Alaska Sea Grant

Teaching about Controversial Issues

Mining and watersheds - photo courtesy of US Fish and WildlifeSome of the topics explored and investigated in the units may be sensitive and/or controversial, depending on where you are located, what jobs and/or industry the local economy depends on, and what previous conceptions/misconceptions your students may have.

Some guidelines that may be useful for teachers follow:

  1. Present the science objectively, being careful to leave your emotions behind. Research and data can raise students’ awareness and understanding of a topic.
  2. Allow students to discover information and facts on their own, from a variety of sources.
  3. If possible, invite local residents that have first hand knowledge of the topic being discussed. If there are opposing views of an issue, try to find speakers for both sides.
  4. Encourage students to look for both pro and con, positive and negative, if a topic or issue seems to have opposing views.
  5. M/V Selendang Ayu Oil Spill Unalaska 2004 - photo courtesy of US Fish and WildlifeEncourage students to look for solutions if an issue/topic seems doomed to a gloomy future.
  6.  If students become passionate about a particular topic, you may need to establish ground rules before classroom discussions take place.

Other web sites:

Alaska Sea Grant University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska Department of Education and Early Development NOAA