Ozark National Scenic Riverways: Caves, Springs, and Hellbenders


Students will explore different animals and ecosystems in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and analyze how they work together to create a unique environment.

Coin Type(s)

  • Quarter

Coin Program(s)

  • America the Beautiful Quarters


Students will explore different animals and ecosystems in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and analyze how they work together to create a unique environment.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Social Studies
  • Science


  • 9th
  • 10th
  • 11th
  • 12th

Class Time

  • Sessions: Three
  • Session Length: 30-45 minutes
  • Total Length: 121-150 minutes


  • Small groups
  • Individual work

Background Knowledge

Students should have a basic knowledge of geography and ecology.

Terms and Concepts

  • Geography
  • Ecology



Lesson Steps

  1. As background information, explain to the students that the United States Mint began to issue the quarters in the America the Beautiful Quarters® Program in 2010. By the time the program ends in 2021, there will be a total of 56 designs on the back of the coin. Each design will focus on a different national site—one from each state, territory, and the District of Columbia.
  2. Display and examine Ozark National Scenic Riverways quarter design, focusing on the river and the mill that harnesses its power. Locate Ozark National Scenic Riverways on a map of the United States. Explain that the park encompasses 80,785 acres of unique natural resources, including a world-class spring system that is unparalleled in North America, more than 400 caves, and other special geologic features. The rivers offer remarkably clean, clear water that is complemented by the breathtaking blue shade of the waters of the large springs.
  3. Generate observations about the geography and climate of the area. Have the students predict the types of animals, insects, and birds that would be part of the ecosystem.
  4. Introduce the students to a virtual field trip to the Ozarks by projecting pictures of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Divide the class into three groups and assign each a separate research area: “The Caves,” “The Springs,” and “Ozark Hellbenders.” Have each group submit a summary and colored illustrations. Create a classroom scrap book or multimedia presentation. Compile the presentations and give each student a copy of the final product.

Differentiated Learning Options

  • Have students research individually.
  • Have pre-selected geological feature images for students to respond to.


  • Using mobile devices, create a commercial for the Ozark National Scenic Riverways site.



  • Take anecdotal notes about the students’ participation in class discussions.
  • Evaluate the students’ worksheets and project for their understanding of the lesson objectives.

Presenting the Ozark National Scenic Riverways Worksheet

Name: __________________________________
Date: ______________
Class Period: _____________________

Directions: Write a summary and provide printed or hand-drawn illustrations using the instructions below for your assigned research area.

Group 1: “The Caves”
Members of the group: _________________________________________________________________________
The park is home to over 300 caves, part of a unique geologic phenomenon. What is this phenomenon called? What are some of the features? Name some of the caves in the park and give brief descriptions. Describe the relationship between caves and water. What specific ecosystems exist within caves?

Group 2: “The Springs”
Members of the group: _________________________________________________________________________
The park is home to some of the largest freshwater springs in the country. Name the six springs. How are springs unique ecosystems? What unique feature do these springs share? What types of animals are found in this ecosystem?

Group 3: “Ozark Hellbenders”
Members of the group: _________________________________________________________________________
The Ozark Hellbender is a unique animal found in the park. Where can they be found? How do they interact with ecosystems found in the park? Why are they endangered? How can people help increase the population?

Common Core Standards

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: W.6 Writing
Grade(s): Grade 6
Cluster: Text Types and Purposes

  • W.6.1. Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.
    • Introduce claim(s) and organize the reasons and evidence clearly.
    • Support claim(s) with clear reasons and relevant evidence, using credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.
    • Use words, phrases, and clauses to clarify the relationships among claim(s) and reasons.
    • Establish and maintain a formal style.
    • Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from the argument presented.
  • W.6.2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.
    • Introduce a topic; organize ideas, concepts, and information, using strategies such as definition, classification, comparison/contrast, and cause/effect; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., charts, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
    • Develop the topic with relevant facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.
    • Use appropriate transitions to clarify the relationships among ideas and concepts.
    • Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.
    • Establish and maintain a formal style.
    • Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from the information or explanation presented.
  • W.6.3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.
    • Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.
    • Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, and description, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters.
    • Use a variety of transition words, phrases, and clauses to convey sequence and signal shifts from one time frame or setting to another.
    • Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to convey experiences and events.
    • Provide a conclusion that follows from the narrated experiences or events.

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: RL.7 Reading: Informational Text
Grade(s): Grade 6
Cluster: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

  • RI.7.7. Compare and contrast a text to an audio, video, or multimedia version of the text, analyzing each medium’s portrayal of the subject (e.g., how the delivery of a speech affects the impact of the words).
  • RI.7.8. Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient to support the claims.
  • RI.7.9. Analyze how two or more authors writing about the same topic shape their presentations of key information by emphasizing different evidence or advancing different interpretations of facts.

National Standards

This lesson plan is not associated with any National Standards.