Lesson Plan

Waves, Surf, Currents, and Sand:  The Equilibrium Defining the Barrier Islands

Three types of waves

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Grade Level:
Sixth Grade-Eighth Grade
Climate Change, Conservation, Earth Science, Environment, Geography, Geology, Hydrology, Landscapes, Oceans, Wilderness
45-50 minutes per class visit
Group Size:
Up to 24 (4-8 breakout groups)
National/State Standards:
6.E.2.3 and 6.L.2.3
7.P.1.1, 7.P.1.3, 7.E.1.3, and 7.E.1.5
8.E.2.2 and 8.L.4.2


We will focus on the power of the ocean and how it alters and reshapes this dynamic place.  We will look at pictures of storm damage and discuss the issues associated with developing barrier islands.  Students will participate in an activity that demonstrates the force of water in the movement of sand. 


The learner will be able to: 

  • Using Cape Lookout National Seashore as an example, describe the impact of water and wind and their roles in the balance/equilibrium between the sea and shore. 
  • Understand how waves and currents impact the distribution of sand forming and eroding beaches. 
  • Understand and describe the major ways humans disrupt the natural equilibrium between the sea and shore. 
  • Decide if human actions are beneficial or detrimental to this balance