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Dam-it? I Just Don't Know!?!
Prep For Teachers
After you have made an exhaustive list of all the impacts of large dams, divide your students into groups of 4-5 and give each group butcher paper. Explain to each group that they are to make a chart with "positive benefits" on one side and "negative consequences" on the other. As a group, students should list all the impacts the class has identified as either "positive" or "negative" and place them in the correct place on the chart. Ask students if any could be classified as both "positive" and "negative." Ask students if they think there are any consequences they didn't think of. Ask them if the "positive" or "negative" classification is a matter of perspective. Can an impact be "positive" for one group of people and "negative" for another?
(Guide students to realize that structures as large as dams have a multitude of impacts and it can be hard to identify all of them. Encourage them to consider how one impact can cause a second impact, which can cause a third. Also lead them to see that what might be positive for a farmer may be negative for a fisherman and that, yes, perspective can matter in assigning "positive" and "negative" labels to the impacts.)
(There are approximately 800,000 dams total in the world today. Of these, about 45,000 of them are 500 ft or taller, classifying them as large dams. In the past, large dams were almost entirely viewed as signs of progress and the triumph of human endeavor. But recently many have begun to criticize dams due to their perceived negative effects. Supporters point to the provision of electric power, irrigation for agriculture and water supply. Opponents contend dams favor the wealthy and industry, destroy native fisheries, are not cost effective and even increase CO2 emissions. They have begun to call for the dismantling of large dams. The debate has increased in the past decade.)
Check for comprehension.
Ask students to expand upon this idea of antecedents and consequences between the Hoover Dam project and the Three Rivers Gorge project. How is the Hoover Dam an antecedent to the Three Rivers Project? How do you think the construction of the Hoover Dam affected the current Three Rivers Project?
PLAY the introduction of the Three Gorges Dam video. The video begins after the Discovery Channel introduction with water flowing down a mountainside. Actress Jodie Foster sets the stage for the Three Gorges Dam project. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to find similarities between the Hoover Dam project and the Three Gorges Dam project. PLAY the tape until the music starts and the dragon begins to dance across the screen. PAUSE the tape and check for student comprehension. What similarities did the students find?
Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to find further similarities between the two dams. PLAY from the moment you paused until the title of the video, Hoover Dam appears. Check for comprehension.
Ask your students to predict how the Hoover Dam would change the environment around it, as well as the people who worked the dam. Was there anything around the dam before construction began? What developed as a result of construction? Where did the workers come from? Did they stay? If they did, where did they stay? How did they change the land?
Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to pay close attention to how the Colorado River was viewed at the time and what was the solution of policy-makers. RESUME the video and PLAY until Guy Louis Rocha of the Nevada State Archivist explains how the river was viewed as an enemy that had to be tamed.
Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION,
asking them to pay close attention to how the Yangtze River is viewed
and what the solution policy-makers have come to. PLAY the Three
Gorges video from the time when the title appears on the screen until
the narrator says… "They now think they have a solution; to build one
of the world's largest dams and tame one of the world's wildest rivers."
Ask your students how the flooding situation along the Colorado in the 1930's compares with the 1998 flood of the Yangtze. Lead them to see that the destruction and misery caused by the wild Yangtze was much the same as the destruction caused by the Colorado.
Explain to your students that the decisions made at the time of the Hoover Dam construction must be taken in context. The river was an enemy that destroyed cropland, ruined lives and cost millions of dollars. In the same way the Yangtze is viewed by many Chinese as an enemy that almost destabilized the Chinese economy and killed thousands of people in its '98 flood.
PLAY about 20 min. ahead into the Hoover
video from where you left off. Show the students how the dam was constructed
by using diversion tunnels and coffer dams. PLAY about 4 min. ahead
into the Three Gorges video from where you left off. Show the students
how the dam was constructed by using a diversion canal and coffer dams.
STOP when the scene changes to the cranes far above the construction
Ask the students if the basic method of dam construction has changed much in the last 70 years.
Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to pay close attention to how the Hoover project and the Three Gorges project differ.
PLAY the Three Gorges video beginning another 15 min. from where you left off, when the scene shifts from the shipping of the Yangtze to a city of nearly 1 million inhabitants along the river's shore. STOP the video about 5 min. later just after the graphic which demonstrates what will happen to the city when the reservoir fills and covers it. PLAY the Hoover video from the place you last paused until Tommy Nelson comes on to talk of his experiences as a worker. STOP the video just before Tommy begins to talk about being a trumpet player.
Then instruct the students to create a large Venn Diagram on butcher paper with large print and colors to be used in the presentation of their position.
Encourage students to argue from a historical perspective considering the knowledge available at the time. Also encourage them to argue from the perspective of different physical and human environments at each site.
The National Teacher