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CareerStart lessons: Grade seven

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

Learning outcomes

Students will understand the controversy surrounding the construction of the Three Gorges Dam and will be able to express and support viewpoints from the perspective of individuals whose careers and lives are affected by its construction.

Teacher preparation

Time required for lesson

Approximately 70 minutes. Homework time will be needed.

Materials needed


  1. Introduce the lesson by familiarizing students with the Three Gorges Dam, a huge dam built on the Yangtze River in China. Construction of the structure was completed in 2006. Have students read the article “Landsat Watches as China Constructs Giant Dam” or watch the United Streaming video Changing China: Three Gorges Dam.
  2. Draw two columns on the board entitled “Pros” and “Cons.”
  3. Brainstorm with the class the potential benefits of the Three Gorges Dam. (Examples may include flood control, electricity, reliable water supply, recreation, improved economy.) Write the students’ responses in the “Pros” column.
  4. Brainstorm with the class the possible drawbacks of the dam. (Examples may include loss of homes and farmland, environmental problems, impact on cultural and geographical resources representing China’s historic past.) Write the students’ responses in the “Cons” column.
  5. Ask the students to list all the jobs they can think of that might be affected by the construction of the dam, e. g. farmers, construction workers, financial advisors, engineers, archaeologists, environmentalists, government officials, tourists, etc.
  6. Tell the students that today some of them will assume the roles of workers who are affected by the dam construction. They will present their viewpoints in an informal debate. Students who don’t assume roles will participate as audience members deciding which side presents the strongest arguments.
  7. Pass out the role cards to nine students. Instruct these students to study their roles and determine whether they hold pro or con positions. Each of these students should be prepared to share his or her position and to support his or her viewpoint. Allow time for role players to read their roles and prepare brief arguments. (This may be given as homework if time is limited.) The remaining students are the debate audience. Pass out the dam debate notes worksheet to each of the audience members. Tell them that while the debaters are presenting their viewpoints, they are to take notes under each position and determine who makes the strongest arguments.
  8. When the role players are ready to present, divide them into two groups: Those in favor of the dam construction or “the Pros” and those against the construction, “the Cons.” The Pros will present their viewpoints first, followed by the Cons. Inform the speakers of the following guidelines:
    • Each student must stand to present his/her point of view.
    • Each student must share what he or she does for a living before presenting the viewpoint.
    • Only one person may speak at a time.
    • Students will respect others with active listening.
  9. When all the role players have presented their viewpoints, encourage questions from the audience. Role players should respond to questions as their characters would respond.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Social Studies (2003)

Grade 7

  • Goal 3: The learner will analyze the impact of interactions between humans and their physical environments in Africa, Asia, and Australia.
    • Objective 3.01: Identify ways in which people of selected areas in Africa, Asia, and Australia have used, altered, and adapted to their environments in order to meet their needs and evaluate the impact of their actions on the development of cultures and regions.
    • Objective 3.02: Describe the environmental impact of regional activities such as deforestation, urbanization, and industrialization and evaluate their significance to the global community.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Speaking & Listening

        • Grade 7
          • 7.SL.3 Delineate a speaker’s argument and specific claims, evaluating the soundness of the reasoning and the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • Grade 7

        • 7.G.1 Understand how geography, demographic trends, and environmental conditions shape modern societies and regions. 7.G.1.1 Explain how environmental conditions and human response to those conditions influence modern societies and regions (e.g. natural barriers,...