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Lesson #1

An Introduction to Tyrone, WI
NSP and the locals who would
form a movement

Lesson Objectives-

  • Summarize the historical story of the Tyrone Nuclear Power Plant and interpret the facts to describe how important it was that area residents organize and fight the plant.

  • Analyze the reasons why people became active in the environmental movement in the 1970s.

  • Begin to mentally construct a plan for how people may work together to form a movement.

  • Explain and understand WI History standard #10 and U.S. History standard #10

Materials Needed-

Teacher Responsibilities-

  • Read brief History of Tyrone area provided in order to gain strong background knowledge

  • Present the PowerPoint of the history of Tyrone provided

  • Lead a discussion at the end of class as a means of setting up the rest of the unit’s emphasis on Wisconsin’s environmental movement, the definition of an “environmental activist”, different forms of activism, and potential conflict that may arise when groups become active.

Student Responsibilities-

  • Take notes from PowerPoint presentation

  • Actively participate in discussion and class brainstorming at end of presentation

  • Ask questions!!

Lesson Content and Procedure-

It is extremely important that teachers and students understand that this unit is really focusing on WI History and US History standard #10. Additionally, it is important that students understand the “big ideas” of this unit. Those were listed for teachers in the introduction. By presenting the PowerPoint to students and spending time discussing the lesson and the images and documents presented in the PowerPoint students will being to see just how Wisconsinites reacted to this particular change (perceived increased need for energy production at great personal cost) and how they fought to find their personal prosperity in Cold War America. Teachers must remember that these vague standards are really not so difficult to teach to students. During this unit a daily reminder that Tyrone is metaphorically right down the road from anybody in this state is not a bad idea.

It may be helpful to teachers with limited background in environmentalism to have a generic definition of an environmental activist. Here is a definition- An environmental activist is one who believes in and is concerned for the importance of the environment within society. Environmentalists may be concerned with pollution, population growth, conservation and the effects of technology on the earth.

Suggested questions-

Pre-lesson: These questions are simply to get students thinking about some of the ideas to be covered this unit.

What is an activist? What is an environmental activist? Why might “normal “ people decide to become active in a movement like environmentalism?


What is an environmental activist? Could you see yourself participating in one of the protests we saw in the newspaper clippings?


Informal- Teacher should reflect on the day’s lecture and discussion regarding story of Tyrone and the analysis by students of the photos presented.

No Formal Assessment Exercise

REMEMBER- The first big theme of this unit is “What is an environmentalist?” This is an attempt to remove stereotypes from the minds of students about who works for change and justice. This theme is addressed by telling the Tyrone story and then following it up with lesson #2.

Background information for teacher review prior to Lesson #1

The story of the Tyrone Nuclear Power Plant has a great deal to do with the former community’s location along the Chippewa River with an unused railroad track right next to it. In addition, the area is remote from major metro areas, being about 20 miles downstream from Eau Claire and about 60 miles east of the Twin Cities metro area. It is not coincidental that Northern States Power Co., the developers of the Tyrone plant, has its headquarters located in Minneapolis. Here is the Tyrone tale-

Tyrone, WI was once the largest community in Dunn County. Originally founded by Irishman Hamilton Hubbard in 1856 Tyrone had a lot going for it. Set along the scenic Chippewa River, Tyrone was a perfect stopping place for river travelers between Durand and Eau Claire. There was a large lumber mill with a slough, a large hotel and many other thriving businesses. By 1880 350 people lived in Tyrone and it looked like it was a permanent fixture. However, times changed. River travelled diminished, the new railroad initially bypassed the area. When state highway 85 was built between Durand and Eau Claire it missed Tyrone. By the 1930s there was basically nothing left. Tyrone was absorbed into the local farming community. The people of this area where Dunn, Eau Claire and Pepin Counties meet were hard working, church going people who passed a strong Midwestern work ethic on to their kids and supported their government through thick and thin.

That all changed in the summer of 1972. Twenty-seven landowners in the Tyrone area began to receive visits from representatives of Northern States Power Company (NSP). NSP wanted to buy their farms for future development. Some sold immediately, some held out until NSP informed them that the land would be theirs whether the landowners wanted it so or not. Homeowners were informed of the law of eminent domain. Most of the rest eventually sold. Finally by November there were only three landowners holding out; Henry and Clara Falkner (40 acres), Joseph and Stanley Cider (960) acres, and Harold and Lucille Bauer (200 acres). The Falkners had a small plot and they mainly stayed out of the limelight. The Cider brothers were very reclusive and may be categorized as anti-social so they really did not get involved in the fight to stop the land buy. It came down to the Bauers. Harold and Lucille had purchased their farm in 1953 and had worked hard to eke out a living. Harold was a veteran with an eighth grade education, Clara a strong, self-assured farm wife who knew how to stand up for herself. They felt strongly that NSP was offering them much less than their land was worth. NSP began the condemnation and eminent domain process. It was at this point that NSP’s real intent was revealed. In early 1973 NSP displayed plans for the Tyrone Nuclear Energy Park, a 1150 kilowatt nuclear power plant and nuclear waste storage facility. Immediately the Bauers had allies.

