Land and People: Finding a Balance
Grade Level: 6-12
This environmental study project allows a group of students to consider real
environmental dilemmas concerning water use and provide solutions to these dilemmas.
The student packet (see Materials below) gives students most of the information
they'll need to answer the Focus Question, information such as maps, data, background,
a reading about the region, and a description of the "Interested Parties,"
or the various interest groups that have a stake in the outcome of the Focus
Question. While they are working on this project, each member of the group will
take a role or become one of the interested parties. At the end of this project,
each group will be asked to present and justify a solution to the environmental
This activity is a case study of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The USGS Learning
Web features similar project materials for environmental problems in the Everglades
and Los Angeles at http://interactive2.usgs.gov/learningweb/students/landpeople.htm.
Printed copies of Student Materials for each student, available at http://interactive2.usgs.gov/learningweb/pdf/landpeople/CapeCodst.pdf.
- Distribute Student Materials. Ask students to read the first article from
"The Enemy Within: The Struggle to Clean Up Cape Cod's Military Superfund
Site" by Seth Rolbein, Chapter 1: A Watershed Place, A Watershed Moment,
- Discuss the article and the Focus Question as a class:
"Cape Cod has a serious problem with its groundwater. During the past
six decades, activities of the Massachusetts Military Reservation - formerly
known as Camp Edwards, then Otis Air Force Base - on the Upper Cape have resulted
in contamination of billions of gallons of underground water. (The Upper Cape
is the western part of Cape Cod, including the following towns: Bourne, Sandwich,
Barnstable, Mashpee, and Falmouth.)
"You and your group are members of a blue-ribbon panel that has been
formed to present a plan for providing safe, drinkable water to the Upper
Cape for the next 10 years. You know of the contamination problem of the underground
water supply. You also know how many Cape Cod residents will require water;
your panel has been given data that describe the predicted increase in the
region's population. Now, you and the members of your panel must figure out
how the Upper Cape will meet its need for safe groundwater in spite of the
vulnerability of its water supply to contamination."
- Divide the class into groups of six. One person should represent each Interested
Party (the military, regulatory agencies, municipal water managers, cancer
victims' rights group, environmentalists, homeowners). More information about
these parties can be found in the Student Materials.
- Each group should research, discuss, and debate the focus question and come
up with a solution to the problem. Have the groups present their solutions
to the class.