Nature’s First Defenders

Lesson plan with video, grades 9–12



Indigenous people—nature’s first defenders—play a vital role in sustaining our planet. This lesson enables students to understand that role and to explore the many perspectives and issues involved in conservation, including how we relate to nature, how culture influences our points of view, what tools we have to be engaged in the conversation, and how we might address and reconcile differences.

Part 1 uses images, a short video, classroom discussions, and a primary source jigsaw activity to deepen student understanding of human relationships with nature and identify reasons for including and empowering indigenous voices in conservation efforts.

In Part 2, students engage in a Socratic Seminar and uncover historical evidence of the stewardship role played by Native Americans in Yosemite Valley prior to John Muir’s arrival.

Part 3 has students exploring the role of the arts in activism using a music video by Tsimka Martin, of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, as inspiration. Students undertake a creative project to address a social or environmental justice issue of their choice.

In Part 4, students analyze current events related to indigenous rights and land development via the events at Standing Rock. Students examine various media sources, including a short video, and engage in a rigorous discussion that addresses media literacy, the rights of indigenous peoples, environmental justice, policy considerations, and more.


Teacher Materials

  • Nature's First Defenders Teacher's Guide
    PDF Word
  • Part 1 Respect for All Life Lesson Plan
    PDF Word
  • Part 2 Indigenous Peoples and Early Conservation Efforts Lesson Plan
    PDF Word
  • Part 3 Activism Through the Arts Lesson Plan
    PDF Word
  • Part 4 Water is Life Lesson Plan
    PDF Word

Student Handouts


First Nations, indigenous, sustainability, conservation, people, Native Americans, Canada, Emerald Edge, featured

Published February 2017