Idea for Use in the Classroom

Ask students what they think of when they see a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge. Tell students that the Brooklyn Bridge was considered to be one of the great wonders of the world when it first opened. Explain that the bridge was built to modify the environment and allow for the crossing of the East River during the winter.

Direct students to the infographic and ask: What would be the biggest challenge facing builders of the bridge?

Review with students the process using the caissons. How does this process modify the environment? How might that process disrupt the ecosystem of the river?

Then review the boxes discussing human activity across the bridge. Ask: What would be the impact of the increased transportation and human activity going back and forth across the bridge?

Break students into small groups, assigning each group a topic about the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. (These could include the reasons for building the bridge, a more detailed look at the construction, the life of the sandhogs, the danger of working in the caissons and getting the “bends,” or the Roebling family.) Have students share their findings with the class, perhaps modeling how a suspension bridge solves problems that another kind of bridge (arch, beam, or truss) would not be able to solve.


structure connecting areas otherwise difficult to travel.

Brooklyn Bridge

suspension bridge connecting the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn; constructed during the period 1869–1883.


water-tight chamber that opens at the bottom and contains enough pressurized air to conduct underwater work.


arrangement of different parts.


community and interactions of living and nonliving things in an area.


conditions that surround and influence an organism or community.


movement of people or goods from one place to another.