For the next nine years the Bauers and to a lesser extent the Ciders and Falkners became spokespeople for a decidedly grassroots movement during a very turbulent decade. The energy crises of 1973 and 1979, the ever growing demand for cheap gas and power and chilling environmental findings such as Love Canal in New York (lesson #4) coincided with a growing awareness of the human impact on the environment which was rooted in Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in the mid-1960s but took wing beginning with the first Earth Day celebration in 1970 met head to head in rural Tyrone, WI.

The area around Tyrone and the community of Durand, just a few miles downstream, were overrun with “hippie types” as the Bauers called them and dark suited NSP representatives and lawyers on a regular basis for the next decade. Two local environmental activist groups, Northern Thunder out of Eau Claire and Citizens For Tomorrow (CFT) a locally organized farmer led group, organized marches through town and annual picnics on the grounds of the old town. In the meantime, lawyers for both sides battled it out in both local and state court. In 1979 courts finally ruled NSP could not build their plant because the company could not prove that at least 30% of the power generated was going to be used locally. That was a state law and it was pretty evident that NSP intended to use Tyrone to help power the Twin Cities metro area. Incidentally, it was also in 1979 that the near meltdown at Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant in Pennsylvania led to a national moratorium on nuclear power that still exists today. NSP was able to keep the land they had already purchased for possible future development. The Ciders passed away and their heirs sold their 960 acres to NSP. The Falkners moved on. The only people still living in the Tyrone area are the Bauers. Now in their mid-80s the Bauers actually were not granted full ownership of their home until they received a letter from the state in 1992. At that point NSP decided to “forgive” them the $175 monthly rent the company had been charging them to live on land it claimed to own since 1973. The land locally known as Tyrone sits idly waiting for the political climate to improve for NSP to try again. There have been occasional rumblings of the company planning to build a coal burning plant at Tyrone.

The story of Tyrone really lends itself well to meeting Wisconsin History standard #10- Wisconsin’s Response to 20th Century change and U.S. History standard #10 – the search for prosperity and equal rights in Cold War and post-Cold War America, 1945 to the present. These standards are often not reached in many Wisconsin history classrooms. In addition, the environmental movement as an example of the two standards is almost never focused on. This brief unit beginning with this lesson will allow teachers and students alike to study a time of great social, economic and political change in our country in an unusual manner. The lessons are also very thought provoking and allow teachers to branch off into many different directions depending on their class’s skill and interest level. There are great opportunities for really advanced critical thinking.

Lesson #2

Who is an “environmental activist”?
Brainstorming and Analysis of Primary Written Documents

Length of Lesson- 1 class period (approx. 45 min)

Lesson Objectives-

  • Define the term “environmental activist”

  • Compare and contrast differing interpretations of the same events which impacted the environment of western Wisconsin in the 1970s

  • Explain why people come to different conclusions about the above mentioned events based on their generational perspective

  • Understand why Americans hold environmental protection at different levels of importance

Materials Needed-

Teacher Responsibilities-

  • Appoint groups (do not let students choose groups). Preferable group size is 3

  • Ask groups to brainstorm (10 MINUTES) the following questions (may adapt to please)

    • List as many words or phrases that come to mind when you hear the word “activist”.

    • List as many words or phrases that come to mind when you hear the word “environmentalist”.

    • List as many activities that an activist might engage in to push for change

    • What are some causes you may become involved in (8-10)?

    • Write one definition of the term “environmental activist”

  • List responses on board and discuss with all groups (10 minutes)

  • Distribute one letter and document analysis worksheet to each group for document analysis (7-8 minutes)

  • Assist students with analysis if necessary

  • Finish class with discussion of each letter (letters must be visible to all groups so project on screen or make overheads). Make sure to go through them chronologically. (15 minutes)

  • Finish with question- Are these letter writers activists? Is writing a letter something an activist would do?

Student Responsibilities-

  • Participate fully in group brainstorming activity and discussion

  • Complete NARA Document Analysis Worksheet

Lesson Content and Procedure-

In this lesson the teacher is trying to get students to reformulate what is an environmental activist in their minds. Most people have a pretty solid stereotype of the “environmental activist” embedded in their minds. Through the course of this lesson students may find out that activists take many shapes and activism takes many forms. Using two of our most sacred freedoms (speech and press) the people who wrote the letters in this lesson were trying to let everyone know that they were concerned enough to speak up and wanted to be heard. This is not to say that they held the same views on the subject of nuclear power and progress. Quite the contrary.

