ALEX Lesson Plan


The Sinking State of Alabama

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Hannah Bradley
System: Dothan City
School: Carver Magnet School
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 35165


The Sinking State of Alabama


The lesson will begin by engaging students with a video of a natural landform in Alabama called Neversink Pit. Students will then research the natural and human-made causes and effects of sinkhole formation in Alabama. Lastly, students will create a video PSA to communicate information about sinkhole dangers and methods to protect people and property from sinkhole damage.

This lesson results from a collaboration between the Alabama State Department of Education and ASTA.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
LIT2010 (9-10) Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects
1. Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts, attending to the precise details of explanations or descriptions.
SC2015 (9-12) Earth and Space Science
11. Obtain and communicate information about significant geologic characteristics (e.g., types of rocks and geologic ages, earthquake zones, sinkholes, caves, abundant fossil fauna, mineral and energy resources) that impact life in Alabama and the southeastern United States.

Local/National Standards:


Primary Learning Objective(s):

  • Students will obtain information about sinkholes, which impact life in Alabama, through online research.
  • Students will communicate information about how sinkholes in Alabama form and how they impact life in Alabama via a video public service announcement.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

  • Students will work collaboratively with peers to create a video public service announcement (PSA).
  • Students will use a technological device to record the video PSA.
 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

Greater than 120 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

Student Materials (per student)

Notebook paper



Sinkholes in Alabama Cause and Effect Graphic Organizer (see attachments)

Sinkholes in Alabama PSA Checklist (see attachments) 

Student Technology Materials (one per group or per class)

Device capable of capturing video (iPad, smartphone, video camera, etc.)

Teacher Materials

Sinkholes in Alabama PSA Checklist (see attachments)

Sinkholes in Alabama PSA Rubric (see attachments)

Note: Rubric was adapted from this example: "Rubric for PSA" 

Website Links Used in Lesson (to be copied prior to lesson if internet-capable devices are unavailable to students)

"Sinkholes: When the Ground Collapses" from

"Sinkholes in Alabama" from the Geological Survey of Alabama (GSA)

"Special Report: Sinkhole Shock" from WSFA Montgomery

"Why Sinkholes Open Up" from National Geographic

"Sinkholes" from United States Geological Survey (USGS)

Technology Resources Needed:

Student Technology Resources

An internet capable device to view informational text (if available)

Device capable of capturing video (iPad, smartphone, video camera, etc.)

Teacher Technology Resources

Teacher computer with internet access

Interactive whiteboard and/or projector with ability to project sound

Website for teacher background information"Sinkholes-Where and Why They Form" from

Website for teacher background information: "MyTube: Make a Video Public Service Announcement" from

Website for teacher background information: "My Tube: Changing the World with Video Public Service Announcements" from

Video clip from YouTube for before strategy-"Caving at Neversink Pit, Alabama" (2:11)

Website for after strategy and acceleration"Our Campaigns" from

Website Links Used in Lesson

"This is Undeniable Proof That Everyone Must Visit the Most Photographed Spot in Alabama" from

"Sinkholes: When the Ground Collapses" from

"Alabama Sinkholes" from ArcGIS

"Sinkholes in Alabama" from the Geological Survey of Alabama (GSA)

"Special Report: Sinkhole Shock" from WSFA Montgomery

"Why Sinkholes Open Up" from National Geographic

"Sinkholes" from United States Geological Survey (USGS) 


Alabama's topography consists of solvent sedimentary rocks, such as limestone, gypsum, and salt, and a vast network of underground rivers called aquifers. This groundwater can easily dissolve the sedimentary rocks, which makes Alabama a hotbed of caves and sinkholes. A sinkhole forms when underground sedimentary rocks are slowly dissolved by groundwater. Eventually, the weight of the ground's surface becomes too great, and the Earth's surface caves in, creating a sinkhole. 

This website provides additional details about sinkhole formation, as well as a diagram: "Sinkholes-Where and Why They Form" from

Students need to possess a basic understanding of the three main rock types: igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary. Igneous and metamorphic rocks tend to be more durable, while sedimentary rocks are easily broken and dissolved. The solubility of sedimentary rocks creates caves and sinkholes in various locations.

This lesson will require students to work in partners or small groups for the final project, a video public service announcement (PSA). The teacher should have procedures in place for students working collaboratively in groups. This lesson will require the teacher to be knowledgeable about the technology used to create the video PSA at the conclusion of the lesson. The PSA can be created with any device capable of capturing video, such as an iPad, smartphone, video camera, etc. The teacher should familiarize him/herself with the device before implementing the lesson with students. If video editing equipment or programs are available, they could be utilized during this lesson. This lesson will focus on creating a PSA in a video format, however, if the teacher does not have access to the technology devices required to implement this project in the classroom, the students could create a PSA in a print format (see the website from the Ad Council to view examples of print PSAs).

The following websites provide additional information about creating PSAs in the classroom:

"MyTube: Make a Video Public Service Announcement" from

"My Tube: Changing the World with Video Public Service Announcements" from

"Our Campaigns" from


Before Strategy/Engage: 20 minutes

1. Show students the video clip from YouTube: "Caving at Neversink Pit, Alabama" (2:11). After students watch the video clip, pose the question, "How did Neversink Pit form?" At this point, accept all student answers.

Note: There are additional pictures and information about Neversink Pit on this website: "This is Undeniable Proof That Everyone Must Visit the Most Photographed Spot in Alabama" from

2. Students will need a copy of the article "Sinkholes: When the Ground Collapses" from Alternatively, the students could access this article on an internet-capable device.

