Dueling Mandates

National Park Service
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Instructor Guide/Manual , Lesson/Lesson Plan , Activity
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



Using dilemma cards describing some of the issues affecting Yellowstone National Park, students work in small groups to consider management issues that meet both of the conflicting mandates that the National Park Service must follow." There are 6 dilemmas that the class can be broken into groups to research. These dilemmas include wolf reintroduction, bison diseases, non-native trout, wildfires, resource sharing, and winter use of park lands. After researching each dilemma, students will make a pros/cons list, a final decision, and a brief presentation to the class. While the website recommends completing this lesson "after the expedition" to Yellowstone park, it can be done without visiting the park.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Middle School
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

MS-LS2-5 Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Clarification Statement: Examples of ecosystem services could include water purification, nutrient recycling, and prevention of soil erosion. Examples of design solution constraints could include scientific, economic, and social considerations.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
While two of the dilemma cards (“Winter Use” and “Bio Prospecting and Benefits-Sharing”) do involve the issue of maintaining biodiversity, all of the remaining cards provide an opportunity to do so. When students present their findings to the class, they should be sure to include all of the design solutions they evaluated. Also, even though the term biodiversity isn't explicitly mentioned in any of the dilemmas, it should be addressed in the wildfire, trout, wolf, and bison dilemmas. Students should be completing a pro/con chart and in this chart for each design solution. You may want to create "guided" pro/con charts that include the possible solutions to the dilemma cards. These could be designed around the solutions on the dilemma cards.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Teacher needs to review how to evaluate sources for credibility, accuracy, and bias. At the middle school level it would be beneficial to provide students with a starting point for research so that they are looking at on-grade-level reading materials. The teacher could set up an online list of links for students or a customized google search bar for students. If internet access is not available and printed resources are used, then the students are reading and synthesizing information, but the teacher is assessing the credibility and bias, not the students.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students must look at all solutions to the dilemma in order to fully meet the practice. When students work on their research, encourage them to research both sides of every issue. For example, in the bison example, students should look at the cattle ranchers economic loss in addition to the loss of biodiversity in Yellowstone. They should include a list of resources in their data collection so the teacher can ensure they are reliable sources. In order to find competing solutions, it may be helpful for students to use "Google News" searching and YouTube searches. If you do not have computer access for groups, you may want to provide them with competing news articles, press releases, and information from the National Park Service. Students should include the information researched on their pro/con charts.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource was not designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Teach the definition of the term biodiversity. Give examples of particularly biodiversity environments. Show images of rainforests and temperate forests; coral reefs and deep oceans. Have students count the number of species seen. Students should focus on the biodiversity measuring the ecosystem's health in the wildfire, trout, bison and wolf dilemmas. There should be a biodiversity section on the pro/con charts so that students remember to research it. When researching the aforementioned cards, students should look at how management techniques will effect the biodiversity in Yellowstone Park.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
This DCI is mainly addressed during the wolf, bison, trout, and bacteria examples. Students should be explicitly taught the term biodiversity prior to starting their dilemma research. Human resources such as food, medicine, and tourism should have a section on the pro/con chart so that students remember to include them in their analyzing of solutions.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
While researching changes to make suggestions for the future, be sure to address the cause and effect aspects of Stability and Change. As students research their dilemmas, encourage them to study how the rest of the ecosystem may change in response to their solution. They should include ecosystem changes in their pro/con chart. They should address how an organism is part of an ecosystem and how a change in population of one organism would cause a change in a population of another organism.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This lesson requires students to research multiple solutions to a problem, create a list of pros/cons, and determine the best possible solution to preserve biodiversity and human interactions with the environment. It utilizes "grade-appropriate elements of the science and engineering practice(s), disciplinary core idea(s), and crosscutting concept(s), [which] work together to support students in three-dimensional learning to make sense of phenomena and/or to design solutions to problems." Overall, students work through the PE, DCI, and CCC "to make sense of phenomena and/or to design solutions to problems."

  • Instructional Supports: This lesson is excellent at requiring students to engage in real-world problem solving, but it needs more teacher supports in teaching the overarching scientific concepts. Also, differentiation is not inherently given, but can be provided for if teachers give guided pro/con charts and guided research. This lesson "engages students in authentic and meaningful scenarios that reflect the practice of science and engineering as experienced in the real world and that provide students with a purpose (e.g., making sense of phenomena and/or designing solutions to problems)." It "provides students with relevant phenomena (either firsthand experiences or through representations) to make sense of and/or relevant problems to solve." By utilizing research, discourse, and debate, the lesson "engages students in multiple practices that work together with disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts to support students in making sense of phenomena and/or designing solutions to problems." Using a pro/con chart "provides opportunities for students to express, clarify, justify, interpret, and represent their ideas and respond to peer and teacher feedback orally and/or in written form." Utilizing additional research allows fro "extensions for students with high interest or who have already met the performance expectations to develop deeper understanding of the practices, disciplinary core ideas, and crosscutting concepts"

  • Monitoring Student Progress: This lesson requires students to " make sense of phenomena and/or to design solutions." However, it does not "include aligned rubrics and scoring guidelines that provide guidance for interpreting student performance along the three dimensions to support teachers in (a) planning instruction and (b) providing ongoing feedback to students." The teacher will be responsible to ensuring that research throughout the lesson is "accessible and unbiased for all students."

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: - none -