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Yahara 2070 Teaching Tips


These lesson ideas will help your class learn about future thinking and why it’s important for our waters and communities. Students will “inhabit” the worlds of the Yahara 2070 scenarios and discuss what could be desirable or undesirable for the lives of future generations. They will also have an opportunity to create their own scenarios for the future of water and people.

Appropriate for grades 7-12.

Teachers can modify these tips to meet the needs and capacities of their students.

Class Preparation

Teachers: Familiarize yourself with Yahara 2070 by exploring this website. Assign your students one of the following homework options.

Option 1: Have students read all four scenarios.

Option 2: Divide the class into two or four groups, and have each group read 2 or 1 scenario(s), respectively.

Optional readings: Taking the long view, in storiesWhat is long-term thinking?


Why should we think about the future? Well, one reason is to make sure we are doing things today that will allow future generations to have everything they need for a happy and healthy life, like clean water, good food, and a nice place to live. Our decisions and actions today will impact what happens for people in the future.

But thinking about the future—especially the far off future, like generations from now—is hard. How can we know what life might be like for people in 2070? And, by the way, when do I have time to think about future? I have homework due tomorrow!

Here is where scenarios can help. Scenarios are stories about possible futures that help make thinking about the future easier. By using them, we can get a better understanding of the things we can do today that will make sure people in the future will get to live in a healthy environment and community.

The Yahara 2070 scenarios are stories about the future of water and people in the Yahara Watershed in south-central Wisconsin. They can help us imagine what the future might be like for our lakes, rivers, and communities in the year 2070, so that we can imagine what kind of future we actually want them to have and what we can do today to ensure it.

Discussion questions

1. Start the class discussion with one or more of these questions:

  • Why is thinking and talking about the future of water and people important to you?
  • How do you feel connected to water and its future?
  • What impressions did you have when you read the scenarios?


2. Divide the class into small groups and assign them each one scenario. If you assigned students to read only 1 or 2 of the scenarios in preparation for this activity, you can group students accordingly. Have them answer the following questions in their small groups. When they are finished, have each group present their responses to the whole class.

  • How did the ways people farm, build cities and communities, and interact with nature change in your assigned scenario? What were some of the consequences of these changes by 2070?
  • What do you think are the pros and cons of living in this scenario? In other words, how do you think life in 2070 is better than today, and how is it worse?


3. Additional discussion questions:

  • What is something that has happened in the past 50 years that affects our waters and communities today?
  • What are some things we do today that might affect our waters and communities in the future? These could be good things or bad things, and they could be things we do as individuals or as a society.
  • In every scenario, a major change happens in response to social and environmental crises. Do you think it is possible for people to make changes to the ways they live without the threat of a crisis? What do you think it would take to make changes without the threat of a crisis?
  • How might different groups of people—e.g., wealthy versus poor, different ethnic or cultural groups—be affected by the changes that occur in the four scenarios?


Activity: Build your own scenario of a desirable future

1. Where do we want to go? The scenarios can help us think about things we want to happen and things we don’t want to happen in the future.

In small groups, have students answer the following questions. Their answers will serve as “building blocks” for their scenarios.

  • What are the best ideas from the four scenarios that must happen in the future?
  • What are the worst threats from the four scenarios that must not happen in the future?
  • What other great ideas or terrible threats must or must not happen, respectively, in our desirable future?


2. How could we get there? Building a desirable future for water and people means coming up with new ideas for solving the challenges we face today. It also means identifying humanity’s “bright spots,” or the great ideas and qualities we already have that we should carry with us into the future. Finally, it means deciding what ideas aren’t working well that we want to leave behind.

Have students answer the following questions in their small groups. Their ideas don’t need to be reflected in the Yahara 2070 scenarios.

  • What new ideas do you think we need to create a desirable future for water and people?
  • What bright spots should we carry forward with us into the future?
  • What ideas should we leave behind in the past?


3. Create your own scenario. Here are two methods students could use to write their own scenario of a desirable future.

Option 1: Have students create their own scenarios for 2070 individually or in their small groups using their responses to the first two parts of this activity. They could write a story, poem or play, or draw a picture of their future. Make sure to emphasize that these should be their visions of a desirable future.

Option 2: Have students interview 2-3 other people about their visions for the future. These people could be other students or people in their communities, like a neighbor. Have them write a story based on the themes from these interviews and including themes from parts 1 and 2 of this activity. Here are some sample questions they could use. They could also come up with their own questions.

  • If you could find out three things about the future, what would they be?
  • What words would you use to describe the ideal state of our waters and community in 2070?
  • What words would you use to describe your worst-case scenario for our waters and community in 2070?
  • What measures or actions could be taken today to prevent that worst-case scenario from occurring?
  • What is the most effective way to protect our environment and community? What is it effective?
  • Imagine far into the future: what do you want to be remembered for?


A pledge for the future

Before completing your lesson on future thinking, discuss as a class actions you could take to work towards a desirable future for water and people. These could be actions students can do individually or as a whole class. As a class, decide on at least one action that everyone agrees they are willing and able to do, and then have them sign a pledge that they will do it. If you can't collectively decide on just one, you could pick more than one and have students choose which one they want to pledge to do. Consider displaying the class pledge(s) somewhere in your classroom as a supportive reminder.