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The Shell Island Dilemma - Educator's Guide

The Shell Island Dilemma is an inquiry simulation. Students investigate the issues concerning the fate of the Shell Island Resort and then debate the future of this and other oceanfront structures threatened by coastal erosion. As students engage in the investigation, they identify the social, political, and scientific issues with which different stakeholders must deal. Students place themselves into the role of one of the stakeholders. Questions are used throughout the simulation to focus students' inquiry during their exploration.

Students are first presented with a video clip that introduces the dilemma. After being introduced to the problem, students are to select their stakeholder role. The roles for this simulation include:

  • The Shell Island Resort homeowners,
  • The Wrightsville Beach town manager,
  • North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission members,
  • Coastal engineers,
  • Coastal scientists, and
  • Members of the environmental advocacy organization, North Carolina Coastal Federation.

    Each stakeholder role screen includes a brief description of the role and a recommended list of important resources to review. The resources include authentic documents and photographs, including aerial photographs illustrating the recent history of the migration of Mason's Inlet, photographs of the Shell Island Resort, newspaper articles, statements from coastal engineers, permit applications to construct a hard structure, and meeting proceedings from the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission. After students review the resources, they are to prepare a statement to decide what should be the next course of action regarding the Shell Island Resort. Students present their statement in a debate to decide the future of the Shell Island Resort.

    Each student also completes a Position Statement Handout. After students have had enough time to review the resources and prepare their position statements, a class debate is held to decide the next course of action. When the debate is complete, students take a vote on the proposed solutions and conclude the debate when a consensus of 2/3 of the class agrees on a proposed solution. A Student Record Sheet Assessment is completed by each individual student at the conclusion of the debate.

    Suggested answers to the questions in the Position Statement Handout and the Student Record Sheet Assessment can be found below.

    The Shell Island Dilemma can also be used in your classroom as a JIGSAW II small group learning activity. Students work together in expert groups on an information seeking task. The groups are then reorganized so that an exchange of ideas and information occurs by peer tutoring.



    Position Statement Handout

    1. Is your position for or against building a hard structure to protect the Shell Island Resort?
    Suggested answer(s): Answers will vary. The Shell Island Resort homeowners and the coastal engineers will most likely be in favor of building a hard structure to protect the Shell Island Resort. The North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission members, coastal scientists, and the members of the environmental advocacy organization, North Carolina Coastal Federation will most likely be against building a hard structure to protect the Shell Island Resort.

    2. What arguments support your position?
    Suggested answer(s): Answers will vary. Those in favor of building a hard structure to protect the Shell Island Resort might argue they have property investments and did not know they were building near an inlet hazard zone. Those against building a hard structure to protect the Shell Island Resort might argue that the NC law restricts placing a hard structure on public beaches. Also, one might argue that building a hard structure will obstruct natural sediment movements and inlet migrations. This obstruction will result in additional problems further down the shoreline.

    3. What other individuals, interest groups, or organizations do you think would agree with your position?
    Suggested answer(s): Answers will vary. Most likely, the Shell Island Resort homeowners and the coastal engineers will agree with each other and the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission members, coastal scientists, and the members of the environmental advocacy organization, North Carolina Coastal Federation, will agree with each other.

    4. What other individuals, interest groups, or organizations do you think would disagree with your position?
    Suggested answer(s): This is an open-ended question. Answers will vary. Refer to question 3 above.

    5. What are some arguments against your position?
    Suggested answer(s): This is an open-ended question. Answers will vary. Refer to number 2 above.

    6. How would you respond to these arguments?
    Suggested answer(s): This is an open-ended question. Answers will vary.


    Student Record Sheet Assessment

    1. List all individuals, interest groups, or organizations that were in favor of building a hard structure to protect the Shell Island Resort.
    Suggested answer(s): Answers will vary depending on the classroom debate.

    2. List all individuals, interest groups, or organizations that were opposed to building a hard structure to protect the Shell Island Resort.
    Suggested answer(s): Answers will vary depending on the classroom debate.

    3. What environmental concerns were identified regarding the issue?
    Suggested answer(s): This is an open-ended question. Answers will vary depending on the classroom debate. Building a hard structure will obstruct natural sediment movements and inlet migrations. A sea wall halts the natural shoreward movement of sand, and the beach in front of the wall tends to erode away under the waves' relentless pounding. This results in additional problems further down the shoreline. The threat of long-term damage to adjoining properties by hardened barriers is also a concern.

    4. What economic concerns were identified regarding the issue?
    Suggested answer(s): This is an open-ended question. Answers will vary depending on the classroom debate. Some stakeholders are concerned about who will provide funding to save the resort. Some stakeholders want public funds to pay to save the resort, while others believe the resort homeowners should incur all costs. Also, erosion resulting from a sea wall can lead to expensive beach replenishment efforts to salvage the shoreline for public use.

    5. What are the short-term costs and benefits of the proposal?
    Suggested answer(s): This is an open-ended question. Answers will vary depending on the classroom debate. The cost of constructing a sea wall is the main short-term cost and the main short-term benefit is the protection of the Shell Island Resort.

    6. What are the long-term costs and benefits of the proposal?
    Suggested answer(s): This is an open-ended question. Answers will vary depending on the classroom debate. Building a sea wall on a public beach is a long term cost. This takes away from the recreational enjoyment of the beach. A long-term benefit is the protection of the Shell Island Resort.

    7. List the 3 strongest arguments in favor of building a hard structure to protect the Shell Island Resort.
    Suggested answer(s): This is an open-ended question. Answers will vary depending on the classroom debate.

    8. List the 3 strongest arguments against building a hard structure to protect the Shell Island Resort.
    Suggested answer(s): This is an open-ended question. Answers will vary depending on the classroom debate.

    9. How would you personally vote on this issue? Justify your answer.
    Suggested answer(s): This is an open-ended question. Answers will vary.




    Educator's Guide | Carolina Coastal Photojournal | The Shell Island Dilemma | Inquiry Images | Coastal Research Technology | Relocating A Lighthouse

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