East Beach ~ Barrier Beach

Classroom Activities
Pre-Trip Activities

 Orientation:  Students should familiarize themselves with the area that they will be visiting. They should identify roads, land changes, land uses and landmarks.

 Practice Profile:  Students should have the opportunity to practice making a profile (see next activity: How to Make a Beach Profile) to familiarize themselves with the equipment and methods of profiling. Have the students make a profile of a hilly area of the school yard or playground. This could also be used to measure the depth or height of snowdrifts during the winter. As an extension of this activity, students can graph the data collected from the beach profile conducted on the virtual field trip.

 How to Make a Beach Profile:  A profile is made of a sandy beach to monitor how it changes over time. By looking at profiles that are made over many years, we can determine if the beach is eroding or growing and if the sea level is rising or falling. A profile is a diagram that shows how high each part of the beach is above sea level. It shows the beach from the foot of the dunes to the water's edge. Your completed beach profile will be a cross-sectional view of East Beach.

To determine the degree of change in the beach face, you will survey the beach by taking height or elevation measurements. After you’ve completed your data collection, you will convert (if necessary) and plot your data on graph paper to get your beach profile.

  • 2 incremented poles with meter long string attached
  • Clipboard/ Pencil
  • Line level
  • Data collection table
  • Graph Paper

Note the tide stage when you begin and when you end. The poles are incremented but you are interested in the difference between the values marked on the two poles and not the actual values on the poles themselves. This will give you the difference in elevation between the two spots on the beach.
  1. You will be working from the water’s edge to the dune line in a straight line (or a line that is perpendicular to the water’s edge). Place one pole at the water’s edge. Stretch out the meter long string until it is taunt and orient the second pole towards the dunes. Align the poles along the line that is perpendicular to the water's edge and make sure that each pole is standing vertical (upright). The poles are now a meter apart.
  2. Attach the line level to the string. Move the string on pole #2 (the one closest to the dunes) up or down until the bubble on the level is in the center.  The line is now level.
  3. Note the numerical values on each pole and find the difference between the two numbers. This is the measurement in which you’re interested and the one that will be noted on your data sheet. Make sure to note whether the difference in the heights between the first and second poles is negative or positive. (This tells you whether the beach elevation is going up or down.) Example: The height of pole #1 is 60 cm.  The height of pole #2 is 80 cm.  The difference would be +20 cm (80 cm - 60 cm = +20 cm).
  4. After you’ve taken your first measurement (at meter 1 on your data sheet), lift the pole nearest the water. Move that pole (#1) so that it is now closest to the dunes in a straight line from the second pole (see diagram). You will always move the pole closest to the water (or downhill) while the one farthest from the water does not move.
  5. Level your line and note the difference in height between the poles. Record this measurement on the data sheet as the difference for the second meter.
  6. Continue moving the sea side pole towards the dune and noting the differences in elevation for each meter you move it until you reach the water’s edge.
  7. Now that you have completed taking the measurements needed to make your beach profile, plot the data you gathered. You’ll be making an X/Y graph of your data. The X axis will be the distance in meters (the length of the beach face) and the Y axis will be the height difference in centimeters.
  8. When geologists and surveyors profile a beach they start from a known elevation point on stable land that is known as a benchmark. We have done our surveys differently since we didn’t know the elevation at the base of the dunes. Our starting point is sea level, so at 0 m on the x-axis the height difference is 0 cm. Once you’ve plotted the positions along the beach and their height differences you will have a profile of what East Beach looked like on the day you made your measurements. On your graph, label the parts of the beach. Remember when you are plotting your data that the only value that starts at zero is the first meter position which started at sea level. All the rest of the height differences are relative to one another and therefore will be added to one another if they were positive or subtracted if they were negative.
    Position Height Difference
    1 meter 10 cm 1, 10
    2 meters 13 cm 2, 23
    3 meters 5 cm 3, 28

    If you were plotting this data, the x and y values you’d plot would be: (1,10), (2,23), (3,28). If you’re plotting by hand it’s very easy just to move up or down the appropriate number of spaces without even adding or subtracting the differences, but if you’re plotting this by computer you have to add (or subtract if negative values) the height differences before you generate a graph.