The letters take very different views of the Tyrone situation. The first is from a man who makes some interesting references to the New Deal Rural Electification program and eminent domain. The Leo Schaff letter makes reference to the trouble in Iran (an interesting side lesson) in 1979 and basically is saying that there must be sacrifices for progress. The third letter is from an activist nun, Sister Valerian Schuster. This can be very startling to kids these days who really do not have a prototype in their mind of nuns being politically active on more than one subject. This could also create opportunity for classes to research our nation’s various churches and their rich past of political activism for many causes, including environmental protection. The last letter is Clara Bauer’s response to Leo Schaff. This really emphasizes the “not in my backyard” theme of this unit.

Teacher should be sure to refresh class memory of what transpired in previous lesson. Emphasize the continuation of discovering the answers to the “big idea” questions of this unit. In addition, teachers must make sure that students know that letters written either to individuals or to the editor of newspapers convey the schema and context of the letterwriter’s life. This definitely affects the way the individual perceives events. One must always be cognizant of this fact and teach students to be on the lookout for this fact and allow it to help them understand the writing. The brainstorming and analysis of primary documents will only be successful if the teacher stays on task throughout the activity staying engaged with the groups to keep them focused and to make sure they realize the importance of the activity. The success of this lesson is also predicated on students already being able to effectively brainstorm in small groups and it is assumed that document analysis has already taken place. The National Archives analysis worksheets are incredible valuable in breaking down primary documents. With practice students do a lot of really high level analysis, synthesis and evaluation. However, be warned that it is not something that is done naturally. Students and teachers need to do analysis consistently throughout the year for best results.


  • Informal- teacher evaluation of Q/A and discussion

  • Formal assessment exercise- Scoring analysis worksheets (Teacher developed grade scale- suggest 10-12 pts)

Lesson #3

Hazardous Waste in Your Neighborhood

Length of Lesson- 1 class period (45 minutes)

Lesson Objectives-

  • Understand that environmentalism is universal

  • Identify facilities in their neighborhoods that deal with hazardous chemicals.

  • Recognize local, state and federal agencies responsible for environmental hazards in their communities.

  • Explain the effects of chemicals on humans, animals and the environment

Materials Needed-

Teacher Responsibilities-

  • Reserve Computer Lab

  • Test equipment to make sure everything works. All material can be made into a hard copy rather than done interactively if necessary.

  • Provide story of Love Canal. This can be distributed the day before as homework or can simply be discussed in class as website is projected for class

  • Introduce and lead students in discussion and search for information on internet and map

  • Ask the right questions

Student Responsibilities-

  • Participate fully in class discussion

  • Find a site or two in the map that intrigue and will be of interest over the next couple of days

  • Pay attention in the computer lab and respect equipment and classmates

Lesson Content-

This lesson is where the unit’s second big idea is addressed- the idea that Americans must always be vigilant about environmental protection because accidents can happen, waste can be dumped, factory farms can be built or water can be polluted right next door to anybody. First, the teachers must remind students of the story that has been told the previous two days. The people of Tyrone, WI were contentedly going about their lives when that all changed with one visit from a power company representative in 1972. This visit did not just change the lives of those families, but the lives of all people of Western Wisconsin. The teacher may want to ask students if the story of Tyrone could happen in their area. Maybe it already has. After perhaps five to ten minutes of discussion, the teacher should introduce the story of Love Canal (story may have been read as homework-SUGGESTED). After a discussion of Love Canal, justice, problems associated with toxic waste material and potential waste producers in the state of Wisconsin the teacher should once again project the map of Wisconsin on the big screen. This is the same map that was first introduced in lesson #1. Students should be interested in looking for possible environmental problem sites in their region of the state. The students may begin to look for particular sources on the web that will help them find information about past environmental hazards and areas deemed to be potential problem sites so therefore the state and other activist groups are watching them. This lesson is designed to get students to wake up from their complacency and begin to realize that it is the responsibility of all citizens to help monitor the wellbeing of our nation’s environment. This will lead into lesson #4.


