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Wetlands: Wonderlands or Wastelands?. A WebQuest for Biology I Designed by Jamie Follin jfollin@vt.edu. Introduction.

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wetlands wonderlands or wastelands

Wetlands:Wonderlands or Wastelands?

A WebQuest for Biology I

Designed by

Jamie Follin



Often, when people think of a swamp or bog (or the many other types of wetlands) they think of an ugly, mosquito-infested, extremely muggy, and wasteful piece of land that is devoid of any valuable wildlife or purpose. However, this is simply not true - as you will learn during this WebQuest.

You are a Louisiana resident who owns a substantial amount of undeveloped land that is classified as a wetland. You are now trying to decide how this land would best be used. Will you keep the land or will you sell it? What are your land-use options? At the end of this WebQuest, you will better understand wetlands and will be equipped to make an informed decision about your property’s future.

your task
Your Task

Using the Internet, you will gather specific information regarding wetlands.

In order to organize and reflect upon your learning, you will create a summary brochure that can then be distributed to assist others in their decision-making process.

Lastly, you will write a decision summary. What exactly did you decide to do with your wetland and why?

  • First, you will be assigned to work with three other “landowners”. This will provide a chance for you to collaborate and discuss this important decision with others in a similar circumstance.
  • Second, the group needs to discuss what they already know, or think they know, about wetlands. Include any initial reactions of what a wetland is and what purposes it may serve. Identify the information needed to make a decision. One landowner should be the recorder for the group. This list needs to be turned in once completed.
  • Third, your team will need to gather information regarding wetlands by going to the following website:


This website will serve as your main source for information. However, feel free to supplement information gathered on this site with other reputable sites. Make sure you know the following:

    • Definition(s)
    • Role in water quality and hydrology
    • Animals and plants that live in this habitat
    • The resources we obtain from wetlands (wild rice, fish, shellfish, cranberries, timber, etc.)
    • Benefits to society (flood control, pollution filter)
  • Fourth, you will need to make a 6-sided brochure which reviews learned information (do NOT include your decision). The brochure is to be done separately by each landowner and should include the following (in order):
    • Title page: (1) Name, (2) WebQuest title, (3) Wetland photo, and (4) Purpose of brochure
    • Wetland Overview: (1) Definition(s), (2) Current and past distributions, and (3) Various classifications
    • Functions/Value: Provided fish and wildlife habitat
    • Functions/Value continued: Economic, recreational, and aesthetic benefits
    • Functions/Value continued: Impact of wetland loss on ecosystem, humans, etc. (advantages and disadvantages)
    • Summary: (1) What you found interesting/surprising, (2) Concluding thoughts on experience
  • Fifth, each landowner will need to write up a summary decision. This needs to be at least 2 pages, double-spaced. What decision did you make and why? Be specific. Will you leave the land as-is? Will you farm the land for fish, wild rice, cranberries, etc? Will you fill in the wetland and develop the area for your own personal use? Will you sell your land to a developer or business? Will you sell your land to an environmental group such as The Nature Conservancy? These are just a few of the many options you have. There is no right or wrong answer, but you need to explain your decision in detail and show a thorough thought process.

Each landowner will receive an individual grade. This assignment is based on a total of 100 points.


This WebQuest should have clarified why wetlands are wonderlands instead of wastelands. Hopefully, you have found some surprising and interesting information regarding this habitat that directly affects us all.

As you should have discovered through your research, wetlands are currently declining at an alarming rate. Go to http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/monitor/ to find out more about what’s being done.

Lastly, the decision to impact wetlands has been simplified for our purposes. However, there are many restrictions and regulations regarding wetland development. Go to http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/landasst.html to find out a landowner’s more realistic options in regard to wetlands.

teacher page
Teacher Page

Content Area and Grade Level

This lesson is designed for high school students enrolled in Biology I. This most commonly includes students in grades 9-10.

Biology SOLs Addressed

BIO.9 The student will investigate and understand dynamic equilibria within populations, communities, and ecosystems. Key concepts include

  • Interactions within and among populations including limiting factors
  • Nutrient cycling with energy flow through ecosystems
  • The effects of natural events and human influences on ecosystems
  • Analysis of local ecosystems

Technology Use

Through this WebQuest, students will understand how technology, specifically the Internet and Microsoft Word, can be used to enhance their learning. Students will gain experience in gathering information from reputable websites and in using search engines to broaden research findings. They will also gain experience using Microsoft Word to produce a brochure and decision summary. Accordingly, they will practice basic computer skills (typing speed and accuracy, using the keyboard, turning a computer on and off, saving and printing a document, and using various menus and icons.

Possible Variations

An effective way to introduce students to wetlands is to organize a field trip to a local wetland(s). Students could then see for themselves the diverse flora and fauna in a wetland as well as how they affect and are affected by surrounding developed areas. If time permits, students could be taken to several different wetland types, allowing them to see for themselves the diverse conditions which make up a wetland.

Students and teacher could invite a local wildlife biologist to visit class and discuss local wetlands and answer questions. This would allow students to talk to a professional who applies what students are learning in class on a daily basis in his/her job.

Students could be divided into teams provided with what will do with their wetland. Students would then have to research how their purposes would be served and/or impeded by a wetland.

This WebQuest could be adapted to higher-level biology courses by adding the task that students must research the effects of a specific wetland removal as discussed in the scientific literature. Students could also be given the task of researching what current wetland regulations are in place for a given assigned state, county, etc.