Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Filling Up Florida

Shari Rodgers


Students study factors controlling Florida's population growth and related environmental impacts. Students research natural community types and construct maps (including a large-sized map of Florida) to be used for role play/simulation activity.


The student knows the positive and negative consequences of human action on the Earth's systems.

The student knows that all biotic and abiotic factors are interrelated and that if one factor is changed or removed, it impacts the availability of other resources within the system.

The student understands that humans are a part of an ecosystem and their activities may deliberately or inadvertently alter the equilibrium in ecosystems.


-Banner paper (amount will depend on available classroom space)
-Drawing materials (pens, markers)
-Magazines to cut up
-Photos of Old Florida
-Reference books on Florida, Florida Ecology, Ecology, and/or computers with Internet access
-Blank maps of Florida, one for each group of 2-3 students (These maps can be as simple as a rough outline of the state with room for drawings.)
-Name tags (or index cards) with roles for role play/simulation activity


1. Create a large, eye-catching map of Florida on banner paper to be hung in the room on the day the activity will begin.
2. Locate materials for research.
3. Make arrangements for computer/library resource use.
4. Duplicate blank outline maps of Florida on typing paper, one for every group of 2-3 students.
5. Prepare notes on population growth, human impacts to natural systems. (See number 3 under Procedures.) (Also see weblinks for supplemental information.)
6. Create a stack of index cards or name tags with possible roles for role play activity.
7. Gather other required materials.



1. Do the following before class:
Draw out a large-sized outline of Florida on banner paper. It can be anywhere from poster-sized to five or six feet high, depending on classroom space and material availability. Decorate it with an eye-catching title line, outline it in glitter, etc. Hang it somewhere in the room on the first day of the activity to stimulate curiosity.

2. As a class, brainstorm a list of all the positive and negative factors (developers, tourists, endangered species, plentiful water supply) that contribute to the growth or maintenance of a population.

3. Using Lecture Notes in the Associated Files, lead a lecture/discussion with student taking notes on the following topics:
--Consequences of human action on the Earthís systems
--Definitions of biotic and abiotic environmental factors
--Ecosystems (definition and examples)
--Equilibrium (definition and example)


4. In small groups of 2-3, either at the library or on computers, have students research the factors controlling populations. Considerations vital to Florida would be things such as tourism, 1000 new people moving to Florida each day, amount of available resources (especially water,) resource management, conservation, fire suppression, endangered species, etc. You may want to assign a particular research topic to each group, depending on the students' prior knowledge.


5. When research is completed, each group gets their own copy of a blank map of Florida. Students transfer their most interesting research findings onto their maps. This can be in the form of written information, drawings, or both. Some examples may include indicating potential water sources, population data by area, and areas important for wildlife.

6. Circulate and help the students decide where their groupís strengths lie in terms of research. Each group should have a particular focus on their individual map.


7. Bring the class back together and begin the fun part- building a class-sized Florida! Use the life-sized outline of Florida drawn on banner paper, lay it on the floor, or put it up on the wall somewhere, and either have the students come up and add their information to the map, or designate a student from each group to add to the map, or have the students tell you what they want to contribute to the map. For example, a group might want to focus on penciling in habitats, important waterways, population data, etc., whatever their determined strength was from their research and individual maps. Another group might want to consider borders with other states and/or islands off the coast and how these factors might play into population. Each group presentation should be from 5-10 minutes.

8. When Florida is done, students will draw roles for the role play/simulation.

9. You will need two travel agents to recruit tourists, many tourists, developers, potential land buyers, government employees (South Florida Water Management District Employees) plant and animal species (endangered or otherwise), bodies of water. You may even choose to have students be specific organisms (lobbying for space), such as osprey, panthers, or pines. The roles chosen will differ each time you do this activity, based on the students' research interests.

10. After roles are picked, students should collect an item for homework that would best represent their role (a pine cone representing a pine stand, a bowl of water to represent a lake, a photo of an animal glued onto cardboard, a toy tractor representing development).


11. Let the population shifting begin! Students must wear their role nametags and begin inhabiting Florida. Wildlife gets to go first. Allow wildlife 5 minutes to choose their positions, either on the actual map itself or in the classroom, depending on how big and open the banner of Florida is. Lakes should be placed appropriately. Osprey can build and place their nests, and forests should form. Once all of the natural communities are placed on the map, have a brief discussion about unspoiled Florida, Florida in the 1800ís. Provide photos and/or maps; students can sit around the map. Create an atmosphere of the state before the people.

12. Try to keep the map in a section of the room where it can stay set up or take it apart and set it back up at the beginning of the next class if space is limited.

13. Next is Florida growth day. Travel agents meet with tourists to try and sell vacation packages to Florida. Real estate agents and developers sell land at the expense of the wildlife. If three people come to build or vacation in an animalís habitat, that animal must relocate to another part of the map or die (discuss relocating, adapting, or dying). When a species can no longer find a place on the map, it must leave and become extinct.

14. Simulation and/or discussion should last no longer than a class period and should be guided by the teacher based on individual objectives. Older students should be encouraged to propose solutions for sustainability.


15. Come back together as a class and conduct a review of terms and concepts. (See number 3; use Teacher Lecture Notes in Associated File if you would like) and have students contribute ideas about what they learned about these concepts during the research and simulation.)

16. Teacher assesses project. (See associated file.)


Formative assessment:

1. Assess research information detailed on individual group maps.
2. Use rubric to assess group work success during oral presentation when students put their information onto the larger class map. (See Rubric in Associated File.) Offer guidance and feedback with each part of the lesson and monitor students closely to make sure they are on task and are working toward gathering the information they will need to complete the lesson.

Summative Assessment:
Use the Pre and Post Test. (See pages 5 and 6 in the Associated File.) Use the pretest to determine the areas that students will need to research and discuss. Use the answer key to assess students on the post test.


The description of this activity is purposefully a bit vague so that it can be tailored to a variety of classroom situations, grade levels, and subject areas.

Younger students can use this activity and stick more to the actual construction of the map and turn the changes in land use into a game format. Older students should be encouraged to do more extensive research, and perhaps put their findings to work in a paper or oral report on a particular ecosystem or ecological topic of interest to them.

Math teachers can use this activity for conversions, bringing the map of Florida down to size. Actual numbers may be used as part of the activity and population totals can be calculated and graphs drawn.

This is also suitable for Social Studies when studying the exchange of goods, land use, economics, and human relationships with wildlife.

Art students can concentrate on map design and display it in your school.
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