Love Canal was a suburban neighborhood of the city of Niagara Falls, New York. In the late 1970's it became clear that very serious environmental hazards were having impact on the residents of this small community. The land underneath the homes, schools, and parks of this neighborhood had been used as a hazardous waste dump for many different groups from the 1920's through the late 1940's. The dump became a landfill, and seemed innocuous from above. However, noxious wastes which had been inadequately handled were rising to the surface.

As a result of civic activism, the scandal that was Love Canal was brought before various levels of government. Love Canal became the first EPA "Superfund" site, where government money was used to clean up an environmental disaster. The success of this venture is questionable, and it opens many controversial doors both on scientific and social levels.


09BIOL6B-Stability of an ecosystem is a balance between competing effects. As a basis for understanding this concept, students know how to analyze changes in an ecosystem resulting from changes in climate, human activity, introduction of non-native species, or changes in population size.

09BIOL7C-The frequency of an allele in a gene pool of a population depends on many factors, and may be stable or unstable over time. As a basis for understanding this concept, students know new mutations are constantly being generated in a gene pool.

09IEXX1M-Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful qusetions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept, and to address the content of the other four strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will investigate a science-based societal issue by researching the literature, analyzing data, and communicating the findings. Examples include irradiation of food, cloning of animalsby somatic cell nuclear transfer, choice of energy sources, and land and water use decisions in California.


This activity uses the internet to engage high school students in active research on a serious relevant societal/scientific issue.



This lesson was designed with 10th grade Integrated Science students in mind, operating in a 4x4 block schedule school, with 90 minute periods. It is suggested that the whole lesson would take approximately 7-9 days to complete, depending on how much time was allowed.


Lesson extensions:

The lesson leaves some open doors for topics which bear further investigation, as outlined in the standards. Some possible ideas:


General Hints:

1. Present this controversial situation to students. Ask them to imagine growing up in Love Canal, attending one of the elementary schools located on the dump site. It could be their siblings with the birth defects, their families losing loved ones, their homes and properties which suddenly became worthless.

2. Have the groups record their findings, both factual and introspective in a group journal, maintained by one or all of the students.

3. Consider breaking the class period into half computer research time and half regular class time. This seemed to keep students on task better, and maintained the research enthusiasm.

4. In their final analysis assignment, have them comment on which part of their own groups' presentation was strongest, and what made some of the arguments the most compelling.

5. Encourage further reading. Contact a local expert on hazardous waste (or, use the "Ask a Scientist" from the main Score site). Contact the local waste disposal company

6. Since the premise of this activity revolves around hazardous waste in 1979. A discussion of the resolution of the problems may be undertaken. Was it resolved correctly? Morally? What's next?

7. For presentation day, encourage students to dress in 1970's clothes. Bring in a guest speaker.

8. Print and photocopy the scoring rubric and student evaluation table from the "How Did You Do?" Page. Use it to evaluate students along the various phases of this project.

8. Try to increase the local relevance by including examples of California environmental disasters, such as Salton Sea, Belmont Learning Center (Los Angeles), San Gabriel Water District, etc.


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