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Volume 63, Number 2March/April 2012

In This Issue

Classroom Guide

For students: We hope this two-page guide will help sharpen your reading skills and deepen your understanding of this issue's articles.

For teachers: We encourage reproduction and adaptation of these ideas, freely and without further permission from Saudi Aramco World, by teachers at any level, whether working in a classroom or through home study.


Jump to McRel Standards


Several articles in this issue of Saudi Aramco World look at resources—both natural and cultural. In the activities that follow, you will have a chance to think about why people care for and protect such resources, and how they do so. You will also explore why they sometimes fail to take care of resources, and what might happen as a result of their neglect.

Theme: Caring for Natural Resources

What makes a natural resource valuable?

Natural resources are materials that exist in nature that people can use. Count off by threes, and sit in a section of the room with the people who have the same number you have. Assign each group one of the following natural resources: water, oil, forests. Your group will be answering the question: What makes this natural resource valuable? Write down your answers, then share them with the rest of the class. What factors did more than one group identify? Based on these factors, complete this prompt: Natural resources are valuable because _________.

Now look specifically at a natural resource that is highlighted in this issue of Saudi Aramco World. Read "The Other Side of Cork." Continue working with your group (but all three groups will work on the same thing for the next activities). Write down, as you did with your group's assigned resource, what makes cork a valuable resource.

The article tells two different stories about cork. In Portugal, cork has been carefully protected so that cork trees—and cork-related businesses—are thriving. In Morocco, on the other hand, cork has been used with less care. Now Moroccans are trying to revive cork forests—and increase cork production.

How has Portugal cared for its cork forests?

Start with Portugal. With your group, go through the article and highlight all the different ways in which people there have protected and cared for the cork forests. Keep in mind that some of the efforts involve protecting the forests from natural threats, while others involve protecting them from human threats. When you're done, make a list based on what you've highlighted. Title the list "Caring for Cork Trees in Portugal."

Why have cork forests been cared for in Portugal?

The article says that Portuguese laws have protected cork production since 1209. That's 800 years! Why do you think Portuguese people have protected the cork forests for so long? What motivated them? After all, wouldn't it have been easier, and made them more money more quickly, if they had just harvested as much cork as they wanted as soon as it was ready?

What about the other path they might have chosen? What might have tempted them not to protect the forests? To help you think about that, imagine planting your own cork tree and having to wait 25 years before you can get any cork from it. That's a long time. Twenty-five years ago, it was 1987—before you were born. What was going on then? Ask a parent or another adult. What were they doing in 1987? What are some things that exist now that did not exist 25 years ago? For example, did the adults you're talking to have their own computers in 1987? Did they have mobile phones? Share with the class some of the things that did not exist 25 years ago that are part of everyday life now. Now think about planting your cork tree in 2012. It will be 2037 when your tree has matured enough for you to harvest cork. How old will you be? When you think about how different life is now than it was in 1987, what can you imagine about life in 2037? Given how long it takes for a cork tree to produce harvestable cork, would you plant the trees, as Conceição Silva says, for your grandchildren? What would motivate you to plant them, knowing that there won't be a short-term payoff? What might make you decide not to bother?

Now think again about Portugal. Why do you think they didn't give in to the temptation to use the forests without regulation? Whose responsibility has it been in Portugal to care for the cork forests? What do you think has made this particular group of people committed to caring for the forests?

How has Morocco cared for its cork forests? Why?

Now answer the same questions about Morocco. How have cork forests been cared for—or not been cared for? What do you think has motivated people to use the Moroccan cork forests the way they have? Who has been responsible for the Moroccan cork forests? Why has this group been less successful in caring for the forests than the protectors in Portugal?

How can you explain the different approaches to caring for the cork forests?

"The Other Side of Cork" reports that "cork in Morocco is a forestry resource, while in Spain and Portugal it is managed as agriculture." What's the difference? If you don't know, find out. How do people regard "forestry resources"? How do they think about "agriculture"? Why would thinking of cork one way or the other lead people to treat cork trees differently? Do you think cork is better thought of as an agricultural or a forestry resource? Why?

How are Moroccans trying to revivce cork forests?

Of course, in an ideal world, no one would ever over-use a natural resource to the point where its survival might be in question. But this isn't an ideal world, and sometimes people don't think too far ahead when it comes to caring for resources. Then what? In Morocco, some people are trying to revive the cork forests. Reread the part of the article that explains how. With your group, evaluate how likely you think it is that they will succeed. Why do you think so?

Now that you've seen how cork forests have and have not been cared for, choose a natural resource that you think needs to be cared for (e.g., a local river, a nearby mountain, the air in your city) and write a letter explaining how to care for the natural resource and why it's best to care for it before it is in danger. Use what you have learned about cork forests in Spain and Morocco to provide evidence to support your point of view.

