1. Build background and have students brainstorm.
Explain that around Earth, wild habitats and the wildlife they support are threatened because of human activity. Only 17 percent of Earth’s surface remains untouched by human influence. Ask students to brainstorm what types of human activity negatively affect wild habitats and wildlife. List their ideas on the board.

2. Have students look at photos and a handout.
Display for students the two photos—one of an Okapi; one of a western lowland gorilla. Invite volunteers to read the captions aloud. Explain to students that the habitats and futures of these animals are under threat. Divide the class into small groups and distribute the handout.

3. Have groups read and summarize.
Have groups read the handout and select one animal to focus on. Ask them to summarize the key issues on a separate piece of paper.

4. Have groups brainstorm action steps.
Have groups create a list of action steps that people could take to reduce or reverse the problem. Suggest additional action steps, as needed.

5. Have groups create a presentation and then present the information.
Have groups create a poster, storyboard, public service announcement, graphic novel, skit, or other product that communicates the key issues and suggested action steps. Encourage students to present their information to the rest of the class.

Informal Assessment

Rate students on a scale of one to five based on the following components:

  • read and understood the information in the student handout
  • worked collaboratively with a group
  • selected one animal and habitat on which to focus
  • summarized key issues that the animal and its habitat face
  • brainstormed with the group to create a list of actions people could take to reduce or reverse the problem
  • developed and completed a presentation

Extending the Learning

Go to the National Geographic Society website to find out where you can get the Human Footprint DVD.

Subjects & Disciplines

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • explain the cause-and-effect relationship between growing demands for natural resources and threatened habitats and wildlife
  • describe the threats to Western lowland gorillas or Okapi
  • create a list of action steps people can take to reduce or reverse the problem
  • present their work to the class

Teaching Approach

  • Learning-for-use

Teaching Methods

  • Brainstorming
  • Discussions
  • Reading

Skills Summary

This activity targets the following skills:

  • Critical Thinking Skills
    • Analyzing
    • Understanding

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

National Geography Standards

  • Standard 14:  How human actions modify the physical environment

What You’ll Need

Materials You Provide

  • Paper
  • Pencils

Physical Space

  • Classroom


  • Small-group instruction

Background Information

“Human footprint” is a phrase used to describe the environmental impact humans have had on the Earth’s surface.

Prior Knowledge

  • None

Recommended Prior Activities

  • None



environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.

natural resource

a material that humans take from the natural environment to survive, to satisfy their needs, or to trade with others.


organisms living in a natural environment.