Classroom Ideas

Click here for a printable version.

Kindergarten Through Fourth Grade

    1. Caribou Migration

    Read to the class some of the information about the Porcupine caribou herd at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge site ( Then have students look at photographs of the caribou in the Caribou Photo Gallery at

    Explain that caribou migrate over long distances each year to give birth to their calves. Point out the Yukon Territory and Alaska on a globe or map. Ask students what they think a large animal such as a caribou would need when migrating over such a long distance (e.g., food, clean water, and open space). Have the class look at pictures showing typical landscapes in the northern Yukon and Alaska at What’s It Like Where You Live?: Tundra Topics (

    Ask students to describe the terrain through which the caribou must travel. What is the landscape like? What is the weather like? Have them draw pictures of caribou in the landscape and write captions explaining some of the things that the caribou will see and need on their migration.

    2. The Gwich’in and the Caribou

    Ask students whether they think people could make use of the caribou. Read to them some of the information about the Gwich’in tribe’s relationship with the caribou, as seen at Old Crow - Caribou at Then divide the class into groups and ask students to make posters that illustrate these uses.

    Their posters should include pictures and captions that describe major ways in which the Gwich’in use the caribou. Have students share their posters with the class. Then explain that the Gwich’in are worried about companies that want to drill for oil in the caribou’s habitat. Discuss why the Gwich’in would be worried about this.

| Top |

Grades Five Through Eight

    1. Caribou Ranges and Petroleum Locations

    After listening to the Radio Expeditions “Caribou Crossing” program, have students look at the map of the caribou migration range at the Porcupine Caribou Management Board Web site ( Ask them to compare this map to the petroleum assessment map of the United States’ Arctic National Wildlife Refuge at Does the caribou range overlap with areas of petroleum reserves?

    Have students draw their own maps of the area. Then ask them to draw the caribou range and the oil reserves on their maps, highlighting any overlapping areas in red. Ask students to list ways in which the caribou’s proximity to oil reserves could affect the caribou herd. At Arctic Perspectives, they can read more about the porcupine herd (

    2. Global Warming and the Gwich’in

    Provide students with a brief overview of global warming and its potential causes and consequences. (You may wish to refer to the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s global warming site at

    Have students visit Old Crow: Land of the Vuntut Gwitch’in ( to read about the lifestyles and traditions of the Gwich’in people. Then have them visit the Explore North site for links to check out the potential consequences of global warming for northern Alaska and the Yukon Territory.

    Ask students to put themselves into the shoes of the Gwich’in and write letters to their local newspaper expressing at least three ways their people will be affected by global warming. Their letters should also discuss the causes of global warming, including the role of petroleum in emitting greenhouse gasses. Where does petroleum come from? What are oil companies trying to do in the Gwich’in people’s native land? Students should incorporate information from the Radio Expeditions “Caribou Crossing” program into their letters.

| Top |

Grades Nine Through Twelve

    1. Community-based Ecological Monitoring

    After students have had a chance to explore the Radio Expeditions “Caribou Crossing” site, have them continue their research of the relationship between the Gwich’in people and the oil industry at these sites:

    Ask students how the Gwich’in might succeed in getting what they want. Then have them visit the Community-based Ecological Monitoring site at Here they can learn about one way in which the Gwich’in have been trying to keep track of changes in their regional environment.

    Ask students to answer the following questions: What is the community-based ecological monitoring program, and what are its goals? Why do participants feel that this program is important? What political advantages might the Gwich’in gain by keeping careful records of observations of their environment? What specific observations did the Gwich’in make in 1996 and 1997 (name at least five)? Cite two observations made about the Porcupine caribou herd in 1996-1997. Do you think the Community-based Ecological Monitoring Board program can be effective in achieving its goals? Why or why not?

    Have students complete the activity by discussing whether they think a community monitoring program could be effective in their area. If time permits, groups of students can create plans for a local community monitoring program, including a statement of the items to be monitored and the reasons for and methods of monitoring. Do students think that many people would participate in such a program? Why or why not? Why might the Gwich’in have a higher percentage of its population participating than your students might find in their community?

    2. The Oil Business in the United States: Canada’s Perspective

    After playing the Radio Expeditions “Caribou Crossing” program for the class, ask students to discuss the difficulties that could arise from the fact that the caribou migration range and oil reserves cross international boundaries. Do they think that the United States and Canada agree on how to manage these resources?

    Have students go to Yukon News at and link to Past Issues to search for articles on the Gwich’in. Ask them to read three or four of the articles they find and write down the Yukon reaction to how the United States is managing its natural resources in northern Alaska. Also ask them to read Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Canada’s Perspective at to get the Canadian government’s perspective on this issue. What does Canada think about the situation? What would the Canadian government like the United States to do? Do students think the United States will follow Canada’s recommendations? Why or why not?

| Top |