Save Our Shore (Coastal Engineering)

American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Mary Lord eGFI
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Animation/Movie , Experiment/Lab Activity , Lesson/Lesson Plan , Phenomenon , Activity
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.



In Save our Shore, students can build upon prior knowledge they have of erosion and possibly relate to what they know of damage that was done by Hurricane Sandy or Hurricane Katrina. Save our Shore includes a two minute video showing Pacific coast erosion damage to engage the students in a phenomenon that affects many towns and home that live near water.  As students learn about coastal erosion they will be making sense of the role engineers play in protecting our shorelines. Students are challenged to develop a plan to help an imaginary town of Seaside manage a soil erosion problem. Using a wave tank and working in groups, students will modify the beach to alleviate as much sand erosion as possible using the materials they are provided.  They are challenged to include two policies that regulate human behavior and do not physicially alter the shoreline.


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

4-ESS3-2 Generate and compare multiple solutions to reduce the impacts of natural Earth processes on humans.

Clarification Statement: Examples of solutions could include designing an earthquake resistant building and improving monitoring of volcanic activity.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions.

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

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students will be working with a wave tank to develop and refine coastal management strategies. To best meet this Performance Expectation it is important for students to compare the designs that each group creates and how each design best meets the criteria (modify the beach to address immediate erosion concerns) of the problem. Students will evaluate their proposed solution to other groups solutions. How were different group proposals similar? How were they unique? Which proposal do you think met each of the four stakeholder’s needs best? Why?

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 appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
After watching the short erosion video and looking at pictures included with the lesson students are challenged to manage erosion problems. Students will use a wave tank to simulate wave erosion, and then as a group will decide how to best control beach erosion with the materials they are provided by the teacher. It is suggested that prior to setting up standardized wave tanks, students work in groups to plan and then illustrate their wave tank in their science journals. Discuss with students the importance of standardizing wave movement in each group. Students should decide the criteria they are measuring ahead of time and document this in their science journals. As a team, will they measure the heights of the coastline, the width of the coastline, the overall shape of the coastline, or the amount of sand pulled out to sea. Students will compare their solution to other groups. How well do you think the wave tank modeled engineering designs in the real world? How could the model be improved? Were there things you could have changed to improve your design? Students will compare the results of each groups design to see which met the criteria and constraints of the problem.

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
It is important for students to document the results as well as the observations of their trial. It is suggested they record their baseline data, then sketch the profile and top views of their coastline before and after generating waves. Students can observe and then sketch the wave patterns into their journals. Students will use their evidence to answer questions as they evaluate their data. How did the shoreline change? How much did it change?

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Students should be given enough time to communicate their proposed plan with their groups and then their class. It is important for students to have the opportunity to refine their ideas taking into account the feedback from the other groups.

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
As students work on policy ideas for the imaginary town of Seaside, it is suggested that the teacher not share the policy ideas that were included in the resource until students have had a chance to develop their own plan as a group.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource was not designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
It is suggested as the students are working in their groups that they are thinking about how plants, seawalls, jetties or other hard structures affect sand movement. It is also suggested that students define the system under study and its components. Can you tell what would happen to the sand if there were more native plants? How do the parts of the beach area and shore line work together? Could you use your model to reliably predict what would happen in a very severe storm?

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The practices, disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts work together to support students as they make sense of phenomena and design a solution to the problem of coastal erosion. It is suggested to make the crosscutting concept more explicit the students reflect on questioning as suggested in the tips.

  • Instructional Supports: This lesson engages students in an authentic and meaningful activity that reflects the practice of science and engineering in a real world scenario of a phenomena. Using the tips included, students engage in multiple practices that work together with disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts to support student learning. Students are given the opportunity to communicate their management plan to their class and are encouraged to refine their ideas using feedback from classmates.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Numerous websites and videos on coastal erosion, and protecting the coastline are referenced with this resource. Activity questions to evaluate student learning are provided with this activity. Scoring guidelines and rubrics to provide ongoing feedback to students are not available.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: - none -