Earth Science: Geology, the Environment, and the Universe
The Atmosphere and the Oceans
WebQuest Projects 2
Venice: At the Mercy of the Sea
The city of Venice, Italy is an architectural, historical, and geographic marvel.
An ancient city, founded around 452 A.D., Venice has long been an important
center for Italian culture and art, spawning artists whose work has inspired
people around the world for centuries. The buildings, frescos, and mosaics of
Venice are priceless and irreplaceable. Adding to the beauty and magic of this
city is its unusual system of roads. Canals wind through the city, floating
boats called gondolas, rather than cars, from one destination to another. Citizens
and tourists travel by gondola to their homes and workplaces, as well as to
museums, fine restaurants, and St. Mark’s Square, the center of Venetian
social life. Venice is truly an enchanting city, and a world jewel. No one would
disagree that this city should be protected for future generations to enjoy.
Today, however, this magical city is threatened by forces of nature that could
very well destroy it, and all the beauty it contains.
Each year, Venice sinks deeper into the Venetian Lagoon which surrounds it.
Flood waters invade the city from the Adriatic Sea roughly 100 times each year,
making life difficult for residents, and damaging irreplaceable buildings, monuments,
and works of art. The island on which Venice sits is sinking at a rate of about
one-half inch per century. At this rate, and without intervention, the outlook
for this unique and important city appears grim.
You have several tasks in this WebQuest. First, you must learn what causes
the frequent flooding that plagues Venice. You will investigate how natural
factors have been exacerbated by human activity. As you learn about the causes
of flooding, you will gain an understanding of how floods affect the lives of
the residents of Venice. A series of questions will guide you through your research.
Answering them will demonstrate what you have learned about the natural processes
at work in Venice. Second, you will investigate proposed plans for saving the
city. As you learn about these plans, you will prepare an outline which compares
two of them, and describes the possible advantages and disadvantages of each.
Based on your research, you will develop an opinion about the best approach
for keeping flood waters from destroying Venice.
The Web sites listed here will help you find information about Venice, its
cultural importance, the causes and effects of frequent flooding in the city,
and proposed plans for saving the city. As you learn why flooding occurs, you
will gather information to be used in your evaluation of the various plans proposed
for keeping flood waters out of Venice.
Use this site to discover why Venice is plagued by flooding, how flooding has
affected citizens, and what plans are underway to save the city.
Visit this site to see videos and experience interactive activities which show
the cause of tides, the proposed mobile protective barrier system in action,
and natural and man-made hazards that threaten Venice.
This site gives answers to frequently asked questions about efforts to protect
Venice from flood waters that occur during high tide. It also describes how
interactions between the lagoon and the Adriatic Sea affect ecosystems in the
This site explains the causes and potential effects of global changes in sea
level over time.
Visit this site to learn about the plan to build mobile barriers between the
Venetian Lagoon and the Adriatic Sea, and learn what various scientists think
about the plan.
Investigate a unique solution to the flooding problems in Venice that involves
“pumping up” the city to keep flood waters out.
This site describes restoration projects currently underway in Venice. It provides
pictures of artistic and architectural treasures in need of protection. Maps
and photographs of this famous city are also provided.
Visit this site to learn how Venice has long been plagued by flooding, and read
about one proposed plan to keep the floodwaters out of this historic city.
Take a virtual tour of Venice through this site which offers photos of some
of the city’s most famous and beautiful landmarks and locations.
Three to four class periods to answer the set of questions, develop a comparison
of the proposed plans, and form an opinion about their effectiveness.
Read through the following set of questions before you begin your Internet
research. As you explore each site, look for answers to the questions.
Questions about Natural Threats to Venice and Possible Solutions
- Describe the unique location of Venice. What about this location causes
the city to be susceptible to flooding?
- At what rate is Venice currently sinking? By how many centimeters has the
relative land level dropped in the last 100 years?
- St. Mark’s Square is the focal point of much of the activity in Venice.
Today, this area is just two inches above normal high tide level. Describe
what happens in this square during periods of flooding. How often do these
- Two major factors contribute to the floods plaguing Venice today. Describe
these two factors.
- Explain how human activity, particularly in the middle of the 1900s, contributed
to the sinking, or subsidence, that is now affecting Venice.
- The artwork, architecture, and monuments of Venice are spectacular and irreplaceable.
Describe some of these treasures and their historical importance.
- The most popular proposed plan for saving Venice involves the construction
of mobile barriers between the Venetian Lagoon and the Adriatic Sea. What
is this barrier system called? Describe how this system will work.
- There are both advocates and critics of the MOSE barrier plan. Describe
the possible advantages and disadvantages of this proposed plan.
- Other proposed plans for protecting the city from rising water include raising
sections of the city, or even raising the entire city. Describe how one or
both of these plans would work.
- There are both advocates and critics of plans which involve raising the
city of Venice above current water levels. Describe the possible advantages
and disadvantages of plans that call for this approach.
Next, visit the Web sites listed. Use the information from your research to
record answers to the questions. As you research the proposed methods for protecting
the city during high water events, (questions 6 – 10), consider organizing information in chart format. Use the chart shown here as a guide for processing information. While you may not necessarily complete every column or row, the chart will help you analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of the proposed plans.
| ||Proposed Plan:|
The MOSE System
| Proposed Plan:|
Raising the City
|Description of the plan(s)|| || |
|Cost estimate|| || |
|Time required|| || |
|Advocates say this plan
makes sense because:|| || |
|Critics way this plan is unwise because:|| || |
Finally, evaluate the information you have gathered about the threat facing
Venice, and the proposed plans for saving the city. Based on the information you have gathered, write your opinion about the best way of protecting this valuable city and its
In the process of completing this WebQuest, you have learned how a rise in
sea level, combined with the process of subsidence, is causing the city of Venice
to sink. You have seen how a drop in the relative land level of more than 23
centimeters over the past century has affected the people, politics, finances,
and culture of this unique city. You have investigated various plans for keeping
flood waters out of the city during high water events, and have studied the
opinions of various experts about their effectiveness. Based on your evaluation
of the information collected, you have formed your own opinion about the steps
that should be taken to preserve Venice. Analyzing and evaluating information
are essential scientific skills. Through this exercise, you have learned about
a global topic with far-reaching cultural and political implications. You have
also used your skills of analysis and evaluation to form an opinion about a
topic currently under debate in both the political and scientific communities.