 Introduction to a quadrat study:  Discuss a random quadrat study and how they are used by scientists to obtain an accurate representative sample of what is found in a particular area. Discuss how quadrat studies were done in the virtual field trip to assess the amount of plant life in each area of the dunes. Provide each student with a piece of graph paper. Ask them to create a 10 by 10 square. Count the 100 squares and explain that the area inside the box is the surface area we are examining. Explain that each square inside the box is 1% of the surface area. Have students randomly color squares within this area. Have them write beside the box the surface area that they colored. Once this is mastered, students can use the data collected on the virtual field trip to color percentages of the plant life found at barrier beach.

 Practice Quadrat Study:  Students can gain experience in conducting a quadrat study of virtually anything on the ground in their school yard, or in their classroom. For example, have students count the population of grasses, insects, and weeds in a playground. In the classroom an "environment" of random objects can be created and the population of these objects can be estimated.

    1. Have students cut four strips of cardboard 12 inches long and 2 inches wide.  Glue or fasten the strips together to form a square. This is a quadrat.
    2. Have the students stand at the edge of the area to be studied.  The students then randomly toss their quadrat into the area.
    3. Once the quadrat has landed, it may not be moved.
    4. Students are to complete a census of all materials found within the boundaries of the quadrat.  Children may estimate the percent of ground area covered by any one material located within the quadrat.  Have the students record the results in a table and create a bar graph using the collected data.

Post Trip Activities
 Sand Identification Activity:  Collect large samples of sand from both the barrier beach and the salt pond beach. Distribute a smaller sample of each to groups of students within your classroom. Using microscopes, sifters, and the students senses, have them make observations and inferences about the size of the sand particles. Magnets and observation of color can be used to separate the composition of the sand. Encourage the students to make connections by asking guided questions about the effects of the wind, waves, and weather patterns on the pond as well as the beach.

 Plant Press:  Collect samples of non endangered plant life from the barrier beach. Have students dry these samples between sheets of paper. Once the plants are dry, they can be arranged into a collage and displayed in the classroom. Students can also research these plants in field books or on the internet and write a short description to attach to the collage.

 Plant Classification Activity:  Collect samples of non endangered plant life from the barrier beach. Put them out on a table and ask students to classify them in as many ways as possible after careful examination of their physical properties. Students can arrange their classifications into chart form and explain orally to their classmates their thought processes. Encourage the students to make connections, using guided questions pertaining to root types, plant types, and how each anchors the beach. If beach plants are unavailable, use similar grasses and succulents, such as garden sedum.

 Barrier Beach Mobile:  Students will enjoy creating a barrier beach mobile which displays the plant and animal life encountered during their virtual field trip. Obtain black and white pictures of life found at the barrier beach. Organize these pictures onto a worksheet. Your students can color, cut, and hang these pictures from a clothes hanger. Certain students may be stimulated by researching the accurate colors associated with these life forms.

 Travel Brochure:  Students will use the information provided to them in this web site to create a travel brochure for the Barrier Beach in Charlestown, Rhode Island. They should be encouraged to attract visitors to the area, but at the same time, educate them about the fragile environment they will be traveling to.

 Sand Dune Sequencing Activity:  Have the students draw the sand dune sequence as it would be seen from the water's edge back into the secondary dunes. Encourage the incorporation of plant and animal life which is evident in each particular zone. The swash line, back beach, beach debris, strand line, fore dune, primary dune, swale, and secondary dune areas should be labeled as they progress away from the shoreline.

Back to Pre-Activities ~ Post-Activities

Barrier Beach Table of Contents
Physical Characteristics ~ History
Land Use ~ Maps ~ Classroom Activities
Resources & References