Theme: Caring for Cultural Resources

Now that you've thought about how people both sustain and revive natural resources, turn your attention to something that can be a little harder to grasp: culture. For just as people care for natural resources, they also care for cultural resources. Look back at the definition of natural resources. Based on that definition, write a definition for the term "cultural resources." You might want to find out more about what culture means. You might also want to find out how other people have defined the term "cultural resources." Then meet with your group and share your definitions with each other. Come to an agreement about a definition for the term so that you will have common ground for the rest of the activities.

Read "The Palace and the Poet." What are the cultural resources that this article describes? What makes them cultural resources? Answer the following questions to compare the care of these cultural resources to the care of cork trees, a natural resource. Who has taken care of the cultural resources described in "The Palace and the Poet"? Why have they done so? Do you think it has been worthwhile to take care of these cultural resources—as people in Portugal have taken care of the cork forests? Why or why not? Do you think it is as important to take care of cultural resources as it is to take care of natural resources? Working with a partner, have one person answer yes and the other answer no. Gather your best arguments to support your point of view, then debate the question with your partner. But rather than seeing who can win the debate, see if you can reach an agreement on how to answer the question. Share your pair's point of view to the class, along with the process by which you arrived at it.

Theme: Caring for Cultural Heritage

"A Heritage Takes Wing" reports that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (unesco) has put falconry on its Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Look at the unesco website to learn more about "intangible cultural heritage." What does the term refer to? What are its four characteristics? How is a cultural heritage similar to a cultural resource? How is it different? Make a Venn diagram to help you make the comparison visually.

Read "A Heritage Takes Wing." How does falconry match these four characteristics of intangible cultural heritage? Now think about the questions you asked about caring for natural and cultural resources, and ask those questions about cultural heritage. What does it mean to take care of something as intangible as falconry? Think about how people have cared for cork trees—a natural resource—and palaces and fountains—historical resources. Are any of the same strategies involved in caring for an item on unesco's ich list? Ask the same questions: Who is responsible for taking care of an ich? How do they do so? Why would they want to? Why wouldn't they want to?

Visual Analysis

Analyzing visual images can help you think about the similarities and differences between caring for an intangible cultural heritage and caring for a natural resource. For this activity, look at the three photos on this page. How does the photo affect your thinking about whether or not it is valuable to care for a cork forest? How does the photo affect your thinking about the value of protecting falconry? How does the photo affect your thinking about the value of protecting historical artifacts?

As a final activity, step back and think about the value of photographs themselves, first as evidence, and then also as part of persuasive arguments. Create a one-page document to persuade someone that it is valuable to protect one of the resources or the heritage you have looked at. Use photographs as well as words to make your case. Display people's pages in the classroom. Discuss what makes for a convincing case for protection.

MA12 Standards Alignment
McRel Standards

The Other Side of Cork

Agricultural Education

Standard 1. Understands the connections between agriculture and society

Standard 2. Understands trends, issues, and events that have influenced agricultural practices throughout history


Standard 4. Understands the physical and human characteristics of place

Standard 11. Understands the patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth's surface

Standard 14. Understands how human actions modify the physical environment

Standard 16. Understands the changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution and importance of resources


Standard 6. Understands relationships among organisms and their physical environment

Linking Med to Red


Standard 3. Understands the characteristics and uses of spatial organization of Earth's surface

Standard 4. Understands the physical and human characteristics of place

Standard 10. Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics

Standard 11. Understands the patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth's surface

Standard 14. Understands how human actions modify the physical environment

Standard 17. Understands how geography is used to interpret the past

World History

Standard 8. Understands how Aegean civilization emerged and how interrelations developed among peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean and Southwest Asia from 600 to 200 BCE

Standard 13. Understands the physical and human characteristics of place


Standard 3. Understands the relationships among science, technology, society, and the individual

A Heritage Takes Wing


Standard 10. Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics

Standard 16. Understands the changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution and importance of resources

The Palace and the Poet


Standard 6. Understands that culture and experience influence people's perceptions of places and regions

Standard 10. Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics

Historical Understanding

Standard 2. Understands the historical perspective

Language Arts

Standard 6. Uses skills and strategies to read a variety of literary texts

World History

Standard 28. Understands how large territorial empires dominated much of Eurasia between the 16th and 18th centuries

Julie Weiss is an education consultant based in Eliot, Maine. She holds a Ph.D. in American studies. Her company, Unlimited Horizons, develops social studies, media literacy, and English as a Second Language curricula,and produces textbook materials.