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Rocky Shores and Hardened Shorelines

Activity Description/Rationale

Rocky shores are represented often on newer coastlines, such as the Pacific.  They are less abundant on the east coast because our shorelines are older.  However, building of bulkheads, jetties, and other manmade structures create a similar ecosystem.  Rocky shores are a unique ecosystem, and conditions here are harsh.  Species who live here must have special adaptations.

In this lesson, we learn about the abiotic conditions of the rocky shore, how rocky shores are formed, and the adaptations of several organisms that inhabit this location.  We also reflect on how human activities and rocky shore organisms interact.  Further, we learn how “hardening of shorelines” impact species such as the horseshoe crab.

Estimated Time of Activity:

One 90 minute period


Goals: Process Skills, Content Knowledge, Attitudes: Students will…

  • describe the formation, ecological conditions, and human impacts on the rocky shore ecosystem, and the adaptations of the organisms that live there.



  • computer plus projector
  • video of waves crashing on rocky shore or bulkhead
  • powerpoint about rocky shores
  • optional: rock with attached barnacles
  • images of rocky shore organisms


Students exchange their species’ profiles and grade them according to the rubric (this will save the teacher time).

Review the conditions of the sandy beach ecosystem.


Activity Instructions:

  1. Watch the short video of waves crashing against rocky shore/ bulkhead/ jetty.
  2. Next have students brainstorm to describe the types of adaptations that an organism might need to live on the rocky shore.  Have them think about life processes: what would they eat? Where would they rest? Etc…
  3. Transition into the powerpoint, which begins with common rocky shore organisms and their adaptations to life on the rocky shore.
  4. Next the conditions on a rocky shore and formation of a rocky shore are described in the powerpoint.
  5. The questions at the end are questions students should be prepared to answer on the quiz in 3 weeks.
  6. Discuss assignment.



Investigate one plant and one animal that live exclusively on local rocky shores.  Create a one page species profile for each (format provided) using four or more sources. 





Instructor’s Notes:

Barnacles are extremely fun to observe!  Put the rock with barnacles into a clear bowl with seawater.  Allow the students to quietly take turns watching.  It takes a moment of quiet contemplation before they notice the cirri reaching for plankton in the water.


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