Idea for Use in the Classroom

The wetlands bordering the Gulf of Mexico have tremendous natural resources, including oil reserves. But the wetlands are threatened by many human-made intrusions, some specifically caused by the oil industry.

Examine the current state of the Gulf of Mexico with your students using the accompanying Endangered Wetlands Map. First, using GoogleMaps, locate and project the area depicted in the graphic and have students make observations about the area. Then share the Endangered Wetlands map and give students time to review and take notes on the various effects oil rigs and pipelines have on the wetlands. Be sure to direct students to the legend and discuss or review the terms together.

As a class, create a T-chart of the pros and cons of running the oil pipelines from the ocean through the wetlands. Discuss these questions:

  1. How does erosion and new land formation put the area’s wildlife in danger?
  2. How does development impede the natural regeneration of the marshland?
  3. How do pipelines create risks of oil spills, mixing salt and fresh water, and pollution, and what are the effects if these problems occur?

Then, using resources online or in the library, have students research the proposal to create a large-scale diversion of the Mississippi River to feed the marshes (mentioned in item one of the accompanying map, New Delta Land). Students will then write a short essay either in favor of or against this plan, concentrating on long-term effects on the land, using data from their research.


the flat, low-lying plain that sometimes forms at the mouth of a river from deposits of sediments.


to direct away from a familiar path.


portion of an ocean or sea that penetrates land.


wetland area usually covered by a shallow layer of seawater or freshwater.

natural resource

a material that humans take from the natural environment to survive, to satisfy their needs, or to trade with others.

oil reserve

petroleum from a specific reservoir that can be successfully brought to the surface.


series of pipes used to transport liquids or gases over long distances.


area of land covered by shallow water or saturated by water.