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


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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • demonstrate an understanding of how rapid development of Eastern North Carolina affects the environment.
  • create a plan for careful development in North Carolina after listening to oral histories about development and the environment.

Teacher planning

Time required

One to two class periods


  • Access to the following oral histories:
    • Five-Hundred Year Flood Event (MP3) – Oral history excerpt from Billy Ray Hall, head of the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center, about development in flood plains
    • More Development (MP3) – Oral history excerpt from Steve Holland, business owner and hurricane survivor, about the impact of rapid development on the environment of Eastern North Carolina
    • Long-Range Planning (MP3) – Oral history excerpt from Steve Holland about the need for planning and regulations in development
  • Copies of the Flooding Oral Histories and Discussion handout — one per student
  • Computer with internet and speakers connected to a multimedia projector
  • CD player (in lieu of the computer, speakers and internet connection, if you have burned your own CD with the audio excerpts)
  • Development Plan Assignment handout — to project


Prior knowledge

  • Students should have learned basic information about the hydrosphere and movement of groundwater.
  • Students should have learned some basic information about Hurricane Floyd and its effects. You may want to have them explore this site from the UNC-Chapel Hill University Libraries to learn more.


Activity one: The hydrosphere

  1. Briefly review information about the hydrosphere and movement of groundwater.
  2. Lead a class discussion about the effects of development (e.g., new housing subdivisions, building of businesses and parking lots, and expansion of industry) on the environment. Some topics or ideas mentioned might be loss of wildlife habitat, pollution of air and water, erosion, noise pollution, and introduction of invasive non-native species. If students do not mention deforestation as an effect, be sure to bring the discussion to this topic.
  3. Discuss the impact of deforestation on the hydrologic cycle, making sure to cover this process: Loss of trees and plants leads to lessening of soil’s ability to absorb water. This unabsorbed water becomes runoff, which moves faster than water absorbed by soil, and the runoff can lead to flash flooding.

Activity two: Listening to the oral histories

  1. Give each student a copy of the Flooding Oral Histories and Discussion handout.
  2. Reading the introduction for and play the “Five-Hundred Year Flood Event” oral history excerpt.
  3. Discuss with the class the questions from the handout.
  4. Play the “More Development” oral history excerpt and discuss the corresponding questions from the handout.
  5. Play the “Long-Range Planning” oral history excerpt and discuss the questions on the handout.
  6. Facilitate a whole-class discussion about the common ideas expressed in the oral histories. Have students make connection between rapid development in Eastern North Carolina and the intense flooding in that region after Hurricane Floyd.

Activity three: Creating a better development plan

  1. Divide the class into small groups of four or five students.
  2. Give the groups time to brainstorm about how to avoid the problems with the water cycle due to development. Some prompts could be:
    1. What are the effects, both on the environment and the people of Eastern North Carolina, of letting developers build in the region?
    2. What are the benefits of allowing development? How much development is too much?
    3. What tasks or plans would you make developers to complete before they build?
    4. What specifically can you do to protect the water cycle in North Carolina?
  3. Project the Development Plan Assignment on the board and review the directions. Have small groups write a brief development plan for the region of Eastern North Carolina to present to the governor, focusing on preserving the water cycle and avoiding another destructive flood like that of Hurricane Floyd. This plan should clearly show benefits for the water cycle and movement of groundwater in the region.
  4. If time permits, ask groups to present their development plans to the “governor” (teacher) and “governor’s cabinet” (their classmates).


The plans developed by students should show thoughtful long-range planning to prevent damage to the hydrosphere. They should demonstrate that they understand that positive effects of limiting development on the water cycle, such as less deforestation, less erosion, more absorption of groundwater, and less chance of flash flooding. Students may also mention the positive effects for the residents of North Carolina, such as less destruction from flooding, better-planned housing and businesses, more land for farms and forests, etc. To successfully complete the assignment, students should mention at least three to four benefits of more careful planning.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Science (2010)
      • Earth and Environmental Science

        • EEn.2.3 Explain the structure and processes within the hydrosphere. EEn.2.3.1 Explain how water is an energy agent (currents and heat transfer). EEn.2.3.2 Explain how ground water and surface water interact.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Science (2005)

Grade 9–12 — Earth/Environmental Science

  • Goal 4: The learner will build an understanding of the hydrosphere and its interactions and influences on the lithosphere, the atmosphere, and environmental quality.
    • Objective 4.04: Evaluate water resources:
      • Storage and movement of groundwater.
      • Ecological services provided by the ocean
      • Environmental impacts of a growing human population.
      • Causes of natural and manmade contamination.