Educators' Guide

Development and Flooding: Is There a Connection?

In this lesson, students will take their knowledge about the hydrosphere and apply it to the issue of population growth and development. In particular, students will learn how increasing development in eastern North Carolina may have worsened the effects of flooding from Hurricane Floyd, due to lack of soil and tree absorption of run-off. Students will create their own development plans for North Carolina in small groups, explaining how their plan will benefit North Carolina’s water resources and environment.

For Grades 9-12 - Science

Learning Outcomes
Materials and Resources
Teacher Planning and Preparation
Curriculum Alignment

Learning outcomes

Students will learn about the rapid development of Eastern North Carolina, and analyze its effects on the environment.

Through listening to oral histories, students will observe the environmental effects of human development in a real-life situation.

Students will create a plan for careful development in North Carolina, and understand how it can benefit the environment.

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Materials and Resources

  • Resources available from this site:
    "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
    Oral history transcript and discussion questions (Word doc)

  • Technology necessary in the classroom:
    -Internet connection
    -headphones (preferred)
    -CD player (in lieu of the computer, speakers and internet connection, if you have burned your own CD with the audio excerpts).

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Teacher Planning

Time required for the lesson: 1-2 Consecutive class periods

Teacher Preparation

Listen to the three audio excerpts in advance of class.

Download oral history excerpts to your computer in preparation for class. (You may consider making a CD. This may help if you wish to use a CD player instead of a computer with speakers.) If you have an Internet connection in class, you do not have to download the oral histories, but may simply stream them from this site.

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Classroom Activities


Students should have learned basic information about the hydrosphere and movement of groundwater from textbook and other materials.

Students should have learned some basic information about Hurricane Floyd and its effects. You may want to have them explore this site to learn more.

Activity 1- The Hydrosphere

Briefly review information about the hydrosphere and movement of groundwater.

Lead class discussion about the effects of development (such as 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. Students should mention deforestation as an effect, or you should bring the discussion to this topic.

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 2 - Listening to the Oral Histories

Hand out oral history transcripts to students.

Read introduction and play "Five-Hundred Year Flood Event". (1 min 18 sec)

Discuss with class the questions from oral history transcript.

Play "More Development" (43 sec)

Discuss the questions from oral history transcript.

Play "Long-Range Planning" (55 sec)

Discuss the questions from oral history transcript.

Discuss 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 3 - Creating a Better Development Plan

  1. Divide class into small groups of 4-5 for development plan assignment.
  2. Give class time to brainstorm in groups about how to avoid the problems with the water cycle due to development. Some prompts could be:
    • What are the effects, both on the environment and the people of Eastern North Carolina, of letting developers build in the region?
    • What are the benefits of allowing development? How much development is too much?
    • What tasks or plans would you make developers to complete before they build?
    • What specifically can you do to protect the water cycle in North Carolina?
  3. 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).

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Development Plan Assignment: Together with your group, create a long-term plan for development of housing, businesses and industry for Eastern North Carolina that will help restore the hydrosphere and water cycle. Show that you understand the effects of development on the hydrosphere, and be creative in thinking of ways to limit those effects. Address requirements for developers, approximately how much development you will allow, and how your plan will benefit Eastern North Carolina and help prevent another flood disaster like that of Hurricane Floyd.

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 3-4 benefits of more careful planning.

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North Carolina Curriculum Alignment: Grades 9-12 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.
  • Environmental impacts of a growing human population.
  • Causes of natural and manmade contamination.

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