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        North Dakota | Activity 8.4: The Impact of the Dakota Access Pipeline

        Students look at an image of a pipeline that is proposed in Watford City, North Dakota. Students analyze the photograph and discuss current events related to the proposed pipelines.

        Lesson Summary

        Students look at an image of a pipeline that is proposed in Watford City, North Dakota. Students analyze the photograph and discuss current events related to the proposed pipelines.

        This lesson is part of "Great States | North Dakota | Unit 8: Modern North Dakota" where students will learn about the concerns and challenges that the people of North Dakota face today.

        Time Allotment

        20 minutes

        Learning Objectives


        4.1.4: Interpret current events using print and electronic media (e.g., newspaper, children’s news magazines, television, Internet).

        4.3.2: Identify ways that natural resources (e.g. soil, minerals, trees, fish, people) contribute to the economy of the local community and North Dakota

        8.3.4: Describe factors (e.g., climate, population, tax laws, natural resources) governing economic decision making in North Dakota and other regions (e.g., Midwest, Southeast)



        1. Before this activity, find current news stories related to the Dakota Access or other local pipelines. Find a different news article for every small group of 4-5 students in your class. Here are some examples of related articles:
          1. Key Moments in the Dakota Access Pipeline Fight
          2. Last holdouts are cleared from main Dakota Access Pipeline protest camp
          3. Oil is Flowing Through the Dakota Access Pipeline

        2. Provide students with the Dakota Access Pipeline handout.
        3. Show students the image, Oil Boom Shifts The Landscape Of Rural North Dakota | Human Impact on the Physical Environment | Geography.
        4. Explain to students that the oil boom has greatly impacted the economy and environment of North Dakota. The Bakken Formation near the Montana border yielded over a million barrels of crude oil per day on average in 2016, making the state the second in the nation for crude oil production next to Texas. The boom resulted in North Dakota having the lowest unemployment rate in the country. The Dakota Access Pipeline, which began construction in 2016, was proposed to be a quicker route to get the crude oil to refineries around the country. The pipeline has caused much debate during its construction, resulting in a famous stand-off at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.
        5. Divide the class into small groups. (4-5 students each)
        6. Give each group a different recent article from a newspaper or Internet news site related to the pipeline.
        7. On their handout, have each group come up with 2-3 facts from their article related to the impact a pipeline could have on North Dakota.
        8. Allow small groups to share their findings with the rest of the class.

        Answer Key

        (Largely depends on the articles provided and what they claim)

        General sample answers:

        • Pipeline will cut through existing habitats and disrupt local ecosystems.
        • Pipeline could potentially leak or burst, polluting the area around it with its contents.
        • Leaked pipeline oil could seep into the ground and surrounding ponds and lakes, contaminating water sources.
        • Pipeline construction provides new, temporary jobs.
        • Dakota Access pipeline could carry between 470,000 and 570,000 thousand barrels per day.
        • Fossil fuel contents of pipeline will contribute to the emission of greenhouse gases, therefore contributing to the current issue of climate change.
        • Leaked pipeline contents of crude oil or other fossil fuels have a level of flammability and could catch fire, destroying local land and possibly endangering communities and habitats.
        • Pipelines offer newer technology against leaks, and provide a faster line of delivery between oil fields and distribution.
        • Pipeline will help the United States become more energy independent.


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