Students will (a) become familiar with New Jersey's five geologic provinces, and (b) learn about the major factors-porous sandy soil, acidic water, low nutrient levels in sandy soil and water, frequent fires, climate, and human activity-that influence the kind of vegetation found in the Pinelands today.

Click on the following links to take you to the materials needed for this lesson. Please print out and copy any maps or worksheets needed for the lesson. Audio-visual program links will provide you with information on how to acquire the needed film or video. Remember, you may need to use your browser's "BACK" button to return to this page.
Audio-visual program
"The New Jersey Pinelands, Our Country's First National Reserve"

Map: "The Five Geologic Provinces of New Jersey"

Map: "The Five Geologic Provinces of New Jersey-Teacher's Edition"
Map: "Outline of the State of New Jersey"
Teacher Background Information Sheet: "Evolution of the Pinelands Ecosystem"
Student Information Sheet: "Pitch Pine Fire Adaptations"
Student Information Sheet: " Geologic Origins and Vegetation Influences"

You may wish to read the background information sheet "Evolution of the Pinelands Ecosystem" before you begin this lesson to provide you with information that may be helpful in the delivery of this lesson.


Day 1: Distribute copies of the map "The Five Geologic Provinces of New Jersey" to students (a "Teachers Edition" of this map is provided that offers additional information for the teacher) . Compare this map to a New Jersey road map and /or a U.S Geological Survey topographical map. Discuss with students the special characteristics of each province, including landforms (mountains, rivers, etc.), types of settlements (urban, suburban, rural), and population density. Identify local points of interest within each province (parks, ski areas, historical sites, etc.). Have students share any first hand experiences they may have had during visits to the provinces.

Locate the Pinelands National Reserve in the Outer Coastal Plain on the geologic provinces map. Compare and contrast this area to the other four provinces. List on the board the ways the Pinelands region differs from the rest of New Jersey.

View the audio visual presentation "The New Jersey Pinelands, Our Country's First National Reserve" with the students. Have the students look and listen for information about what makes the region unique. After the presentation, add additional information about how the region is different from the rest of the state to the list on the board. Students should be able to identify such key differences as water quality and quantity, soil quality (acidic, with low nutrient and mineral content), rare plants and animals, existence of bog iron, frequent fires, few people, farms and outdoor recreation possibilities.

Day 2: Review the names and locations of New Jersey's five geologic provinces. Ask students to hypothesize how the Outer Coastal Plain was formed and why these factors make New Jersey's Pinelands unique.


Make a model glacier using a solid block of ice (a milk container works well as a mold). Remove the ice block from the mold and place it at the top of a board (about 15 inches wide by 30 inches long) which has been covered by soil and small pebbles. Slant the board slightly and place the lower end in a pan to collect the run-off. Observe what happens as the glacier melts. Students should notice that the smaller particles of soil are washed down to the lower end of the board.

Explain to students that in New Jersey, during the Wisconsin Ice Advance, glaciers stopped some 10 to 40 miles north of the Pinelands. Glacial outwash of smaller soil particles resulted, and this outwash is one factor in the development of the Pinelands' soil characteristics.

Copy and distribute the student background information sheet "Geologic Origins and Vegetation Influences" as well as "Pitch Pine Fire Adaptations". Review this information with your students. Some questions you might want to ask could include the following:

1. Why were there major changes in sea level during the Ice Age? (When the climate was cold, much of the water became part of glacial ice, the sea level was at its lowest, and the North American Atlantic coastline extended many miles east of its present boundary. As the climate warmed and glacial ice melted, land previously covered by vegetation was covered by sea water.)

2. How did the sediments from the Wisconsin Ice Advance get to the Pinelands if the glacier stopped 10 to 40 miles north of the region? (Southern New Jersey is generally lower in elevation than northern New Jersey. The result of this change in elevation was an enhanced run-off of material from the glacier into the area of today's Pinelands.)

3. Why do you think southern New Jersey is so flat? (Millions of years ago, melting glaciers and ocean waters washed sand and gravel over this region. The forces of nature, wind, and water erosion slowly created a relatively level landscape. Today, by watching the shifting sands of an ocean beach, one can see the same forces of nature in action.)

4. Why was the climate an important factor in the development of today's Pinelands vegetation? (Warming trends resulted in the northern migration of southern plant species while cooling trends have brought northern species southward. The advance and retreat of glacial ice shows the influence of these cooling and warming trends. Today's Pinelands vegetation owes much to these climate changes.)

5. Why does water move so quickly through the sandy Pinelands soil? (The many spaces in the porous sandy soil act somewhat like a sieve, allowing water to move through the spaces rapidly.)

6. What is leaching? (Leaching is the movement of water that contains dissolved minerals through soil like that found in the Pinelands.)

7. Will pollutants in liquid form move as rapidly through the soil as water? (Yes)

8. What are wetlands? (Wetlands are low lands that are often swampy because the water table is at or near the surface.)

9. How has fire been important in the Pinelands? (While plants in the uplands burn easily, many are resistant to being killed by fire. Over the years, fire has been important to the region because it encourages the growth of fire adapted plants like the pitch pine. Soon after an area burns, ferns and shrubs resprout signaling the rebirth of life in an area that not long before appeared dead.)

10. In what ways has man altered the landscape of the Pinelands? (Man has cleared the land for farming, built towns and the roads that service them, developed recreational facilities, and created water impoundments-reservoirs, ponds, etc.).


Copy and distribute the outline map of New Jersey. Ask students to delineate and label the state's 5 geologic provinces. Within the Outer Coastal Plain, have students outline the Pinelands National Reserve, and create and use symbols to show how this area is unique (water, soil, rare plants and animals, recreation, etc.).

Additionally, have students list on the back of the map sheet (1) five factors that have influenced the kinds of vegetation that grows in the Pinelands and (2) five human activities that have had an impact on the land. Check the students' map sheets for accurate answers.


1. Divide a soil sample into nine small pots. In three of the pots, add equal amounts of lime to make the soil alkaline. In three other pots, add equal amounts of sulfur powder to make the soil acidic. In the final three pots, add equal amounts of lime and sulfur to create a neutral soil. Experiment with at least three different types of seeds, planting some of each in each type of soil. Record observations and draw conclusions on the effects of soil type on the developing seeds. Compare and contrast your experiments with what you know about Pinelands soil to develop theories as to the development of plants in the Pinelands.


2. Research early industries of the Pinelands (bog iron, glassmaking, lumbering). How have these industries effected the natural habitat of the Pinelands?

This lesson will introduce the students to the following vocabulary words:(click on the word to see its definition-use your browser's back button to return to this page)

glacier, gravel, habitat, leaching, porous, wetlands, vegetation

This lesson covers the following New Jersey Core Curriculum Standards. Clicking on the standard number will take you to the complete text of the standard. You must use your browser's "BACK" button to return to this page from the linked Core Curriculum Standard pages.

Science standards:

5.1-All students will learn to identify systems of interacting components and understand how their interactions combine to produce the overall behavior of the system.

5.6-All students will gain an understanding of the structure, characteristics, and basic needs of organisms.

5.10-All students will gain an understanding of the structure, dynamics, and geophysical systems of the earth.

Evaluate our site! Click on the Grade Page icon to go to our evaluation page. Won't you please take a minute to tell us how we can better help you bring the Pinelands into your classroom

Click the folder to return to the Pinelands Plant Unit lesson overview page
Return to the Pinelands Plant Unit
Evaluate Our Site