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The Forest and the City

Forest Picture For a lesson in human population density and habitat loss, students can pretend to be animals in the forest or people in a growing city.

Here is how it works. The background for play is a piece of white or other solid-color oilcloth, about 6x10 feet. On one side of the cloth, using simple art work and permanent paint, draw a symbolic forest - - a large number of trees and some open spaces between them, with a small pond near the edge. On the other side, unseen at the start of the game, is a city with suburbs, again, drawn with simple art work. You may want to have farms on the outer edges, then smaller houses, then office buildings toward the center.

Person walking dog in woods graphic The game begins with about 10 students wandering in the forest and having a good time. The teacher, as narrator, tells a story about how many of the wild animals in the woods, and life in and around the pond, are having a hard time these days. Their homes are endangered by people who are looking for places to live themselves. Fold over about one foot of the oilcloth to show how, when farms and homes are built, animal habitat are destroyed. Add two students to the folded part, and instruct the forest animals to move closer together to stay on the cloth.

The students on the folded-farms really like living close to the woods and having land of their own. They invite their friends to come there to live also. More and more of the cloth is folded over as the city encroaches on the forest. More students are added to the developed area. The animals keep getting more crowded. When the pond is gone, all the waterfowl leave. Soon the animals have to move away altogether because there is no place left for them. All the remaining students can now move into the city where the forest should be.

Discussions will differ for different grade levels, but the concepts of habitat loss, population density, and quality of life should be included. More experienced students can discuss wetlands issues, urban environmental problems, and changes in natural populations by factors other than human impact. Have students identify areas in your community that used to be wildlife habitat. What areas for wildlife are still available? Will they be available ten years from now?

(Adapted from a Children's Environmental Festival in Hamilton, Ontario)

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