Rutgers University Problem

How will the different zoning options affect the Bay?

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Spatial Literacy

Spatial Literacy


The people from the Barnegat Bay, NJ area are trying to make a decision on how to develop the land around the bay. Should they develop the land by adding houses or a hotel or should they not develop the land? You will make a recommendation after learning about the Bay and land area, different stakeholders around the Bay, and the potential environmental impact of each development option.

If you have a Cool Classroom student account, throughout the unit you will be able to save your answers to your journal.

Let's get started.



This Human Impact Adventure explores the Barnegat Bay ecosystem and potential land development options around the Bay. During this adventure, students work collaboratively to make a decision in a complex situation by taking into account science, social science, and the points of view of various stakeholders. The overarching question is how should a fictitious town zone a plot of land next to the Bay. Along the way, students learn how to determine the health of an ecosystem, how the Bay ecosystem and land usage patterns have changed over time, and what impacts humans and different development option could have on the Bay ecosystem. Through this unit students learn about what seagrasses are, how and where they grow, if their distribution has changed over time, the relationship between land development and the health of seagrass beds, the effects of nitrogen on segrasses, and the opinions of various stakeholders and human benefits of the different land development options. Students engage in problem-based learning, as they must compile all of the presented information to make a recommendation to the town Zoning Commission on which way the town should zone the plot of land. Data interpretation, model formation, and spatial literacy are just some of the science practices highlighted throughout the unit.

If you have a Cool Classroom user account, you will be able to view valuable teacher tips on every page.

To learn more about how to incorporate this unit in your classroom, check out the Unit Plan.

Unit Plan

Spatial Literacy Developers

Project Directors: Janice McDonnell and Ravit Duncan
Project Managers: Carrie Ferraro, Kristin Hunter-Thomson, and Sage Lichtenwalner
Writers: Laura Dunbar, Ravit Duncan, Carrie Ferraro, Carrie Ferwerda, Kristin Hunter-Thomson, Sage Lichtenwalner, Melissa Peterson, and Theresa Spataro
Flash Interactives: Igor Heifetz, Sage Lichtenwalner, Mike Mills, and Dave Smith
Interface Design: Bean Creative
Site Architecture/Coding: Sage Lichtenwalner
Science Advisers: Carrie Ferwerda, Scott Haag, Mike Kennish, and Rick Lathrop
Funded by: National Science Foundation (Award Number: 0730719, Award Title: COSEE Center – Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence – Networked Ocean World (COSEE-NOW)) & Dr. Kenneth and Mrs. Jane Charlesworth

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