is the focus of this module?
"Yellowstone Fires" module is an inquiry-based science
project that uses the interactive technologies of the internet and
the Earth system science (ESS) approach to explore the dilemma of
wildland fires in national parks. This module supports the National
Science Education Standards.
focuses on the Yellowstone fires of 1988 that led to an intense
public debate regarding the National Park Service's fuel management
policy. This policy stated that fires started by natural causes
should be allowed to burn to their natural conclusion. More specifically,
your students, acting as a team of environmental biologists, will
assist a group of concerned government agencies in resolving this
policy debate. The government officials would like to know whether
or not to allow naturally-caused fires in national parks to burn
to their natural conclusion. The government agencies are particularly
interested in your students' recommendations based on their Earth
system science analysis of a fire's impact on the air, land, water,
and living things.
are the students' procedures for conducting this module?
By following the steps outlined in the Protocol below, the students
should generate the information necessary to make predictions about
the effects of naturally-caused willdland fires on national parks.
More specifically, students will predict whether or not government
officials should allow such a fire to burn the next time one occurs
in Yellowstone National Park.
First, the students will perform an Earth system science analysis.
Then they will make predictions based on the results of their
ESS analysis concerning the Yellowstone fires to predict the results
under the existing policy and to support any recommendations they
would make to revise the policy
the steps below will help them accomplish their tasks.
1 Examine prior knowledge.
2 List what you don't know.
3 Gather information needed to complete the ESS analysis.
4 Present your findings.
Sample of ESS Protocol has been created for this module. The
sample includes an ESS analysis of wildland fires, such as those
in Yellowstone National Park, and their effects on Earth's various
spheres. It also includes predictions, based on the results of the
ESS analysis, concerning the policy debate about whether to let
naturally-caused fires in national parks burn to their natural conclusion.
This comprehensive sample contains a broad spectrum of potential
impacts of the event on Earth's spheres and the subsequent feedback
and potential interactions that might result. Most students will
not present this much information. In addition, although it is comprehensive,
it is not necessarily complete. The students may provide an ESS
analysis with explanations of their predictions regarding the policy
on naturally-caused fires in national parks that are not listed
in the sample.
are the teacher's procedures for conducting this module?
The "Yellowstone Fires" Module is based upon Earth system
science (ESS) thinking and Problem Based-Learning (PBL) pedagogy.
The students are asked to examine the potential impacts of forest
fires like the 1988 Yellowstone Fires on Earth's various spheres
and the subsequent feedback and potential interactions that might
result. Rather than formulating right or wrong answers, the students
should be able to provide an ESS analysis that explains their predictions
of the effects of willand fires under the existing policy and supports
any recommendations they would make to revise the policy.
science content and issues will students encounter as they work
through the module?
The students will research how natural events and human
activities affect wildland fires and how such fires affect Earth's
spheres in a national park. The main content issues students raise
fire causes and effects.
- Impact of
forest fires on the air, land, water, and living things.
- Human actions
and natural changes affect the ecological balance within an ecosystem.
and negative impacts associated with passing laws, regulations
also encounter a variety of related science content issues you may
wish to reinforce depending upon the content you are teaching:
- Fire Science
- Fuel &
of an ecosystem after a disaster
National Park ecosystem
- the importance
of the National Park system
is remote sensing used in this module?
Students are introduced to the concept of
remote sensing and its application in the field of Earth system science. Students
will be able to examine an animation of satellite images of Yellowstone National
Park taken between 1987 and 1998. The satellite images display the changes in
landscape of the park that take place over that eleven-year period. Such
images provide information on the size of the portion of the park affected
by the wildland fires of 1988. The images also provide information on the
recovery of the park's vegetation.
The first satellite image displays the
landscape of the park about one year before the wildand fires of 1988. Students
can see the lush vegetation that covers the area. Smoke can be seen in the
second satellite image, which was taken shortly after the fires had begun. The third
satellite image was taken in October 1988 after the fires had just ended. The
ash- and soot-darkened brown areas are the areas that were burned. They cover
much of the image. The fourth satellite image was taken two years after the
Yellowstone fires of 1988. There is little to no vegetation in the burned
areas. They still appear brown from ash. In contrast, the adjacent forested
areas are dark green. The last satellite image was taken 10 years after
wildland fires raged through Yellowstone Park in 1988. Some dry scrub
vegetation can be seen growing in the burned areas.