RAP Camp 2014 students give a presentation at Camp Esther Applegate, Oregon

Classroom Investigations

Secondary School Teaching Guides

These materials address topics related to the programs and mission of the BLM, and are targeted to learners in secondary schools. Each item in the series presents lessons and activities for teachers to incorporate into classroom instruction. Find these and more educational materials in the BLM Public Room.

BLM Public Room

Minerals: Essential Ingredients in Your Life

Minerals - Essential Elements in Your LifeThis teaching guide supports the BLM’s effort to educate the public about the importance of minerals from public lands. Students identify minerals used to make everyday products, from personal care items and cell phones, to kitchen tools and hybrid cars. They also explore the mineral cobalt and determine whether it is necessary for the United States to mine it domestically. By weighing the considerations of mining cobalt, students learn how land managers apply the principles of multiple-use and sustained yield.




Wild and Scenic Rivers

Wild and Scenic Rivers Classroom Investigation Cover imageThe activities in the teaching guide help students find wild and scenic rivers, explore the history of the passage of the 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and develop their own river-inspired poetry. Students use a web-based story map to examine the river values that form the basis for the act, and they navigate an interactive map to find the wild or scenic river nearest to their school. Activities also include reviewing the writings of advocates of the act.




America’s Scenic and Historic Trails

WSR teaching guide thumbnailThis guide gives middle school teachers activities to explore conflict and collaboration between emigrants and American Indians. Because what are now scenic and historic trails brought many of the emigrants to the west, students begin the unit by identifying where scenic and historic trails are located today. They then parse some of the language in the 1968 law that establishes scenic and historic trails. The teaching guide concludes by presenting excerpts of pioneer diaries with evidence of both cooperation and conflict between the two cultures.



Citizen Voice in Land Use Decisions

Citizens Voice in Land Use Decisions Investigaitons

Students investigate the history of the BLM’s precursor agency, and they learn how citizens can help influence land use decisions today. Designed for middle school students, this guide can be adapted for high school and upper elementary levels. The activities encourage students to examine the principles of “multiple use and sustained yield,” research segments of the BLM’s historical timeline, and identify ways citizens can participate in the land use planning process. Students engage diverse cognitive skills such as interpreting graphics and assessing various civic action strategies.



Solar Generated Electricity

Solar Energy InvestigationDoes the need for carbon-free renewable energy outweigh the potential risks to wildlife habitats, cultural and historical resources, and recreation areas? Middle school teachers can explore this question with their students with this guide. The three-activity unit describes how solar facilities on public lands work, examines the tradeoffs in detail, and illuminates the factors that affect decisions about where to build solar electricity plants.




Habitats and Wildlife

Habitats and Wildlife Investigations

This middle school guide helps students understand the importance of habitat conservation, how changes to habitats health affect wildlife, and how the BLM monitors and promotes healthy habitats. The four-activity unit concludes with students designing an experiment based on their research of Western wildlife and habitats in the preceding activities. The unit is designed for middle school students, but it can also be adapted for the high school and upper elementary levels. The activities offer students speaking, research, and teaching roles as they progress through the unit.



Native Plants

Native Plants Classroom InvestigationThis teaching guide provides three classroom activities for middle school teachers about the importance of native plants, how these plants are threatened, and how concern for native plants factors into land use decisions. The hands-on exercises explain how native plants affect ecosystem balance, support pollinators, and diversify the food supply. Students also investigate threats to native plants on public lands such as invasive species and wildfire.





Wilderness Classroom Investigation

The activities in this guide prompt students to discuss what wilderness means to them, how it is defined in the law, and how Howard Zahniser defined it his seminal 1956 article “The Need for Wilderness Areas.” A close analysis of Zahniser’s article is the heart of the activity. Students read key excerpts and draw comparisons among his thoughts about wilderness, how it is described in the law, and their own conceptions of wilderness. Students also describe why some lands are designated as wilderness areas and discuss the kinds of human activities that are prohibited there.



Cadastral Surveying

Thumbnail of brochure featuring surveyors on the side of mountain.


Through this teaching guide, students will learn how the development of the Public Land Survey System was vital to the establishment of land ownership and government revenue in the early days of the United States. The lessons will introduce students to public domain, the Public Land Survey System, and surveying methods and tools. Students will use surveying techniques to map their classrooms and to practice being a surveyor for a day. They will also complete calculations using measurements from the survey system.



Classroom Activities

Hosting a school group or visiting a classroom? Check out these individual turn-key activities, adapted from Classroom Investigation teaching units.

"Horse Rich, Dirt Poor" Video Discussion Guide

Video Guide coverThis discussion guide helps teachers and non-formal educators use the 15-minute video "Horse Rich, Dirt Poor" to explain how the BLM is managing more than 80,000 wild horses and burros on range lands with a capacity of 27,000 of these animals.

Weeds: Costs, Causes, and Prevention

Invasive Weed activityThrough this activity, middle school students discover the extent of the invasive weed problem on public lands in the United States, and they identify actions people can take to arrest the spread of weeds. After they explore and discuss how weeds harm the landscape, students focus on the ways weeds spread and how to check the weed invasion.

Service-Learning for Outdoor Recreation and Stewardship

Service-Learning Activity cover

The activity engages middle school students in a service-learning project that focuses on outdoor ethics to promote responsible recreation on public lands. Middle school students first develop a thorough understanding of the seven Leave No Trace principles. They then host or travel to fourth grade classes to explain how to enjoy recreating on public lands while exercising stewardship. In addition, the middle school students explain how the fourth graders can claim Every Kid in a Park passes, which are available only to fourth graders.

Should the BLM Approve One or More Solar Facilities?

Solar Siting ActivityThis activity encourages students to grapple with the decisions that public land managers face as they balance the benefits of renewable energy with preserving cultural resources, wildlife habitat, and scenic quality.

Where Should the Trail Go?

Trail siting activityThis activity encourages students to grapple with the tradeoffs that public land managers face as they balance native plant preservation with land uses such as recreation and tourism. The choice for students in the activity is whether to approve none, one, or two hiking trails on a parcel of public land.

Solar Electricity Tradeoffs

Single use activity 3This activity introduces students to the benefits and tradeoffs associated with developing facilities for solar electricity generation. Students examine how solar facilities may affect bird populations and wildlife habitat and require new transmission lines.