Return to the Wild - Evolving perspectives on Canadian wildlife

Lesson plan: It’s Not as Easy as Black or White


Grade Level:

Grade 10

Time Required:

Two 60 minute periods


In this lesson students will explore the effects of the polar bear tourism industry and the resultant change in habitat by engaging in a multi-sided debate.

Main Objective

  • To have the students assess the positives and negatives in regards to the polar bear tourism industry.
  • To have the students research the issues via the Internet and produce a Power Point presentation highlighting their research in support of or against the exploitation of the polar bear
  • To make the students aware of the varying positions with regard to the polar bear tourism industry
  • To have the students engage in a debate based on fact-based research in order to strengthen that position.

Curriculum Connection

Manitoba – Social Studies (Grade 10) Geographic Issues of the 21st Century

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Access and navigate web sites needed to research the topic
  • Identify the positives and negatives associated with polar bear tourism
  • Listen to and consider differing views 
  • Choose a position (for or against) and debate the pros and cons of it to their peers




Show the video of the mother polar bear and cubs emerging from their den.  (Note: the video serves as an activator for the lesson and the lesson may be conducted without access to it.)

Discuss with the class what they know about the polar bear and have someone write the findings on the white board.

Ask the class if anyone has ever gone to Churchill and been on a polar bear viewing trip.

Hand out (or read aloud) the CG Kids: Animal Factsheet/polar bear. Draw students attention to this excerpt: ‘A polar bear's territory depends upon the break-up and freezing patterns of the sea ice and the bear's ability to travel the ice floes in search of food. If it has access to ice and seals, the polar bear won't travel far and its territory can be very small.’

Lesson Development

Inform the students that they will be participating in a debate about the pros and cons concerning an increase in polar bear based tourism to Churchill.

Ask students to group themselves into four equal (if possible) sized groups.  Have one student from each group pick a [hypothetical] position from a hat:

  • “Save the Polar Bear Association”
  •  local Inuit hunting group
  • Churchill Chamber of Commerce
  • Churchill mayor and town council.

Hand out copies of the Student Activity Worksheet

Instruct the students to conduct research on the effects that tourism has on the habitat of the polar bear in the Arctic ecozone and in area of Churchill, MB.

Once they have collected their research, have them complete the Student Activity Worksheet.

Guide and assist students when necessary.


After all presentations, students engage in a debate.

Guide and assist the class debate.



Students respond to question of what they know about the polar bear.

If someone has gone to Churchill, share what happened on the trip.

Lesson Development

Students group themselves into four groups.

Students choose their position.

Students conduct research.

Students complete Student Activity Worksheet.

Students organize their material into a PowerPoint presentation.

Students prepare PowerPoint presentation.

Students show presentations.


Students engage in class debate; they may refer to reshow their PowerPoint presentations in defence of their positions.

Lesson Extension

  • Arrange a field trip to Churchill to see the polar bears in their environment.
  • Invite a guest speaker (environmentalist/government representative/Aboriginal elder) to make a presentation on polar bears.

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