Could the De-Extinction of Certain Species Help the Environment?

Ages: 15-18
Suggested length: 1 class period (45-55 minutes)
Device accessibility: 1 device per 1-3 students (remote friendly)

Lesson Information

At a glance

In this lesson, students will explore a fully developed Kialo discussion on the question, “could the de-extinction of certain species help the environment?” The discussion examines how bringing extinct animals back to life could help preserve our environment, as well as the difficulties and risks that could arise from de-extinction. 

Through the Kialo discussion, students will be introduced to balanced perspectives on the topic of de-extinction so that they can form their own opinions. In class, students will then take part in a “Four Corners” group activity. Within these groups, students will work together to justify and share opinions with the class. 

Student learning will be assessed through an individual argumentative essay, which will build on the “Four Corners” activity.

Learning objective(s)

In this lesson, students will:

  • Identify the potential advantages and risks of animal de-extinction.
  • Compose a series of reasons to justify their opinion on the de-extinction of a certain species.

Prior knowledge

Students should have familiarity with biodiversity, ecosystem interactions (including food webs and abiotic factors), evolutionary adaptations, cloning, and genetic engineering.

Teacher preparation

  • Make 1 clone of the discussion for each class.
  • If it is important for students to see each other’s comments in real time, give them Writer permissions when inviting them to the discussion.
  • If it is only important that you see students’ comments, give students Suggester permissions when inviting them to the discussion.

Provided materials

Lesson Plan

Suggested length: 1 class period (45-55 minutes)

Lesson components:
– At-home preparation: Exploring the Kialo discussion (approx. 30 minutes)
– Opener (5-10 minutes)
– Activity
– Part A: Four Corners (25-30 minutes)
– Part B: Preparing to write an argumentative essay (8-15 minutes)
– Optional closer (2 minutes)

Students will write an individual argumentative essay on the prompt, “Should Scientists De-extinct the Woolly Mammoth?”  (see suggested rubric in provided materials)

At-home preparation: Exploring the Kialo discussion (approx. 30 minutes)

  1. To prepare for this lesson, direct students to explore the Kialo discussion “Could the De-Extinction of Certain Species Help the Environment?” at home. Students should spend about 30 minutes to:
    1. Read the discussion.
    2. Comment on any claims that they would like to discuss in class.
    3. Vote on the 5 most impactful claims in the discussion, giving each a score of “4.”

Tip: You may wish to demonstrate voting to your students. Pick any claim and model how to give it a score of “4.” You can then revoke your vote by clicking on the “4” again.

Tip: This portion of the lesson can be done in class as well, if at-home home device access is a concern. In this case, it is recommended to adapt this lesson for a double-block period or two class periods.

Opener (5-10 minutes)

  1. Instruct the whole class to turn to a partner and discuss their answers to the following question: “What is your favorite extinct animal? If you could bring it back to life, would you?” Conduct a brief discussion around students’ answers.
  2. Go over any questions, comments, or highly-voted claims from the Kialo discussion, then lead a brief discussion around these points.


Part A: Four Corners (25-30 minutes)

  1. Post a sign in the four corners of the room, reading “Strongly Agree,” “Agree,” “Disagree,” and “Strongly Disagree.”
  2. Explain that students will now do an activity called “Four Corners.” Students will go to the area that corresponds to their level of agreement with the statement “Scientists should de-extinct the wooly mammoth.” Students who strongly agree with the statement will go into the area labeled “Strongly Agree,” and so forth.
  3. Once students are separated into their areas, tell students to choose a group recorder to help write down the group’s reasons for picking their opinion. Groups will have 10 minutes to discuss and write. After the 10 minutes are up, a group representative will then share the group’s reasons with the whole class. 

Optional extension: Ask students to change corners if they were persuaded by another group’s reasons. Conduct an informal debate on the reasons students found to compelling in making their decisions, such as: 1) opposition to animal experimentation, 2) the fight against climate change, or 3) the desire for scientific knowledge and progress.

Part B: Preparing to write an argumentative essay (8-15 minutes)

  1. Explain that students will write an individual argumentative essay on the prompt “Should scientists de-extinct the woolly mammoth?” to demonstrate their new knowledge on the topic. Tell students to consider the following factors as they argue their position:
    1. The potential environmental impact of de-extinction.
    2. The technology involved in de-extinction.
    3. The risks of de-extincting an animal.
    4. The investment (money) that de-extinction requires.
  2. Distribute and go over the assignment rubric. If time permits, direct students to begin planning their essays.

Optional closer (2 minutes)

  1. Remind students that species are constantly going extinct, and there have been many tragic extinctions over the last century. Share this video footage of some now-extinct animals for students to contemplate:

Related Kialo Discussion

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