Lesson Plan

Freeing the Elwha (A Long and Difficult Process)

Nature proved the Elwha Dam a failure in 1912 just a year after construction.

Overall Rating

Add your review
Grade Level:
Sixth Grade-Eighth Grade
Aquatic Studies, Ecological Engineering, Ecology, Environment, Environmental Law, Government, Hydrology, Law, Leadership, Planning/Development, Political Science, Social Studies, Wildlife Management
Two to Three Class Periods
Group Size:
Up to 36
National/State Standards:
Washington State Standards:
Reading: EALR 1 Comp 1.3, EALR 2: Comp 2.2, EALR 3: Comp 3.1, Comp 3.2
Social Studies: EALR 3: GEO, Comp 3.2, EALR 5: SOCIAL STUDIES SKILLS: Comp 5.2, Comp 5.4
Writing: EALR 1: Comp 1.6, EALR 2:Comp 2.2, EALR 3: Comp 3.1


It would be nice if a few sticks of dynamite could quickly remove a dam, but there are many big issues involved in dam removal, what are those issues and how do they relate to the Elwha River dam removal project?


  • 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.


In this lesson, students working in four groups will use Exploring Dam Removal: A Decision Making Guide, a web document published by American Rivers and Trout Unlimited, to research one of four issues involved in dam removal as it relates to the Elwha River. The students will synthesize their research for presentation to the class.


  • Computer/ internet access
  • Pencil and paper
  • Handouts



Reflection pages (see rubric)
Completed handouts
Final presentation (see rubric)

Last updated: February 28, 2015