Lesson Plan

Castles on the Sand

Students getting their feet wet during sand castle building
Students work to build a sand castle in the beach environment while learning about barrier island dynamics.


Overall Rating

Add your review
1 hour
Group Size:
Up to 24 (4-8 breakout groups)
in the park


Students will construct sand castles while utilizing engineering materials to stabilize and protect their "investment".  Small groups of students will work together to select the location, construct and develop the castle, lay out and fabricate the defenses and discuss their design with the rest of the class during the "Castle Tour".  Students will observe the impact of the rising sea level (the incoming tide) on their development and engineering features


Students will be able to:
1) Work as a team to design and construct a sand castle
2) Incorporate engineering measure to stabilize and protect their castle (groins, jetties, dunes, bulkheads)
3) Describe the natural movement of barrier islands
4) Recognize the risk and expense of maintaining their castles
5) List cause and effects of regional and global sea-level rise.


Assateague Island National Seashore was established with the goal of balancing human use and recreation with the preservation of natural resources. As a barrier island adjacent to densely populated resort communities, Assateague is affected by of a wide range of natural and human forces. The weather, biota, and human visitors of the island all exert their influences on the physical and biological character of this unique and dynamic park. Barrier-island development is a risky business. Assateague Island is one of the few remaining natural barrier islands in the mid-Atlantic where the dynamic nature of the island is unencumbered by human development. Ocean City, Maryland, located north of Assateague Island, is an example of a heavily developed barrier island. Millions of people visit Ocean City each year and billions of dollars have been spent on city development since the 1930's. Barrier islands serve important functions such as protecting the coasts, sustaining unique ecosystems and providing habitat for a diversity of wildlife. The allure of waterfront properties and vacationing at the shore is strong and Ocean City is a valuable part of the regional economy. A balance is needed between conservation and further development.


Park Connections

In the 1950's, Assateague Island was slated to become another Ocean City. Visions of seaside vacation retreats and expectations of speculative profits from resale led some 3,200 parties to acquire 5,850 lots at Ocean Beach by the early 1960s, although fewer than 30 dwellings were constructed. Just as prospects looked brightest for the island's landowners, a storm on March 6, 1962, devastated Assateague. The protective dunes were severed in many places, and high winds and water destroyed all but the sturdiest structures. Only about 16 cottages, 17 gun clubs, and a few other buildings remained in the Maryland portion, many of them older structures on the relatively sheltered bay side outside the Ocean Beach subdivision. The road down the island was variously washed out and buried. The suitability of the shifting barrier island for private development, always a matter of doubt, was called much more widely into question.


Have students conduct a web search for "Ocean City beach replenishment project" and "FEMA Coastal Barrier Resources Act".

Have students peruse the Teach Ocean Science sea level rise modulehttp://teachoceanscience.net/teaching_resources/education_modules/barrier_islands_and_sea_level_rise/get_started/



Last updated: February 26, 2015