The Wildfire Module, How will wildfire risks and impacts change over the next 100 years?, consists of five activities to be implemented over approximately five 45-minute class periods. Students engage in investigations using the embedded Wildfire Explorer model, explore key factors that contribute to the spread and intensity of wildfires (topography, fuel, moisture, and wind), and make connections through real-world case studies. Students also learn about the hazards that wildfires bring and the impacts that wildfires can have on people living and working in areas prone to this natural hazard. Finally, students investigate the role that rising global temperatures may play on future wildfire events. By the end of the module, students will be able to explain the factors that make wildfires more extreme and consider future wildfire risks and impacts if the climate continues to change.
Activity 1: Feelin’ Hot, Hot, Hot!
In this introductory activity, students investigate the phenomena of wildfires in the western part of the United States. They explore real-world data on the frequency of wildfires and the number of acres burned over time. Students connect their ideas about the trends in the data to what might be causing the fluctuations. Students also begin to consider what makes wildfires hazardous and how they impact people and their communities.
Activity 2: Earth, Wind, and Wildfire
Students are introduced to the Fire Triangle, which contains the three elements necessary for a fire to occur: oxygen, fuel, and heat. Students use the Wildfire Explorer simulation and work with variables like drought level, wind speed and direction, and terrain to discover how these factors influence the speed and extent of wildfire spread.
Activity 3: Growth of a Wildfire
Students investigate how wildfires behave when fueled with different types and sizes of vegetation. They also explore how the moisture level of vegetation can affect the spread of wildfire. Finally, students consider how the public policy of fire suppression has resulted in unintended consequences and risk to people living and working in wildfire-prone areas.
Activity 4: Risky Business
Students explore the hazards and risks caused by wildfires. They use the Wildfire Explorer to consider what factors make wildfires more or less of a risk to people in different communities. Students also explore how wildfires are contained, and how people can mitigate the risks of wildfires to both their home and their larger community.
Activity 5: Wildfires in the Future
The future of wildfire risk is complex and is being actively researched by scientists. In this final activity, students investigate how climate change correlates to projected changes in wildfire frequency, intensity, risk, and impact. Students model wildfire occurrence in a future that includes more extensive human development in wildlands as well as extreme heat and drought. This activity also introduces concepts related to changes in ecosystems and forest succession due to wildfire.
By the end of this activity, students should be better able to answer the guiding question: How will wildfire risks and impacts change over the next 100 years?
Accessing the Module
- Go to learn.concord.org/geo-wildfire for the interactive Teacher Edition of the Wildfire Module and other teacher resources. You will need to have a teacher account to access the teacher materials. Registration is free.
- Set up a class on the Concord Consortium Learn portal (learn.concord.org/geo-wildfire). Assign the Wildfire Module.
- Have your students register for student accounts on the Learn portal. Students will join your class with the “class word” you selected.
- Use the embedded teaching tips and discussion tips in the Teacher Edition to help facilitate your students’ investigations in the Wildfire Module.
Teachers can use the real-time Class Dashboard to track students’ progress through the module and give students feedback on their responses. The module contains multiple choice, drawing, and free response items. Correct responses, rationales, and exemplar answers are available in the Teacher Edition of the module at learn.concord.org/geo-wildfire.
The Wildfire Module includes pre- and post-assessments. Use these to assess your students’ understanding of the scientific factors that drive wildfires as well as the risks, hazards and impacts that wildfires bring to people and their communities. The Class Dashboard can also be used to track student’s progress through the assessments.
The assessments contain multiple choice and free response items. Correct responses and exemplar answers are available in the Teacher Edition of the assessments at learn.concord.org/geo-wildfire.
Funded by the National Science Foundation
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DRL-1812362. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.