Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades 3-12, students watch the BrainPOP movie Wildfires to discover what causes wildfires and both their negative and positive effects. Next, they will apply their understanding of wildfires by using the BrainPOP features for this topic. Finally, they will conduct further research on a specific wildfire, sharing their findings in a presentation to the class.


Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Demonstrate their understanding of wildfires by taking notes on a Star Diagram
  2. Use the Make-a-Map tool to identify the causes and effects of wildfires.
  3. Class set of Wildfires Star Diagram
  4. Class set of Cause and Effect Chain graphic organizer (optional)



climate change, competitive species, embers, habitat, mature, rebound


  • Preview the movie Wildfires to plan for adaptations.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Display the cause and effect chart (see Preparation). Ask students to brainstorm what they think causes wildfires. Jot their responses on the chart in the Cause column. Now ask what are some of the effects of wildfires, and note those responses in the Effects column. If students only mention negative effects, you can prompt them to think about what might be a good result of wildfires, or why wildfires help. Again, jot down their responses.
  2. Distribute the Wildfires Star Diagram and show the movie Wildfires  to the whole class on the whiteboard. Pause as needed for students to take notes on the graphic organizer.
  3. Next, if you have access to multiple computers, divide the class into pairs and have them open the Make-a-Map feature on individual computers. (Note: If limited access to computers, pairs can do this step with paper and pencil using the Cause and Effect Chain graphic organizer).
  4. Pairs watch the movie again within the Make-a-Map feature. As they watch, tell them to create concept maps showing the causes of wildfires, and their effects, including both positive and negative, pausing the movie as needed. Remind them that they can incorporate clips from the movie into their maps. When they are done, have each pair share their maps with another pair to ensure that they captured all the information.
  5. Tell students they will now consider the effects of prescribed, or planned, wildfires by completing the Primary Source activity.  We recommend that you display the primary source image on the whiteboard as pairs answer the questions at their computers.   
  6. Finally, have pairs conduct further research about a specific wildfire. It could be one that has been in the news recently or an historic wildfire. Instruct them to find out the following: Was the fire planned or accidental? If it was planned, why was it planned? What were the negative effects? What were the positive effects. Students may use the Cause and Effect Chain graphic organizer to take notes as they research.
  7. Finally, invite pairs to present their research to the class. Encourage them to use visual support with their presentations, such as diagrams, illustrations, etc. They may create a multimedia presentation if they like.

Extension Activities:

Have students complete Draw It and/or Further Research in the Wildfires Activity.