An Internet WebQuest
   .  Introduction
   .  Task
   .  Resources
   .  Time
   .  Process
   .  Conclusion
   .  Teacher Page
   .  Select WebQuest
BARRIER ISLANDS: TO BUILD OR NOT TO BUILD?

Introduction

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?

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Task

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.

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Resources

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.
http://travel.howstuffworks.com/barrier-island.htm

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.
http://www.cofc.edu/CGOInquiry/barrierislandprocess.htm

Rising Sea Levels and Moving Shorelines
Scroll down the page to read about how barrier islands may respond to rising sea levels.
http://www.whoi.edu/oceanus/viewArticle.do?id=2484

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Time

2 class periods; 40 minutes for research, 40 minutes to write letter to the editor.

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Process

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.

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Conclusion

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?

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