3. Before students begin to read, tell them that Neversink Pit is actually a limestone sinkhole. As students read the article independently or with a partner, students should write the answers to the following questions on their notebook paper. Alternatively, the students could highlight the answers in the text.

  • What dangers do sinkholes pose?
    Possible Answer: Sinkholes can kill and injure people when they occur without warning.
  • What areas of our country are most vulnerable to sinkholes?
    Possible Answer: About 20% of our country lies on karst topography, which is soluble rocks, such as a gypsum, limestone, or salt. The states most at risk are Florida, Alabama, Texas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennesee, and Pennsylvania.
  • Are sinkholes a natural occurrence, or do humans play a role in their formation?
    Possible Answer: Sinkholes can form due to natural geologic processes. However, humans can create the conditions required for sinkhole formation by underground mining, pumping groundwater, and adding groundwater to the water table through sewers.
  • What should people do to protect themselves from possible sinkhole damage?
    Possible Answer: People who live in sinkhole-prone areas should inspect their property for signs of a possible sinkhole collapse, such as cracks in the walls and foundation of a building, doors and windows that refuse to close, or settling around the foundation of the building.

4. After students finish reading the article, the teacher should lead a class discussion on students' answers to the questions.

During Strategy/Explore & Explain: 60+ minutes

1. If students have access to a digital device, they can complete this step independently. If the students do not have access to digital devices, the teacher can show the website on the board. Go to "Alabama Sinkholes" from ArcGIS, click "Open in Map Viewer", then type your city's name into the search box. This interactive map will allow students to view the sinkholes in/near their city. If you are unable to find any sinkholes close to your city, you can "zoom out" until a sinkhole comes into view.

2. Tell students they will research the causes and effects of sinkholes in the state of Alabama and create a video Public Service Announcement (PSA) to raise awareness of sinkhole dangers.

3. Students will need access to the articles listed in the materials section. Students may use a printed copy of the article or access the article online using an internet-capable device. 

4. Students will read the articles while completing the Sinkholes in Alabama Graphic Organizer (see attachments). This graphic organizer will require students to research both the natural and human-made causes and effects of sinkholes in Alabama. 

"Sinkholes in Alabama" from the Geological Survey of Alabama (GSA)

"Special Report: Sinkhole Shock" from WSFA Montgomery

"Why Sinkholes Open Up" from National Geographic

"Sinkholes" from United States Geological Survey (USGS) 

Note: Depending on students’ abilities, the teacher may wish to read the articles and complete the graphic organizer as a whole class, or model this skill one time before allowing students to read the articles independently or with a partner or small group. In addition, the teacher may wish to require students to cite the articles used during the lesson in MLA or APA format to include in a bibliography page for students' final project.

After Strategy-Explain & Elaborate-60+ minutes

 1. Before students begin to create their PSAs, the teacher may wish to show examples of professionally-created PSAs. The following website provides a list of PSA campaigns from the Ad Council.

"Our Campaigns" from

2. The students should be split into partners or small groups for the next portion of the lesson. There are many options for groupings, depending on the teacher's needs. If students are grouped into partners, one student can film, while the other student presents the PSA, then the students can swap roles. If students are divided into small groups (3-5 students), each student can be assigned a particular role in the PSA (videographer, actor, writer, etc). 

3. Before students begin work on creating their PSA, the teacher should present students with the grading rubric (see attachments).

4. Students should begin by writing a script for their PSA, being sure to include facts and details from their prior research. In their script, students should plan what props they would like to use during the PSA (such as pictures, photographs, maps, quotes, etc).

5. After completing their scripts, the students and teacher should check the script using the "Sinkholes in Alabama PSA Checklist" (see attachments). The teacher may wish to copy the checklist front and back, and use one side as a student self-check and one side as a formative assessment (for the teacher to provide feedback).

6. After receiving feedback from the teacher via the checklist, the students should have an opportunity to revise and edit their scripts as needed before beginning filming.

7. After the students have completed the final draft of their scripts, the students should film their PSAs. Ideally, after filming, the teacher would show the entire class each student's or each group's final PSA.

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Assessment Strategies

Formative Assessment

Students' note-taking during the before strategy will be informally assessed through a class discussion. The teacher should informally assess students' notes that are taken on the "Sinkholes in Alabama Cause and Effect Graphic Organizer" to ensure students are taking factual and complete notes. The teacher should provide feedback on the students' scripts using the "Sinkholes in Alabama PSA Checklist".

Summative Assessment

The teacher will formally assess the students' final product, the video PSA, using the "Sinkholes in Alabama PSA Rubric" to determine if students can communicate information about significant geologic characteristics (e.g., sinkholes) that impact life in Alabama and the southeastern United States.

Note: Rubric was adapted from this example: "Rubric for PSA".


After students create a video PSA, students requiring acceleration opportunities could create a correlating print or website PSA on the same topic. The Ad Council website provides an example of professionally-created PSA campaigns that include video, print, and website components.

"Our Campaigns" from


Students requiring intervention may require additional scaffolding from the teacher or a peer during the research and note-taking phase of this lesson. The teacher should ensure that students requiring intervention strategies are partnered or grouped with a peer that can provide assistance during the after portion of this lesson.

Each area below is a direct link to general teaching strategies/classroom accommodations for students with identified learning and/or behavior problems such as: reading or math performance below grade level; test or classroom assignments/quizzes at a failing level; failure to complete assignments independently; difficulty with short-term memory, abstract concepts, staying on task, or following directions; poor peer interaction or temper tantrums, and other learning or behavior problems.

Presentation of Material Environment
Time Demands Materials
Attention Using Groups and Peers
Assisting the Reluctant Starter Dealing with Inappropriate Behavior
Be sure to check the student's IEP for specific accommodations.