Teddy Roosevelt's View on Citizenship and the Environment

9, 10, 11, 12

To enable students to understand the conflicts in society between economic and environmental interests and the role of the citizen in government.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne 45 Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • contrast the ideas behind the laissez-faire attitude of big business at the turn of the century and the concerns of environmentalists today.
  • explain Roosevelt's view of the role of individual citizens in dealing with economic and environmental concerns. They will agree or disagree with Roosevelt's view.

"The Duties of American Citizenship," https://www.artofmanliness.com/duties-of-american-citizenship-by-theodore-roosevelt/

PBS. The American Experience: "TR: The Story of Theodore Roosevelt."

Theodore Roosevelt's Conservation Legacy: http://www.theodoreroosevelt.org/ 


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Ask the following questions of the class and write their answers on the board:

    • What are some changes in the way our town looks now compared to when you were in Kindergarten?
    • Overall, has there been a negative or positive economic impact on our community because of these changes? How?
    • Overall, has there been a negative or positive environmental impact on our community because of these changes? How?
    • Which (economic or environmental change) is more important to you personally? Why?
  2. Tell the students that they are going to read the words of Theodore Roosevelt regarding citizenship and civil society. Give each student a copy of Roosevelt's speech (see Materials). In groups of three (with one reader, one recorder, and one to present to the class), have students read the essay and discuss the following in their group:

    1. Identify three reasons Roosevelt gave for his position.
    2. List arguments for and against Roosevelt's statement, "Public rights come first…private interests second," and give an example from history and the current day to illustrate each side.
    3. What were the long-term impacts of Roosevelt's conservation efforts? During Theodore Roosevelt's administration, the areas preserved and activities for conservation included the following:
    • 4 national game preserves

    • 51 federal bird reservations

    • 150 national forests

    • 5 national parks

    • 18 national monuments

    • 24 reclamation projects

    • 7 conservation conferences and commissions

  3. After the groups have worked on these questions and discussions, assign one numbered point to each group to present to the entire class. After each group presents, the other groups respond through discussion and further insights from their discussions.


Journal entry or quick write response: "What should be done to preserve the natural surroundings in this area? Is it a public issue or private concern? Why?"

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark HS.10 Identify the training or education needed for civil society sector jobs.
      2. Benchmark HS.5 Give examples of stewardship decisions throughout history and in current events.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Describe and compare stewardship in a variety of cultural traditions.