Environmental Hearing

I learned this activity during my time at the Barrier Island Environmental Education Center.

Purpose: Campers will participate in a town-hall style debate on an environmental issue, to experience some of the real frustrations and problems associated with trying to solve environmental problems. (Here I have provided an example of a recent environmental issue for the Toronto area; you are welcome to adapt this activity to a real issue in your area.)



            Ask the campers to give you some examples of big environmental problems (e.g.,  pollution, deforestation, hydroelectric projects, overpopulation, etc.)  Why are these issues important to us?  How can people solve such complicated problems, when there are so many important factors to be taken into consideration?

            One method that people use to solve big problems is to invite all the interested parties to participate in a debate, in order to present their side of the argument.  Each group that participates in the debate is called an interest group, and has its own point of view and its own agenda.  In a town hall debate, generally the town council and any concerned citizens and businesses are represented.

Rules for the Town Hall Meeting

            The group will be split into different interest groups who all have a stake in the issue.  Each group is given a sheet of paper with some important points they may want to bring up during the debate.  Give the groups about 10 minutes to discuss their position and come up with an opening argument – have a counsellor sit with each group to act as a facilitator, although the ideas should spring from the campers if at all possible.  This speech should be about one minute long.  After each group has had a chance to give their opening remarks, allow a couple minutes for each group to come up with questions to ask the other groups.  Each group will have an opportunity to both ask and answer questions.

            After this question period, the interest groups will have another few minutes to reconvene and decide if they want to shift their policies or add more facts and arguments to their position in order to gain support.  Each group will give a second speech, and a second round of questioning will follow.  Finally, each interest group will have some time to come up with a closing argument.

            A Council made up of the Counsellors will be the final judges as to which interest group will “win” the debate.  After each round of questioning has been completed, the Council will be given the opportunity to ask questions of any interest group they wish to.  Because each interest group is made up of a number of people, it is important to ensure that everybody’s voice is heard.  Ensure that within each group, the responsibility of giving speeches and answering questions is shared equally.  Try to encourage all group members to participate.

            I (Becky) will act as mediator for the debate.  When the Council is in session, campers may only speak once the mediator has recognized them.  Anyone who speaks out of turn will be warned once, then ejected from the proceedings for a five-minute “cool-down”.


            Following the procedure outlined above, debate a local or fictitious environmental issue such as the recent Adams Mine garbage debate.  You will want to allow at least 40 minutes for the debate.

Conclusion (5 minutes)

            Who won the debate?  Why did the hearing end the way it did?  How do you think this works in Real Life?

Interest Groups

Townspeople from Kirkland Lake

You are opposed to the proposed garbage deal with Toronto for the following reasons:

Mayor and City Council from Kirkland Lake

You are in favour of the garbage deal with Toronto for the following reasons:

Mayor and City Council from Toronto

 You are in favour of the Adams Mine garbage deal for the following reasons:

Environmental Activists

You are opposed to the proposed garbage deal with Toronto for the following reasons:

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