Coastal Erosion

Joan Walker; Orange County Public Schools ( Creator) CPALMS ( Collection Developer)
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Simulation , Activity , Lesson/Lesson Plan
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



This engineering design lesson focuses on the effects of erosion on Florida's coastline. It is one lesson offered within a larger weathering and erosion unit. Students groups work to create and use a model able to slow erosion, without damaging the coastal ecosystem. Students are responsible for developing scale diagram of their coastline erosion solution before building and testing their models in a pan to simulate the coastline. Students then complete a redesign cycle. Similar lessons from the developer can be used in conjunction with this lesson to incorporate the effects of erosion on humans and wildlife.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Grade 5
  • Grade 4
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

3-5-ETS1-2 Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

Clarification Statement: none

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students should brainstorm possible solutions for creating erosion protection systems before beginning their designs. Ideas for designs could be listed on a class chart, with student groups choosing which design to implement.

4-ESS2-1 Make observations and/or measurements to provide evidence of the effects of weathering or the rate of erosion by water, ice, wind, or vegetation.

Clarification Statement: Examples of variables to test could include angle of slope in the downhill movement of water, amount of vegetation, speed of wind, relative rate of deposition, cycles of freezing and thawing of water, cycles of heating and cooling, and volume of water flow.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to a single form of weathering or erosion.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students should measure the height of sand on beach before and after erosion simulation to provide quantitative evidence of the effects of erosion on the beach area along with the qualitative appearance data. Consider using this activity as a weathering/erosion extension after students have collected information and have had prior experiences with weathering and erosion content knowledge.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Consider sharing photographs and/or videos with students of current beach erosion solutions to help students make connections between beach erosion and structures that engineers devise to prevent that erosion.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
( see Tips for Including the PE above)

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Be sure to be aware of aware of materials to be used so students will include them in their initial plans and diagrams. If possible, provide students the opportunity to select materials based on observations of erosion barriers. These observations will allow students to brainstorm how those barrier materials could be used in their designs. Encourage students to brainstorm other similar materials that might be useful in their designs. Teacher could assist students in citing evidence of material properties that mimic the strengths of materials already used.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Have students take photos of their beach area before and after the erosion simulation to use as citable evidence of engineering success or failure. Students should then compare these photos to those of other student groups, as well as to other photos of before and after erosion sites at erosion sites in the real world. To better address the cross cutting concept, teachers should ask students to determine the effect of their design solutions effects on the model coastline by identifying the likely causes for their success or failure. Teachers should provide students opportunity to explore the causes and effects of erosion previous to this lesson as the connection is not provided in the lesson itself.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This lesson integrates the three dimensions by charging students with engaging in several engineering practices through the context of coastal erosion and the effects of their solutions on the coastline shape and its ecosystem. It allows students to think as "citizen scientists" who can create a product to slow the effects of erosion. The design challenge is grade appropriate and connects to the phenomena of weathering and erosion on coastlines that can be easily observed and in some cases may even have local connections to students.

  • Instructional Supports: The lesson plan is detailed and allows for sequential development of the design challenge. It would be used in conjunction with a Weathering and Erosion Lesson Plan so that students would have content information and prior knowledge of erosion and weathering. This lesson does not provide support for ELL or special needs students.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Student progress would be judged based on illustrations and written observation comments. While the last part of the lesson plan allows students an opportunity to discuss vocabulary terms learned in prior lessons as they connect them to their design models, it is suggested that students label their illustrations with those terms when possible, or evaluate their designs while using and highlighting vocabulary terms.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: - none -