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Interpreting the Evidence

Citizen Taking Action for the Environment

  • Historical Eras:

    Contemporary United States (1965 - present)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Middle School
    High School

  • Topics:


  • Primary Source Types:

    Written Document

  • Regions:

    Central New York
    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load My File Upload - January 28, 2021 in Main Image Viewer
  2. Load My File Upload - January 28, 2021 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Topics: Argumentative writing, Sustainable energy source debate

 Skills: Citing textual evidence, Determine the meaning of unknown words, main idea, & point of view

 ​​​​​​​This document shows the opinion of one resident on the construction of local windmills and an authentic example of argumentative writing being used in real life.

 ​​​​​​​Historical Context: As the demand and price for oil have grown in the past few decades, Americans have looked to find other sources of energy.  One of these sources of energy, wind power, has created controversy.  Proponents of wind energy have argued that it is a clean, renewable energy source, while opponents have argued that windmills mar the landscape.  In many towns throughout New York State and across the country, officials have had to determine whether they will allow windmills to be constructed locally.  Letters, such as the Letter to the Kirkland Town Board, are kept as records of the public’s attitudes toward this construction. 

Essential Question:  How do records, such as the Letter to the Kirkland Town Board, influence legislative decisions?  

Document Analysis:

  1. Document Analysis:
    1. If students will not be completing the online version of this learning activity, distribute copies of the Letter to the Kirkland Town Board and Written Document Analysis Graphic Organizer.
    2. Have students read through the letter silently on their own as an initial introduction to its contents  Discuss the use of the word “windmills” What are some differences between traditional windmills and modern wind turbines? Provide photos of each.
    3. Provide a brief overview of the graphic organizer.  Students will work with a partner to complete each component.  For Parts 1, 2, and 3, students will select sentences or phrases from the letter that they believe support the overall argument of the letter.  They will then complete the rest of the organizer.
    4. Once all pairs have completed the organizer, they will work with another partner to compare and discuss their selections for Part 1, 2, and 3, as well as their overall summary of the main idea of the document.
    5. Following the discussion in groups, discuss these components as a class.  Include the following questions within the conversation:

                                                               i.      What arguments does the author make to support her beliefs?

                                                             ii.      What particular words or phrases does the author use that is persuasive and/or deeply conveys her message?

                                                           iii.      How valuable do you believe each of the author’s arguments to be?  In other words, are they good arguments?  What language or ideas could the author use to further support each argument?

                                                           iv.      Based on the text, what inferences can be drawn about other arguments both for and against putting up windmills?

                                                             v.      How might this letter influence the town board in their decision?

    1. Discuss the “I wonder” section of the organizer and potential further research.
    2. Think-Pair-Share: What would at least two arguments be against putting up windmills? 

Check for Understanding:

Ticket Out the Door: In a brief paragraph, answer the Essential Question. 

Optional Extension Activity

The following activity could be completed in order to extend students’ thinking and encourage them to make connections:

1. Read more about wind turbines. While wind turbines are considered a valuable way to harness wind energy, many people are against turbines being built in their area. Read about some local places that have started to use wind energy (one example: Jiminy Peak Ski Mountain in Hancock, MA). Are the turbines worth building or are they just an eyesore? Are the turbines actually harmful to birds and bats?