Multiple Perspectives on the Three Gorges Dam

Grades 6-8 Economics, Environment/Nature, Geography, Science/Technology Lesson or Unit Plan

In this lesson, students will explore the pros and cons of the Three Gorges Dam, using classroom text and the attached websites. They will explore the effects of the dam on the Yangtze River, including displaced Chinese, flooded farmland, and renewable power. Students will walk away from this lesson with a comprehensive knowledge of how the Three Gorges Dam has affected China.

Title: Multiple Perspectives on the Three Gorges Dam
Author: Deborah vanDoren
Subject Area: Social Studies
Grade Level: 6-8
Time Required: Two 1-hour periods
Standards: NCTE standard 7
Input Standards:

Geography 14:
Students will analyze how human actions modify the physical environment.

Geography 16:
Students will consider the changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution, and importance of resources.

Geography 18:
Students will apply geography to interpret the present and plan for the future.

(Source:http://www.nationalgeographic.com/xpeditions/standards/matrix.html)
Common Core State Reading Standards: Students will read closely to determine what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it. Students will cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions from a text.
(Source:http://www.corestandards.org/assets/CCSSI_ELA%20Standards.pdf)

Keywords/Vocabulary:
  • water diversion
  • relocation
  • impact
  • stake-holder
  • sustainability
  • hydro-electric power
  • drought
  • tributary
  • gorge
  • archeological
  • reservoir
Essential Question(s): The impact of human actions on the environment can be complicated, affecting some people positively and some people negatively.
Learning Objectives/Goals/Aims:
  • Students will organize their learning using a K-W-L Chart.
  • Students will identify facts about the Yangtze River and the Three Gorges Dam by examining pictures from a slide show, and listening to the teacher.
  • Students will gather specific information from a film clip.
  • Students will work in partnerships to identify the arguments for and against the construction of the dam.
  • Students will consider and organize information about this technological advancement that has brought about social, political and economic changes.
  • Students will gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of development and its impact on individuals and the environment.
  • Students will strengthen their critical thinking skills by identifying and evaluating differing viewpoints.
Introduction: In this lesson, students will explore the pros and cons of the Three Gorges Dam, using classroom text and the attached websites. They will explore the effects of the dam on the Yangtze River, including displaced Chinese, flooded farmland, and renewable power. Students will walk away from this lesson with a comprehensive knowledge of how the Three Gorges Dam has affected China.

China’s Three Gorges Dam is the largest hydroelectric dam on the planet. It generates electricity, increases the Yangtze River’s shipping capacity, and reduces the potential for floods downstream by providing flood storage space in its reservoir.

However, this feat of engineering has also displaced over 1.3 million people and caused significant ecological changes. This lesson will provide students an opportunity to explore how the creation of the Three Gorges Dam has affected various stakeholders differently.

Procedure/Pedagogical Technique/Instructional Strategy: 

Part 1: K-W-L Chart

On chart paper, fill in the Know section of the K-W-L Chart as a class. Students might only know that China is a country in Asia, that rivers flow downhill, and that dams stop water flow.

Know Want to Know Learn
China
The Yangtze River
Rivers in general
The Three Gorges Dam
Dams in general

Part 2: The Slideshow

Show students the slide show of images taken from Wikipedia. This slideshow includes maps of the Yangtze River in China as well as the location of the Three Gorges Dam. Provide some general facts about the Yangtze River and the Three Gorges Dam. Have students write down at least 5 facts that they learned from the slide show and your talk.Potential facts to include (source: Wikipedia)

  • The Yangtze River is the longest river in Asia and the third longest river in the world.
  • It flows from the glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau all the way east across China to Shanghai.
  • For thousands of years, man has used this river for water, irrigation, sanitation, transportation, industry, boundary marking and war.
  • Historically, the Yangtze River has also been massively destructive. In 1931, for example, 145,000 people drowned in Yangtze River floods. In the summer of 1998, the flooding of the Yangtze River caused over 3,700 deaths and 15 million people to lose their homes.
  • In an effort to fix this problem, the Chinese government decided to build the Three Gorges Dam. Not only would it control the flooding of the Yangtze River, it would also be the largest hydroelectric power station in the world, providing enough power for New York City, Boston, and Washington, DC combined!

