Distance Learning

Why Wilderness?

Grade Level:
High School: Ninth Grade through Twelfth Grade

The protected land of Denali National Park and Preserve encompasses an intact ecosystem of over 6 million acres. High school classes are invited to learn about and discuss the social and environmental benefits and challenges of protecting wilderness. Denali’s sled dogs, dinosaur tracks, and more will inspire students to become stewards of wilderness everywhere.

Program Length and Grade Range

This 50-minute program is designed for students in grades 9–12.

How to Participate

Denali's Distance Learning programs are a fun and interactive way for our education rangers to visit your classroom for free!

Our Distance Learning presentations are available from November 1 through March 31 annually (with breaks around some major holidays). Registration begins on October 15th annually. Spaces are limited and registration is handled on a first-come, first-served basis. 

You will find the link to our Distance Learning Registration Form on Denali's Distance Learning homepage.

Why Wilderness?—Teacher's Guide

Program Objectives

Students will:

  1. Develop an understanding of how wilderness has been defined in both the past and present.
  2. Learn about the ecological benefits of Denali’s large, unbroken, and healthy ecosystem.
  3. Explore why certain recreational activities are prohibited in wilderness and how park managers balance opportunities for recreation with wilderness preservation.
  4. Share personal opinions related to wilderness values during a group debate.
  5. Identify connections between the challenges of managing wilderness at Denali and protecting natural areas near their own homes.

Next Generation Science Standards Addressed

  • HS-LS2-7, HS-ESS3-4, HS-ETS1-3

Vocabulary and Concepts Covered

  • Denali National Park and Preserve, the Wilderness Act of 1964, wilderness, unbroken ecosystems, preservation, stewardship, recreation, subsistence, sled dogs

Before the Distance Learning Program

  • Introduce the topic by having students read about Denali’s Wilderness.
  • We love chatting with students about Denali! Encourage your class to think of questions to ask the ranger. We usually have time at the end of a program to answer questions, and we're happy to answer overflow questions via e-mail.
  • Make sure you have a Zoom link at least a week ahead of time.
  • The teacher is responsible for classroom management during the program. This includes calling on students throughout the program and helping to ensure that their answers and comments are understood by all. The teacher is also responsible for facilitating questions at the end of the program.

After the Distance Learning Program

  • Email us your questions, feedback, or an evaluation form. We love hearing ways that we can continue to improve our programs!
  • Post-activity suggestions:
    • Share the following three quotes with students. Ask them: Do you agree or disagree with each quote? Why? What does wilderness mean to you?
      • “To be whole. To be complete. Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.” – Terry Tempest Williams
      • “Wilderness is a damp and dreary place where all manner of wild beasts dash about uncooked!” – Anonymous, 17th century
      • “Only to the white man was nature a wilderness, and only to him was the land infested’ with wild animals and savage people. To us it was tame, Earth was bountiful, and we were surrounded with the blessings of the Great Mystery.” – Black Elk, Oglala Lakota Nation
    • Find a wilderness area near your school. Have students research current events affecting the wilderness and write letters to their government representatives expressing their opinions.

Last updated: March 26, 2024