Teacher's Guide for ODYSSEY TM Wildfire: Science to the Rescue
"Wildfire!," pg. 6
A wildfire begins with a heat source, a fuel, and oxygen. To continue and grow, it needs more fuel, favorable weather, and certain land features, such as hills, ridges, and valleys. Extreme fires are too hot and unpredictable to fight up close, so firefighters use topography and weather conditions to influence the fire's behavior.
Vocabulary, Cause and Effect
"Testing the Fire Triangle" (Activity to Discover), pg. 10
Two activities demonstrate the behavior of fire. Use a burning match and a candle with adult supervision.
Observation, Inductive Reasoning
"Marshmallows, Anyone? How to Build a Safe Campfire," pg. 12
Building a safe and successful campfire requires knowledge and planning. Prepare for your fire and be ready to put it out completely.
Following Directions, Cause and Effect
"The Perfect Firestorm," pg. 13
Many factors combined to make the California wildfires of 2003 the most damaging on record. Now communities are using firewise methods to build and landscape new homes.
Cause and Effect, Applications
"Smokejumpers to the Rescue!," pg. 18
This first-person account details the trials and triumphs of firefighting heroes. A time line lists key moments in smokejumper history, and a sidebar (pg. 22) describes a smokejumper's grueling training.
Vocabulary, Critical Thinking
"Madison & the Mystery Fire" (Brain Strain), pg. 23
A bit of logic will tell you how Madison can win the bet and enjoy her pizza.
"Prescription for a Burn," pg. 24
If fires can have positive ecological effects, should firefighters allow fires to burn naturally - or even start them? Sidebars explore some forest fire history (pg. 27) and tell about one prescribed fire went wrong.
Inductive Reasoning, Critical Thinking
"Coyote's Fire," pg. 29
From the Native American myth of the coyote's gift of fire to the use of torches to drive buffalo over cliffs, early peoples had many practical uses for fire.
Cultural History, Vocabulary
"Up in Smoke," pg. 30
Firefighters learn to manage smoke as well as flames in controlled fires, but some conditions - especially the weather - make smoke predictions difficult. An activity (pg. 31) shows how to create a temperature inversion.
Cause and Effect, Critical Thinking
"The Firefighter's Toolbox," pg. 32
From laptop computers to fire shelters, today's firefighters use tools that control fires and save lives.
Applications, Cause and Effect
"Eyeing Fire from the Sky," pg. 34
A new generation of aircraft - unmanned and designed to monitor fires - can relay images from above a fire, eliminating smoke to reveal the heat source. Added technology relays computer-enhanced fire images directly to ground links to give firefighters up-to-the-minute information.
Inductive Reasoning, Applications
"'Big Ed' Pulaski: Wildland Firefighting Legend," pg. 36
Ed Pulaski earned his reputation as a firefighting hero in the "Big Blowup of 1910." This fictionalized account of his heroic efforts is based on historical records that ODYSSEY readers can access online.
Critical Thinking, History
"Bears & Beemers," pg. 39
Maxie could have had an easy, comfortable job, but she decided to become a smokejumper.
Internal Conflict, Theme
"Don't Miss the Fall Sky!" and "Asteroid Watch!" (What's Up?), pg. 42
September is the month of the full harvest moon and the time to see Venus and Jupiter paired in the evening sky. Mars is also visible in the evening, while Mercury and Saturn appear in the early morning. Use a good telescope to find and track asteroids.
Observation, Following Directions
Think Tank: (Discussion Starters to Use Before Reading the Magazine):
How is the job of a city firefighter different from that of a firefighter working in a forest?
What news stories about wildfires do you remember? Were the stories centered on people or on the environment, and in what ways? Were they all stories about disasters, or did anything good ever come from a fire in the wild?
Classroom "Syzygy": (Talk, Connect, Assess)
Pg. 6 - "Wildfire!"
