an article that discusses environmental conservation in detail. This article specifically explains what environmental conservation is, the importance of environmental conservation, methods of environmental conservation, and how environmental conservation can be promoted.