Policy Notes



The Story



Instructor's Notes



Instructor Introduction | Learners | Standards | Process | Resources | Evaluation | Conclusion | Credits | Student Introduction Page


The Chinese government is in the process of building the world's largest dam across the Yangtse River. Because it is an ongoing project that is multi-faceted from a Social Studies perspective, it poses an interesting opportunity for learning and ongoing observation on many levels for many years to come.

This lesson delves into an issue that has ramifications on many levels: geographic, environmental, political, historical, commercial, agricultural and human. While it is controversial, there are clearly many positive aspects to the project as well as negative ones.


This lesson targets tenth grade social studies and also involves extensive use of language arts.

Learners will need basic understanding of Internet use and searches as well as grade level reading skills.

Curriculum Standards

Social Studies Standards Addressed

10.10 Students analyze instances of nation-building in the contemporary world in at least two of the following regions or countries: the Middle East, Africa, Mexico and other parts of Latin America, and China.

  1. Understand the challenges in the regions, including their geopolitical, cultural, military, and economic significance and the international relationships in which they are involved.
  2. Describe the recent history of the regions, including political divisions and systems, key leaders, religious issues, natural features, resources, and population patterns.
  3. Discuss the important trends in the regions today and whether they appear to serve the cause of individual freedom and democracy.

Language Arts Standards Addressed

2.0 Reading Comprehension (Focus on Informational Materials)

Students read and understand grade-level-appropriate material... including a wide variety of classic and contemporary literature, magazines, newspapers, and online information.

Structural Features of Informational Materials

    2.2 Prepare a bibliography of reference materials for a report using a variety of consumer, workplace, and public documents. Comprehension and Analysis of Grade-Level-Appropriate Text

    2.3 Generate relevant questions about readings on issues that can be researched.

    2.4 Synthesize the content from several sources or works by a single author dealing with a single issue; paraphrase the ideas and connect them to other sources and related topics to demonstrate comprehension.

    2.5 Extend ideas presented in primary or secondary sources through original analysis, evaluation, and elaboration.

    2.6 Demonstrate use of sophisticated learning tools by following technical directions (e.g., those found with graphic calculators and specialized software programs and in access guides to World Wide Web sites on the Internet).

Expository Critique

    2.7 Critique the logic of functional documents by examining the sequence of information and procedures in anticipation of possible reader misunderstandings.

    2.8 Evaluate the credibility of an author's argument or defense of a claim by critiquing the relationship between generalizations and evidence, the comprehensiveness of evidence, and the way in which the author's intent affects the structure and tone of the text (e.g., in professional journals, editorials, political speeches, primary source material).


1.0 Writing Strategies

Students write coherent and focused essays that convey a well-defined perspective and tightly reasoned argument. The writing demonstrates students' awareness of the audience and purpose. Students progress through the stages of the writing process as needed.
Organization and Focus

    1.1 Establish a controlling impression or coherent thesis that conveys a clear and distinctive perspective on the subject and maintain a consistent tone and focus throughout the piece of writing.

    1.2 Use precise language, action verbs, sensory details, appropriate modifiers, and the active rather than the passive voice.
    Research and Technology

    1.3 Use clear research questions and suitable research methods (e.g., library, electronic media, personal interview) to elicit and present evidence from primary and secondary sources.

    1.4 Develop the main ideas within the body of the composition through supporting evidence (e.g., scenarios, commonly held beliefs, hypotheses, definitions).

    1.5 Synthesize information from multiple sources and identify complexities and discrepancies in the information and the different perspectives found in each medium (e.g., almanacs, microfiche, news sources, in-depth field studies, speeches, journals, technical documents).

    1.6 Integrate quotations and citations into a written text while maintaining the flow of ideas.

    1.7 Use appropriate conventions for documentation in the text, notes, and bibliographies by adhering to those in style manuals (e.g., Modern Language Association Handbook, The Chicago Manual of Style).

    1.8 Design and publish documents by using advanced publishing software and graphic programs.

Evaluation and Revision

    1.9 Revise writing to improve the logic and coherence of the organization and controlling perspective, the precision of word choice, and the tone by taking into consideration the audience, purpose, and formality of the context.

    Most lessons don't just teach a block of content; they also implicitly teach one or more types of thinking. In addition to describing learning outcomes within traditional subject areas, describe what kind of thinking and communications skills were encouraged by this lesson. Inference-making? Critical thinking? Creative production? Creative problem-solving? Observation and categorization? Comparison? Teamwork? Compromise?


A conference of policy makers and leaders will soon meet to discuss the status of the Three gorges Dam Project on the Yangtse River. In groups of two, will prepare a briefing for this group in which they outline all sides of the issue. Their boss at the United States Department of State has called them into her office to say:

"There's a dam being build in China that is supposed to be the biggest in the world. We need a policy briefing about this project to present at the upcoming conference. It will need to include the following items:

  • Brief background about the project and the area including the rationale for the dam
  • Current status of the building project
  • Effects and projected effects on local people, the environment, commerce and archeological sites in the region
  • Perspectives from the Chinese government as well as those of environmental groups, engineering experts and other interested parties
  • A selection of photos and other support materials, such as maps or diagrams, that might be used to clarify the issues for the attendees."

Students will deliver a 1,000-word report that will include narrative on the issues along with appropriate illustrations, quotes, and reference citations as well as a 15-minute oral briefing using a PowerPoint presentation where one participant will present the story from the Chinese viewpoint and one will present a summary from an international perspective.

For more information about the subject refer to "The Issues" page.


If students know someone from the region or who has family in the area, they might bring that person in as a speaker or get a letter from that person to include in the presentation. This could possibly be done as a telecommunication activity with students in the Three Gorges area. However, the limited access to the Internet and limited use of English in the region would make this difficult.

Resources Needed

  • One teacher
  • Computer with Internet access
  • Word processing software
  • PowerPoint software
    Optional Resources
  • Great Wall Across the Yangtze - Video from PBS.org - This documentary about the controversial Three Gorges Dam on China's Yangtze River states the Chinese government's case for building the dam while reviewing the project's many consequences: the displacement of 1.5 million people, the imminent threat to regional wildlife and the loss of ancestral burial grounds and centuries-old temples that will be forever submerged beneath the dam's immense reservoir. Martin Sheen ("The West Wing") narrates.
  • Parent or other "friend of the class" to present any first-hand views or accounts from the region either in person or via e-mail
  • E-mail account to contact local person from the region

Last updated on Wednesday, July 2, 2003 3:06 PM . Based loosely on a template from The WebQuest Page

    The Assignment | The Issues | Evaluation | Conclusion | Instructor Notes  | Credits

Produced by Susan Connell at the Department of Educational Technology
San Diego State University
ET541 Instructor: Dr. Bob Hoffman
ET570 Instructor: Dr. Bernie Dodge
© 2003, Susan Connell, All right reserved