Part 3: The Film Clip

Distribute the provided worksheet to students before they watch the video clip from the website How Stuff Works. It’s fast-paced, so they may need to watch it twice to answer the questions. http://adventure.howstuffworks.com/

Class discussion: Use the students’ responses to Question 4 of the Film Clip worksheet to fill in the second “Want to Learn” section of the K-W-L Chart.If you are dividing this lesson into two days, this is a good break point. For homework, students can define the key vocabulary terms.

Part 4: Identifying arguments for and against the Dam

For this activity, students work in pairs. Ideally, partners are at about the same reading level. Give each pair of students one copy of an article and two differently colored highlighters. Direct the students to read the articles together. Instruct one student to highlight all the arguments he or she can find in favor of the dam and the other student to highlight in a different color all the arguments against the dam. After students have finished highlighting their article, they can fill in a T-Chart of the arguments for and against the dam’s construction that they found in their articles.DifferentiationYou can pull a small group of strugglers or demonstrate high-lighting the pros and cons of the argument to the whole group using the Wikipedia paragraph provided.*

Grade level readers could be given “China Opens World’s Largest Dam” from PBS News Hour Extra.http://www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/features/jan-june03/dam_6-18.html*

Above grade level readers will be challenged by How Stuff Works’ “Why could China’s Three Gorges Dam cause an environmental disaster?”
http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/three-gorges-dam-disaster2.htm*

Another option for advanced students is to provide the Chinese US Embassy’s Introduction to the Three Gorges Project. http://www.china-embassy.org/eng/zt/sxgc/t36502.htm

As a whole class, create a T- Chart of the arguments for and against the dam’s construction. Your Pro-Con T Chart might include:

Pros Cons
The dam controls the Yangtze River floods, saving lives and homes Loss of fish and extinction of the river dolphin
The dam is a major source of renewable power, replacing coal as a source of power Flooding of good farmland
The dam has made it possible for ships (commercial and recreational) to travel much further inland. Destruction of archeology sites
The dam is a tourist attraction. Relocation of 1.3 million people
The dam is a tourist attraction. May be triggering landslides, endangering millions of people
Rise in water born disease from polluted water
Weight of the reservoir may trigger earthquakes

Part 5: The Stakeholders

As a whole class, have students brainstorm a list of the stakeholders in this controversy. Your list might include:
For:

  • The Chinese government
  • Shipping companies
  • Dam builders
  • Hydro-power companies
  • People who have lost loved-ones due to past flooding
  • Clean energy advocates

Against:

  • Farmers forced to relocate
  • The Yangtze River dolphin (now extinct)
  • Environmentalists
  • Archeologists
  • Geologists

Part 6: The Point of View Essay

Assign (or allow students to choose) a particular stakeholder to consider. Have students write an essay about the Three Gorges Dam from the perspective of that particular stakeholder.

Discussion Points/ GroupInteraction:
Assessment: Students can be assessed on:

  • Participation in class discussions
  • Completion of worksheets and graphic organizers
  • Contributions to partner work
  • Completion of point of view essay
Closure:  As a whole class, fill in the final (Learned) section of the K-W-L Chart. Then, discuss whether or not building the Three Gorges Dam was a positive thing for China.
Instructional Resources/ Materials: For this exercise, teachers will need:

  • Copies of articles about the construction of the dam in China
  • Highlighters, two colors per pair of students
  • Chart paper
  • Markers
  • Film Clip Worksheet
  • Display method for showing on line video clips and slideshow
Extending the Lesson / Follow-up Activity: Students can write poems or songs from the point of view of one of the Three Gorges Dam stakeholders.

Students can debate whether construction should continue on the Xiluodu (second largest dam in China after the Three Gorges) in Yunnan Province. http://www.internationalrivers.org/china/jinsha-river/xiluodu-and-xiangjiaba-dam-lower-jinsha-river

Resource Type: Lesson Plan
Caterogy: Grades 6-8 Economics, Environment/Nature, Geography, Science/Technology Lesson or Unit Plan

Author

Teach China Team

Teach China is a comprehensive professional development program offered by China Institute to provide a wealth of opportunities for K-12 educators to enhance their knowledge of China, past and present. We take an interdisciplinary approach consistent with national and state-mandated standards in order to help educators incorporate the teaching of China into all subjects and grade levels, including Mandarin language learning, the humanities, social studies, and the arts. Teach China promotes cross-cultural understanding through the use and creation of authentic materials, the presentation of balanced perspectives, and the fostering of enduring connections between educators around the world.