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New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection


6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Biology, Engineering, Computer Science and Design Thinking

Resource Types

  • Activity - Classroom
  • Worksheet

Regional Focus

North America, United States, USA - Northeast, New Jersey, Jersey Shore



Ecological Design Challenge: Spring Lake

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  • In this activity, students will design a plan to build a vegetated embankment to stabilize the shoreline and reduce flood damage in Spring Lake, New Jersey.
  • The plans must include criteria for successful completion and ideas for how the site will be monitored. 
  • This activity is a part of New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection's educational program, Building Ecological Solutions for Coastal Community Hazards. 
Teaching Tips


  • This activity gives students a chance to use design thinking skills to solve real-world problems.
  • The instructions and images of the actual site are included in the PDF.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Teachers may want to discuss types of structural features that can help prevent flooding and erosion before students begin the activity.
  • This NJ DEP site provides photographs, site assessments, permitting documents, and other information about the project.
  • Teachers may want to share this rubric with students to provide clear expectations for the activity.


  • Students could work individually, in pairs, or in small groups.
  • Teachers could extend the activity into a larger project, including three-dimensional models, posters, slideshows, or diagrams to explain their plans.
  • Biology classes could research native plants that have deep enough root systems to keep the vegetated embankment from eroding that can also withstand periodic flooding.
  • Science students could discuss the following questions:
    • Is it better to use one type of plant on the embankment or a variety of plants?
    • Should the embankment be planted with full-grown plants or is it better to use seedlings?
    • Are any of the plants susceptible to being eaten by animals or succumbing to disease?
  • Other resources on this topic include this TED-Ed video on the dangers of invasive species and this game where students build a town while preserving the health of a lake.
Scientist Notes
Students will be able to think creatively to innovate ecological solutions to stabilize shorelines from tidal flooding and storm surges. This resource is recommended for teaching.

This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

  • Science
    • ETS1: Engineering Design
      • MS-ETS1-4. Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.
      • HS-ETS1-2. Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.
      • HS-ETS1-3. Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.
    • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
      • HS-LS2-7. Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.
  • Related Resources


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