K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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.

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Related pages

  • Teaching suggestions: Graveyard of the Atlantic: Suggested activities for use with the article "Graveyard of the Atlantic," which explains why the waters off North Carolina's coast have been unusually treacherous for shipping.
  • Moving Cape Hatteras Lighthouse: Because of the threat of shoreline erosion, in 1999, the Cape Hatteras Light Station was successfully relocated 2,900 feet from the spot on which it had stood since 1870.
  • Navigating the inlets and havens: In this lesson plan, students read and analyze a primary source document written in the early 1700s that describes the inlets of the North Carolina coast. The students adopt the perspective of a contemporary ship's captain and discuss the importance of the information in the document.

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Learning Outcomes

  • Students will be able to:
    • recognize the relative location of North Carolina lighthouses
    • develop an understanding of maritime activities and coastal living

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

Three 45-minute class periods



Activity one: Vocabulary map

  1. Have the students create a vocabulary map for the word “relative location” on a 5 x 8 index card. The vocabulary map should include a student-generated definition, a sentence using the vocabulary word in context, and a colored illustration.

Activity two: Mapping activity/geography skills

  1. Have the students work in pairs on the North Carolina’s Outer Banks website at a computer to complete the Outer Banks map activity sheet and discover the relative location of the following North Carolina lighthouses: Currituck, Bodie Island, Cape Hatteras, Ocracoke, Cape Lookout, Cape Fear, Oak Island, Bald Head.
  2. Instruct the students to write the number from the map that correlates with the correct name of each lighthouse in the answer column.

Activity three: Reading internet sources and analyzing primary source documents

  1. Distribute a copy of the essential questions handout to each group
  2. Have the students work in small groups to answer the essential questions by reading the internet sources and evaluating the images from the Built Heritage Collection using the observation of images student handout:
  3. Hold a whole-class discussion at the end of the session for students to compare observations and share what they learned.

Activity four: Postcard home

  1. Ask students to imagine they are visiting one of the three lighthouses the class studied in the previous activity (Bald Head, Currituck, or Cape Hatteras).
  2. Give students a 5 x 8 index card and pastels or water colors to replicate the lighthouse chosen.
  3. Direct students to write a postcard to a friend or family member back home on the opposite side of the illustration.
  4. Students should include at least four details from the pre-reading activity in their postcard home to support what they learned about the lighthouse.

Extension activity

  • Have students use the Venn diagram handout to compare and contrast the similarities and differences of the three highlighted lighthouses — Old Baldy, Currituck, and Cape Hatteras

Critical vocabulary

relative location
one of the five themes of geography that describes the location of a place in relation to other places


  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • Grade 4

        • 4.G.1 Understand how human, environmental and technological factors affect the growth and development of North Carolina. 4.G.1.1 Summarize changes that have occurred in North Carolina since statehood (population growth, transportation, communication and land...
        • 4.H.2 Understand how notable structures, symbols and place names are significant to North Carolina. 4.H.2.1 Explain why important buildings, statues, monuments and place names are associated with the state's history. 4.H.2.2 Explain the historical significance...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Social Studies (2003)

Grade 4

  • Goal 1: The learner will apply the five themes of geography to North Carolina and its people.
    • Objective 1.01: Locate, in absolute and relative terms, major landforms, bodies of water and natural resources in North Carolina.
    • Objective 1.03: Suggest some influences that location has on life in North Carolina such as major cities, recreation areas, industry, and farms.