Glencoe Life Science

Unit 5: Ecology

WebQuest Projects



In this web quest, students find the answers to key questions about barrier islands and do some research on the development of barrier islands. They learn how barrier islands are formed and changed, and discover the impacts of certain kinds of development on these fragile environments. Students learn about the advantages and disadvantages of development on barrier islands, then form an opinion about whether such development should be allowed in these areas. Finally, students write a letter to the editor in which they state, and provide support for, their opinions.



Students will form an opinion about the advisability of building permanent structures on barrier islands. Once they have done the appropriate Internet research, they will write letters to the editor of a newspaper in which they state their opinions and support their opinions with facts gleaned from their research. Their goal is to communicate with the general public and urge their audience to get involved in the issue.



Students will use the Internet links given to find out the answers to these questions.

  1. What are barrier islands and how do they form?

  2. How do barrier islands change over time?

  3. How do various states handle development of their islands?

  4. What kinds of development occur on barrier islands?

  5. What happens to permanent structures built on barrier islands?



2 class periods of 40 minutes each



As students progress through the list of web sites, you may help them refine their thinking skills by asking the following questions.

  1. Oysters generally grow best in brackish water lagoons between barrier islands and the mainland. Why do oyster shells and Native American potsherds sometimes show up on the beach side of barrier islands? How do these items indicate what is happening to these islands?

  2. What are the two ways in which barrier islands respond to changes in sea level?

  3. How do seawalls affect the beaches of barrier islands?

  4. Why was North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras Lighthouse moved?

  5. If you were to build a house on a barrier island, what factors would you have to take into consideration to ensure that your house would still be standing in 20 years?

  6. When a hurricane damages permanent structures on barrier islands, the federal government often pays for the damage. Knowing what you do about the geology of barrier islands, do you think this is a wise decision?

When students have completed their research, ask them to outline their letters before they begin the writing process. Have students exchange letters with a partner to make sure they have touched on all the important points.



Use the following rubric to evaluate students’ letters to the editor. You can assign any point structure to the rubric to equal the points assigned to this task.

Barrier Islands: To Build or not to Build? Evaluation

Research and
Gather Information
1.) Does not collect any information that relates to the topic2.) Collects very little information; some relates to the topic.
 3.) Collects basic information;
most relates to topic
4.) Collects a great deal of information; all relates to the topic
Shares Information1.) Does not relay any relevant information to public2.) Relays very little information to public
 3. ) Relays some basic information; most relates to public4.) Relays a great deal of information; all relates to topic
Conclusion1.) Presents illogical explanation for findings; addresses no questions2.) Presents illogical explanation for findings; addresses few questions
 3. ) Presents a logical explanation for findings; addresses some of the questions.4.) Presents a logical explanation for findings; addresses most of the questions
Grammar and Spelling1.) Frequent grammar and spelling errors. 2.) More than two grammar and spelling errors.
 3.) Only one or two errors in grammar and spelling4.) All grammar and spelling correct
Professionalism1.) Illegible handwriting, page dirty or torn2.) Legible handwriting, print hard to read, page dirty
 3.) Legible handwriting well-formed characters, clean copy4.) Word processed or typed, clean copy
Timeliness1.) Letter handed in more than one week late2.) Letter handed in up to one week late
 3.) Letter handed in up to two days late4.) Letter handed in on time



Students should be able to write persuasive letters that support their opinions about development of permanent structures on barrier islands.



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