EPA - This is an EPA site where students can enter their zip code and find out if there are any EPA identified potential problem sites in their areas. It is startling

DNR - WI DNR Environmental Protection homepage. Students can go a lot of directions from this site. It really shows how important environmental protection is to our state and how much there is to manage

WI DNR web site about managing run off from farms, possibly our state’s greatest environmental risk right now. Many people do not know about it or worry about it because it is not much in the news but, as shown on this site, it is a major concern

An article on factory farms

This is a map that shows the number factory farms by type in each county in WI. It is interactive and takes a few minutes to load

The Eau Claire based organization that helped fight the Tyrone plant as well as kept an eye on Flambeau and Crandon and was instrumental in initiating county-wide recycling in Eau Claire County. There is a nice history of western WI environmentalism on this site

Story of the successful fight against the Crandon Mine in Northeastern WI. The site is produced by Native American activists, but the story addresses how many groups rallied together, groups that might previously have been at odds with on another

Company produced look at the mine before and after reclamation


No Specific Formal Assessment Exercise

Informal- Teacher observation of on-task behavior and a post-class evaluation of success of lesson and level of discussion and questions for high level thinking.

Lesson #4

Environmental Activism must be a
Community Effort

Length of Lesson- One class period

Lesson Objectives-

  • Explain how environmental activism must be a community effort to succeed

  • Describe Alexis de Tocqueville’s explanation of American democracy as it relates to this unit.

  • Apply Tocqueville’s idea of American democracy in 1835 to the present.

  • Give examples of associations in our society that protect public welfare.

  • Distinguish between groups that protect or advance public welfare and those that do not.

Material needed-

Teacher responsibilities-

  • Organize classroom for fishbowl discussion

  • Select appropriate students for discussion. This is especially true if the class has never fish bowled before. If this is the first of this type of discussion it is imperative that it goes well.

  • Monitor time closely

  • Control students in and out of the fish bowl

  • Evaluate discussion and rate student performances

Student Responsibilities-

  • Read assigned reading

  • Thoughtfully prepare responses to accompanying questions

  • Respond and interact well in fishbowl if selected

  • Pay close attention and respect students in bowl if not selected

Lesson Content and Procedure-

This lesson focuses on Big Idea #3- Environmental activism must be a community effort to succeed. Tocqueville was enthralled with the nature of America’s settlement into small, generally rural communities. Of course, Wisconsin was not settled in 1835, but his study of the New England towns and the connections within and between those communities was a model which Wisconsin mirrors. Wisconsin is made up of many small towns within a few miles of one another. There is usually open communication between those towns. When one small town is effected by something major like a nuclear power plant it effects many small towns in the area. Individuals in those communities form associations and rally together to fight for what they believe in. This was unique in America in the 1830s and it is truly still unique to the region east of the Mississippi (generalization) today. Referring back to the historical eras and themes standards this unit is addressing, it is very important that students know that Wisconsinites would have responded very differently to 20th century changes had there not been such strong community bonds. It is also important that students see that community is central to seeking prosperity and supporting one another throughout Cold War and post-Cold War Wisconsin. This fish bowl discussion really takes a grand idea of Alexis de Tocqueville and makes it simple for kids to understand and take ownership in knowing.

Fish bowl lessons are incredibly effective and empowering for students, especially if organized and carried out consistently and thoroughly. A fish bowl works like this. The classroom should be organized with all desks or chairs around the perimeter of the room with space for 6-8 desks/chairs in the center of the room. All students should be given 15 minutes to read/write/think about what the teacher distributed. After silent time, 6-8 students are called to the center of the room. They pull their seats with them in a circle. The teacher begins the discussion by asking for a response to question #1. After the first volunteer speaks the rest of the students are expected to respond and discuss question #1 even if their response is the same as other students. The same process is followed for the remaining questions. The teacher’s only role is to keep the discussion progressing and keep the rest of the class involved and paying attention. If the discussion is good the first group may take up all of the class, if it lags the teacher may call in another group of students and follow the same process. It is important that students know that the teacher is going to be completing individual evaluation sheets on all participants immediately at the end of class. It is also important for students to know that they will all be participating in the fish bowl at some time or another and that it is always an important grade. The fish bowl works best when the school follows a block schedule. However, it can work on a traditional schedule. Readings and questions can be done as homework to speed thing up.



  • Teacher evaluation of discussion

Formal Assessment Exercise-

Teacher created grading scale for fish bowl. Teacher should have a standard method of grading if using for different units.

The Student Reading and Questions are attached


Community Activism & Citizenship Reading

Since the very beginnings of the United States of America more than 200 years ago, active citizens have created, and continue to create, countless volunteer groups to do everything from preventing an old tree from being cut down by town workers or supporting a new sewer system to stopping a prisoner's execution; from promoting animal rights to abolishing slavery.

Many active citizens made American history by working to end injustice or to fill a public need.
They launched movements:

  • to legislate the 40-hour week and 8-hour day

  • to win the right to bargain collectively with employers

  • to gain for women the right to vote

  • to provide citizens with safer food