Talk It Over:
What roles do firefighters play in controlling wildfires? In extreme cases, how do these roles change? What limits must the firefighter deal with, and what must be left to natural forces?
Considering the two fire triangles, what kinds of precautions could minimize the destruction of a wildfire? Which of those precautions are practical?
History/Research: Refer to the chart of "Extreme Fires" on pg. 8. Select one to research through newspaper databases or on the Web. Find out the local conditions at the time of the fire. What was the weather like when the fire started? When it ended? Organize your findings into a written report using the components of the Fire Behavior Triangle as main headings.
Language Arts/Creative Writing: Write a poem or story that describes the sights, sounds, and smells of a firestorm.
Write an essay relating conditions in Montana in the summer of 2000 to the Fire Behavior Triangle. Include all three parts of the triangle and relevant details from the Bitterroot fire.
Design a poster that uses both of the fire triangles to explain ways to prevent and control wildfires.
Pg. 24 - "Prescription for a Burn"
Talk It Over:
What are the benefits of a controlled burn? What are the dangers? Does the prescription described in the article ensure complete safety - for both forest and firefighters?
Is setting a controlled fire tampering with nature or following nature's lead? Can you think of other examples of this dilemma?
Oral Communications: Considering the benefits and risks, what is your opinion on controlled fires? Organize your arguments and hold a classroom debate with those who hold a different view.
Research/Flow Charting: Find out all you can about the Cerro Grande fire of May 2000 (sidebar, pg. 26). How did the prescription go wrong, and what could have been done differently? Flow-chart the series of events in this disaster, indicating critical events that resulted in widespread damage. Insert decision-making points and options that could have changed the outcome.
Mathematics: Revisit the chart of extreme fires on page 8. Devise a way to convert acreages to more familiar units, such as football fields or school parking lots. Let all class members contribute to calculations for a new table to make the area consumed in extreme fires more comprehensible.
Write a persuasive essay in favor of a controlled burn in your local area. Your audience is a committee of your state government charged with making the decision. State your reasons clearly and try to anticipate any questions or objections that you might get from committee members.
Make a table of two columns. In one column, list the positive outcomes of a controlled fire. In the other, list the negatives. In both columns, include examples from past fires to support your assertions.
Far Out!: Moving Beyond the Magazine (with some wildfire trivia)
More acres burned in Nevada during the 1990s than in the previous 40 years combined.
Whole-Class Activity: Design and equip a wildfire fighter's backpack. Decide what firefighting and life-protecting items it should contain, remembering that the total weight needs to remain small enough to ensure the firefighter's mobility across rugged terrain. Display your prototype kit in your library or a trophy case, labeling each item with its name and purpose.
According to the Chlorine Chemistry Council, forest fires in 2002 emitted nearly as much toxic dioxin into the environment as did all other Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-quantified sources combined.
Community Connection: Invite a firefighter to speak to your class. In some areas, you may be able to ask your guest speaker about local or recent wildfires. Ask your speaker to describe the risks and rewards of firefighting as a career.
Over 270 smokejumpers are working from U. S. Forest Service smokejumper bases in Idaho, Montana, California, Washington, and Oregon.
Small-Group Collaborative Project: Organize the class into partnerships, and then divide a map of the U.S. into the same number of "zones" as you have teams, perhaps assigning each team two or three states. Challenge each team to research the wildfire history of the assigned zone and create a poster-size map, with areas of natural forest and fire risk assessment indicated and labeled. Make a bulletin board of all the maps to create a comprehensive picture of wildfire risk and history throughout the country.
From October 8 to October 14, 1871, in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, over 1,500 lives were lost and 3.8 million acres burned in this nation's worst forest fire ever.
Individual Assignment: Write, perform, and direct a public service announcement or commercial for radio or television that encourages citizens to do everything they can to prevent unintentional forest fires. Record your radio commercial on a cassette tape recorder or CD recorder. Make a video of your public service announcement for TV.