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Science and Civics: Sustaining Wildlife

Conceptual Framework

Project WILD Aquatic K-12 Curriculum and Activity Guide

Each activity in the Science and Civics guide is given a Conceptual Framework Topic Reference code. This code refers to the statements from the Conceptual Framework, which is part of Project WILD's comprehensive Learning Framework. The first two letters of the code reference one of Project WILD's 14 topic units.

For more information, or to take a closer look at Project WILD's Conceptual Framework, please click on the link below.

Conceptual Framework

Conceptual Background

Habitat Exploration

Concepts that are implicit in the Habitat Exploration strand of this book include biodiversity, watershed, and the community.

Biodiversity refers to a variety of species living together in balance in an ecosystem. A species is at risk when the available food and water supply is not enough to sustain its population, Remove one species from the system, and the balance may be threatened; remove several species, and the balance may be destroyed so that all species are at risk.

A primary factor that helps to maintain the balance in an ecosystem is the availability of food. In a food web, the population of a prolific species is kept under control by the species that uses it for food. As a result of a complex predator-to-prey interactions, wildlife populations fluctuate naturally over time. For example, in some years foxes raise many pups because there is a plentiful supply of rabbits. The rabbit population may decline in years of drought, when its food supply is diminished, or it may be decimated by an abundance of foxes or other predators. When rabbits become scarce, a decline in the fox population follows. When a predator, such as a wolf, is removed from an ecosystem, the population of its prey, such as deer, explodes. The more species there are in a system, the less it is likely that the system will be out of balance.

All of us live and transact our daily business in a watershed. A watershed is an area that drains rainfall and snow melt from the high-ridge line of hills and mountains down into a body of water. Whether your home is in a forest, a farm area, a suburb, or a city, it is located somewhere in a watershed. Whatever happens upstream in a watershed affects the communities and habitats downstream. For example, when a forest is harvested on the side of a mountain, one of the results is increased runoff of rain or snow-melt, which leads to soil erosion on the mountain side and possible flooding in communities down the mountain.

A community can be defined as a group of species living together in a mutually supportive way. Such a group may be found in a school or a neighborhood; it can be the population, both human and wild, of a town or a city; or it can be as extensive as a forest. A farm can be considered either a community unto itself or a necessary part of a larger community.


Participatory Democracy

The Participatory Democracy strand of this book focuses on laws relevant to environmental issues, such as the Endangered Species Act. Students become familiar with the structure and roles of the three branches of government: the legislative, the executive, and the judiciary. They also examine the effect of nongovernmental groups (such as media, political parties, and environmental organizations) in supporting or opposing the law.

When students address an environmental problem, they may feel overwhelmed by the number of diverse factions involved. Small groups of students working on different aspects of the same problem can alleviate that feeling while modeling how problems are addressed in a real-life situation.

For example, a town may be faced with a proposal to route a new section of highway through its residential areas, which may include a number of small businesses. The highway would make a possible faster delivery of materials to a nearby factory, a major employer in the region. It may also destroy neighborhoods, affect wildlife habitats in wetland areas and back yards, and change property values all over town. Different student groups could identify the stakeholders interested in each of those outcomes, investigate the stakeholders' reasons for their positions, and debate their positions in a class "town meeting." Then students can determine what action might help to resolve the issue. They can research local, state, and federal laws that may affect the highway proposal and can determine which laws are applicable to the issue. As they work with community stakeholders to advance their project, students will develop communication and negotiation skills.


How To Get Materials

Science and Civics: Sustaining Wildlife is distributed through participating State Project WILD program offices in partnership with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). Participating states offer educators, youth group leaders, and others the opportunity to receive the Science and Civics: Sustaining Wildlife Curriculum Guide for Grades 9-12 by attending a Science and Civics workshop. Please see our listing of State Project WILD Coordinator for workshop information.

If Science and Civics is not offered in your state, please contact the Project WILD National Office at or 713.520.1936 for additional help.


Standards Correlations


Photo credit: Galveston Bay Foundation

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