-adapted from Glencoe webquest 9/06


If you look at a map of the eastern shoreline of the United States, you can see that the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts are lined by a series of thin, elongated islands. These islands are known as barrier islands because they provide barriers to winds and ocean waves. These islands protect the mainland by absorbing the energy produced in hurricanes and normal winter storms. But barrier islands are not just important geological features. They also are unique ecosystems.  These ecosystems provide feeding, mating, and nesting areas for shorebirds, commercial fish species, and shellfish such as clams, oysters, and crabs. These beaches, dunes, and wetlands also provide important recreational activities for people. The different uses of barrier islands result in disagreements about how they are to be managed. Should barrier islands be protected and left undeveloped? Should people be allowed to build homes and hotels on barrier islands?



Your job in this WebQuest is to develop an educated opinion as to whether or not people should build permanent structures on barrier islands.  Once you have done your research, you will prepare a "letter to the editor" of a newspaper in which you outline what you have learned about barrier islands and state your opinion on whether permanent structures should be built there. Your letter should include information about the geology and ecology of barrier islands as well as the changes they are subject to. Your goal is to convince readers of the newspaper that your conclusion is correct through educated arguements.


Look at the web sites given here to find the information that will enable you to form your opinion about permanent structures built on barrier islands.

     1.) What are barrier islands and how do they form?

The Atlantic Coastline: The Nature of Barrier Islands. Visit this web site to learn how the barrier islands of North Carolina's Outer Banks formed.

Barrier Island and Barrier Beaches. At this site you can find out more about how the barrier islands of Georgia formed.

How Barrier Islands Work. From the famous site, a quick and easy overview of how barrier islands are formed

2.) How do barrier islands change over time?

Louisiana's Barrier Islands: A Vanishing Resource. At this site you can learn about the changes in the barrier islands of Louisiana's Gulf Coast.

History of Georgia's Barrier Islands. As the name implies, this site gives you historical info on the barrier islands of Georgia and how they formed

     3.) How do various states handle development of barrier islands?

     4.) What kinds of development occur on barrier islands?

     5.) What happens to permanent structures built on barrier islands?


Approximately 2 class periods



Now that you have completed your research on the Internet, decide what you think should be done with barrier islands. Should these islands be developed? What types of development should be allowed? Should any kind of development be prohibited? Write a "letter to the editor" in which you develop your answers to these questions. Support your opinion with information from your Internet research. All questions above should be addressed in your letter to the editor.


Thorough answers to all questions: 5    10    15    20

Grammar and Spelling: 5   10   15    

Effort and Thoughtfullness: 5    10    15

Arguments based on research: 5     10     15      20

Peer Evaluation: 5       10      15      20

Overall: 90 points


In the process of completing this WebQuest, you've become informed about the importance of barrier islands and how development of those islands impacts both economic and environmental factors. You have developed critical thinking skills as you have explored the many different factors involved in this issue. You have read information to answer key questions and formed an educated opinion. Finally, you have communicated with others the results of your investigation. Have you changed anybody's mind about the importance of barrier islands?