If you look at a map of the eastern shoreline
of the United States, you can see that the
Atlantic and Gulf Coasts are lined by a series
of thin, elongated islands. These islands are known
as barrier islands because they provide barriers
to winds and ocean waves. These islands protect
the mainland by absorbing the energy produced
in hurricanes and normal winter storms. But
barrier islands are not just important geological
features. They also are unique ecosystems.
A barrier island usually consists of a wide
sandy beach facing the ocean, an area of one
or more sand dunes with anchoring beach grasses
and shrubs, and a wetland area that may consist
of a bay, a lagoon, or a marsh that lies between
the island and the mainland. These ecosystems
provide feeding, mating, and nesting areas
for shorebirds, commercial fish species, and
shellfish such as clams, oysters, and crabs.
These beaches, dunes, and wetlands also provide
important recreational activities for people.
The different uses of barrier islands result
in disagreements about how they are to be managed.
Should barrier islands be protected and left
undeveloped? Should people be allowed to build
homes and hotels on barrier islands?
Your job in this WebQuest is to develop an
educated opinion as to whether or not people
should build permanent structures on barrier
islands. You will need to learn about the geological
and physical nature of barrier islands, and
how barrier islands change over time. You will
look at development of barrier islands and
find out how the beaches on these islands are
maintained. You will find out how different
states handle the protection or development
of their barrier islands. You will also find
out what happens to permanent structures that
are built on barrier islands. Finally, you
will form an opinion as to whether permanent
structures should be built on barrier islands.
Once you have done your research, you will
prepare an open letter to the editor of a newspaper
in which you outline what you have learned
about barrier islands and state your opinion
on whether permanent structures should be built
there. Your letter should include information
about the geology and ecology of barrier islands
as well as the changes they are subject to.
Your goal is to convince readers of the newspaper
that your conclusion is correct, and to encourage
them to write to the appropriate agencies in
support of your position.
Look at the web sites given here to
find the information that will enable you to
form your opinion about permanent structures
built on barrier islands.
How Barrier Islands Work
Visit this site to learn what barrier islands are and how they are made.
Barrier Island Processes
What processes are involved in the creation of barrier islands? What processes act on barrier islands to constantly move and reshape them? Read the information at this site to learn more.
Rising Sea Levels and Moving Shorelines
Scroll down the page to read about how barrier islands may respond to rising sea levels.
2 class periods; 40 minutes for research,
40 minutes to write letter to the editor.
Now that you have completed your research
on the Internet, decide what you think should
be done with barrier islands. Should these
islands be developed? What types of development
should be allowed? Should any kind of development
be prohibited? Write a letter to the editor
of your local newspaper in which you develop
your answers to these questions. Be sure to
support your opinion with information from
your Internet research. Would you build a house
on a barrier island? Explain why or why not.
In the process of completing this WebQuest,
you've become informed about the importance
of barrier islands and how development of those
islands impacts both economic and environmental
factors. You have developed critical thinking
skills as you have explored the many different
factors involved in this issue. You have read
information to answer key questions and formed
an educated opinion. Finally, you have communicated
with others the results of your investigation.
Have you changed anybody's mind about the importance
of barrier islands?