The devastation hurricanes can cause in the lives of humans is obvious – the Chesapeake Bay region saw it particularly bad with Hurricane Isabel in 2003. The effects on the environment may be less obvious, but these storms can stir up a lot of sediment that can harm shorelines and wildlife. But aquatic grasses can help lessen those effects by creating a barrier during damaging storms.
A few storms have threatened this year, but so far we’ve escaped unscathed. That doesn’t mean you can’t take the opportunity to teach your students about the effects of hurricanes and the importance of underwater grasses.
In this lesson plan from the Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE), your high school students can participate in a hands-on activity where they get to “Save the Beach” during a hurricane.
Using many common household items, students must build a barrier representing underwater bay or sea grasses to keep “sediment” (sand) from making its way to the “beach” when a large fan is turned on to simulate a hurricane.
The lesson asks students to make a connection between the way we protect our houses from hurricanes and the way we should protect our shorelines from them. By having students work in small groups to see who can create the best barrier, the lesson plan allows for some friendly competition as well as learning what methods did and did not work.
Once the activity has been completed, students will understand that underwater grasses perform a very important ecological service by stabilize sediments that could otherwise make water murky and difficult for aquatic life to survive.
COSEE’s Observing the Ocean
Sediment, soil and rocks teaching resources – Bay Backpack
Aquatic grass SAV teaching resources – Bay Backpack