Lesson Plan

Freeing the Elwha (Should the Dams on the Elwha be Removed? A Classroom Debate)

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Grade Level:
Sixth Grade-Eighth Grade
Aquatic Studies, Civic Engagement, Community, Ecological Engineering, Ecology, Environment, Environmental Law, Government, Hydrology, Law, Leadership, Planning/Development, Political Science, Public Policy, Social Studies, Wildlife Management
One Class Period
Group Size:
Up to 36
management, elwha river, elwha dam, debate, sustainability, dam removal


Dams have been useful to human populations in providing water and energy for development of wilderness areas. Should we remove dams that have outlived their use in order to enhance the sustainability of natural and human communities?


  • Identify the purpose of the Homestead Act;
  • Decide what was needed to move west during the 1800s;
  • Describe the day-to-day life of homesteaders;
  • Explore who moved onto the Olympic peninsula;
  • Develop a time line for events and developments along the Elwha River and Port Angeles, WA.


For this lesson, we direct you to The American Field Guide at: http://www.pbs.org/americanfieldguide/teachers/salmon/salmon_unit.html
They have built a fantastic lesson plan for the debate over the removal of the dams on the Elwha River. We brainstormed some answers for the Environmental Decision Making Model for this lesson which we've included here.