Lesson 806 – Islands in the Desert

Chiricahua National Monument is one of several sky islands in southeastern Arizona. Sky islands are isolated mountains surrounded by radically different lowland environments. Sky islands are unique and their special environment results in extraordinary biodiversity. As the elevation changes, so do the surrounding ecosystems and as the altitude increases, the temperature decreases.

Learning Objective

Students will learn about the uniqueness of the mountain ranges in the border of Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico.

Social Studies Standards

Power, Authority, & Governance: A, C

Discussion Prompts

  • How do people get selected to name natural wonders such as the mountains in these regions of the United States and Mexico? Discuss whether the name Sky Islands suits these mountain ranges, justifying your response. 
  • Discuss and describe what kind of life zone exists around the mountains close to you while comparing to the mountains in the video.
  • In the video, it appears that the Native Americans came to an agreement with the Europeans about their land. Discuss the process in which the agreement was made and if it was just. Were the indigenous people depicted fairly? Justify your answer.
  • Should average citizens be able to buy land in such a prestigious area like the Dragoon mountains? If 0.25-acres is considered an above-average size of land to build on a house, how much land should one person be allowed to buy in such areas? Explain your reasoning.

Lesson Activities

  • Create an illustration comparing the Sky Island Life Zones and Ocean Life Zones. Write a paragraph explaining the similarities and differences of the zones.
  • The host said in the video that there are more than 20 mountains, and each has its own personality. Write a creative story about 3 different mountain personalities, one from each area, (Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico) and how they came alive. Include at least three animals from the area in the story and add an illustration of the story. Use at least 5 paragraphs to explain the story in detail.
  • Create a scrapbook, as a form of preserving, presenting and arranging information from the different life zones that are important to the livelihood of the Native Americans around that area. Include photographs, printed media, and artwork in your work.
  • The Madrean Sky Islands features some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world but climate change, over-grazing, fire suppression, loss of predator, etc… have been impacting the area. Create a series of public service announcements to bring awareness to the region.


  • basin
  • biodiversity
  • coniferous
  • grassland
  • life zones
  • mountain range
  • oak woodland
  • prestige
  • suppression
  • yucca


In the Americas Season 8 Lesson Episode 6