This article examines the concerns being raised over the proposed construction of the third of four major dams on the Peace River in British Columbia.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Environmental studies, biology, world issues

Key Questions to Explore:

  • What is the stated importance of this dam?
  • What are the concerns about the impact of this dam?
  • Why should we be concerned about biodiversity?
  • What are the sources of energy?
  • What are the benefits and drawbacks of each?

New Terminology:

Biodiversity, megawatts, gigawatts, renewable/non-renewable

Materials Needed:

Internet access for student research

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

The Site C dam proposal is causing great reaction from concerned groups in British Columbia and indeed other conservation groups. It is the third of four dams that a mid 20th century study proposed be built on the Peace River in Northern British Columbia (the proposed 4th dam was subsequently dropped from the original proposal). The other two dams are The W.A.C. Bennett dam built in 1967 and opened in 1968 and the Peace Canyon dam opened in 1980. The estimated costs of construction of the Site C dam, based on 2011 standards and costs, is $7.9 billion and the dam would generate about 900 megawatts – enough power to service about 540,000 homes.

Opposition is coming from various groups, including First Nations and Parks Canada. Their concern is the impact this dam will have on the biodiversity of the Peace-Athabasca delta, given the damage already created by the construction of the other dams. The protesters acknowledge that the construction of the Site C dam will have less impact than the other dams but argue that because of that former damage, the construction of this dam could “be the straw that broke the camel’s back” for this important region.

This lesson will have the students explore our sources of energy and examine the benefits and drawbacks of each source. It will also require them to probe the concerns about the construction of the proposed Site C dam on the Peace River in British Columbia and to investigate why we should be concerned about biodiversity.

Action (lesson plan and task):

  • Introduce the lesson by asking the students when they last experienced a loss of electrical power and what impact it had on them.
  • Having gotten their responses, ask them to identify sources of energy that we currently, or could, use to generate the power that we use.
  • Indicate to them that the development of some sources of this energy generate different levels of concern depending upon a number of factors.
  • Indicate to them that, for example, there is concern among some about the construction of a hydro-electric dam on the Peace River in Northern British Columbia.
  • Provide copies of the article and allow students time to read it.
  • Get their reactions to what they have just read.
  •  Arrange the students into groups of four or five and then ask them to research and answer the following questions
    • What is the stated importance of this dam?
    • How much power will it generate?
    • How many homes will that amount of energy service?
    • What are the concerns about the impact of this dam?
    • Why should we be concerned about biodiversity?
  • Allow them time to research and prepare their answers.
  • Take up their answers
  • With this completed, revisit the list of sources of energy generated earlier in the lesson and ensure that the list contains at least the following: coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, bio-energy, solar, wind, wave, hydro (including wave and tide), geothermal and earth energy.
  • Assign at least one source to each of the groups and indicate to them that they are to research their source(s) of energy and to prepare a report indicating the benefits, concerns or limitations of that source and whether they would recommend the use of it as a good and reliable source of energy. They are also to indicate if this is a renewable or non-renewable resource.
  • Allow the remainder of class time for the students to begin their work, indicating that they will have a few moments at the beginning of the next class period to complete their work.
  • Begin the second period of the lesson by allowing the promised preparation time and then have each of the groups report.

Consolidation of Learning:

Once the groups have reported, hold a plenary session during which the students should indicate which sources of energy they support and which ones they would recommend not being used or developed. See if the class is tending to any kind of consensus.

Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

The students will be able to:

  1. Identify some source of energy
  2. Indicate if that resource is renewable or non-renewable
  3. Explain what the benefits and concerns are about using that source of energy.

Confirming Activity:

For homework, the students are to write a short assignment in which they identify which source of energy they would prefer and why, and also indicate which source they would prefer no longer be used and why.