Teaching with the Web:
A Collection of Online Treasure Hunts and Webquests


BRIDGES: A WebQuest for Fourth Year High School (Science)

Authored by B. Garvilles and P. Arinto

Imagine a world without bridges. Imagine your province without bridges. What would it be like? What would be the consequences?

We tend to take them for granted. But bridges have a vital role to play not only in linking two geographic spaces but also in connecting communities and cultures.

Now there are bridges that work and bridges that don’t. Or bridges that last and bridges that don’t. First of all there’s the material to consider. Bridges can be made of wood, concrete, metal. Second, there’s the structural design of bridges. How do certain bridges manage to hold so many tons in weight, for example? Can a six-wheeler truck cross any bridge?

In this webquest, we will find out what principles of physics work in bridges. That’s right—physics and bridges go together. Do this webquest to find out how.

The Task
The Engineering Department of the Department of Public Works and Highways is inviting you to help document all local bridges. In this way bridges in need of repair can be identified and the plan for repairing them in the most appropriate way can be made.

Your mission is to write a report about the bridges in your locality and in nearby communities. You will do this in groups, with each group being assigned a specific bridge to report on. Each group report should include:

A. a description of the bridge (location, measurements, materials used, type of bridge)
B. a history of the bridge (who constructed it, when and why was it constructed)
C. an analysis of the bridge design (load capacity, forces acting on the bridge, structural strengths and weaknesses)

Photos and/or drawings of the bridge should be included in all three sections of the report.

The Process
1. You will do this webquest in groups of six. Your teacher will help you form groups and assign each group the bridge they will report on. Once your group has been formed and you know the bridge assigned to your group, decide among yourselves who will perform the functions listed below:

Roles Responsibilities
(2 members)
Gather data and write Part A of the group report, which includes the dimensions of the bridge, the materials out of which the bridge is built, and the type of bridge
(2 members)
Gather data and write Part B of the group report, which should include when the bridge was built, by whom, for what original purpose, and other milestone events in the existence of the bridge over the years (for example, destruction by earthquake, flood or fire; repair and renovations)
(2 members)
Gather data and write Part C of the group report, which includes the load capacity of the bridge, the forces acting on the bridge, and the strengths and weaknesses of the bridge

Brainstorm on where you can get the data about the bridge assigned to your group.

2. Do the background research for this project by reading the websites listed in the Resources section. In this step of the project you will find out about bridges in general, including the types of bridges, the forces acting on bridges, and the structural design of bridges. You will also look at examples of descriptions of bridges, and the historical background of famous bridges.

You have one week to do this step.

3. Now that you know the basic facts about bridges, do research on the bridge assigned to your group. Remember that each member has a specific set of data to collect. Sources of data in your community include:

the Municipal or City Engineer’s Office
the Provincial Engineer’s Office
the local office of the Department of Public Works and Highways
written histories of your town or city
old folks whom you can interview about the historical milestones of the bridge assigned to you
engineers in your locality who may be able to help you analyze the structural strengths and weaknesses of the bridge

Since you are writing one report, it is best that you work together in doing this step. Instead of visiting offices and interviewing experts separately, you should go as a group. Thus you can support each other and avoid irritating your sources with several visits from different members of the group.

OR you can assign specific offices and interviewees to specific members of the group but make sure that any information needed by other group members is also collected. For example:

  • The historians will visit the town archives or old records and interview the old folks about the historical milestones of the bridge. But they should also take note of any information that they come across that the reporters and engineers of the group might need (for example, any reference load capacity or materials used).
  • The interview of local engineers can be done by group members who are assigned the role of engineers. But they should also take care to ask questions that the reporters in the group need answers to.
  • The reporters can be assigned to the Municipal or City Engineer’s Office where, assigned from looking for answers to their own questions, they can look for data that the historians and engineers in their group can use.

Remember to collect photos as well. And if one of you can make good drawings, these will serve as very good illustrations for certain parts of your group report.

You have two weeks to gather data on the bridge assigned to you group.

4. Meet as a group and share and discuss the information gathered.

5. Write the group report. That is, members should write the specific sections assigned to them. Be guided by the scoring guidelines given in the Evaluation section. It is also at this point that you shall choose which photos and/or drawings to include in your section of the report.

Everyone has two days to finish the draft of the sections assigned to them.

6. Meet again as a group to:

- review each other’s drafts and suggest improvements
- make the necessary improvements on your sections as suggested by the other group members
- encode the text of the different sections (using MS Word or StarOffice word processing software) and scan the photos
- put together the group report

This step will probably take one whole day, with the encoding and scanning of photos taking place in the computer lab. Your teacher can schedule one Saturday during which all groups will work together in the computer lab.

7. Submit your report to your teacher on the due date.

8. Fill in the self-assessment and peer evaluation forms and submit these to your teacher on the due date.

The resources below are grouped in terms of relevance to team members. However, everyone in the team should take a look at all of the resources to get a full picture of bridges and the be better able to contribute to the team’s report.

We will also do an online treasure hunt using some of these Web resources.

Basic Types of Bridges

Bridge Building

How Bridges Work (types of bridges)

Build a Bridge
(Click on the links under Step 2 in this webpage.)

Bridge Picture Galleries

Explanations of Individual Types of Bridges
(Click on the links)


History of Bridges
(Contains links to the history of bridges in the United States, such as the Brooklyn Bridge and Minnesota’s Historic Bridges)

Golden Gate History and Information

Past Bridge History of Tacoma

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel Historical Background

History of Online Bridges

The History of London Bridge

History of Bridges in London from Roman to Present day

Brooklyn Bridge: Historic Overview


Force and Load on Bridges

Force on Bridges

Forces on Bridges
(interactive; requires Flash; if you do not have Flash, click on the text only version)

Analysis of Bridge Structure


Bridge Parts

Basic Rules for Structures

Your group report will be evaluated using the following scale:
Item Yes
2 pts
1 pt
0 pt
A. Basic Description of the Bridge
1. Are the bridge’s dimensions (length, width, height, weight, etc.) given?
2. Are the materials out of which the bridge is made given?
3. Is the type of bridge identified?
4. Is the description written grammatically and with correct spelling and punctuation?
5. Is there at least one photo of the bridge included in this section?
B. History of the Bridge
1. Are there enough historical facts provided?
2. Are the historical facts well organized?
3. Is the presentation of the bridge’s history interesting—that is, does it engage the reader’s interest?
4. Is the historical account of the bridge written grammatically, with words properly spelled, and with punctuation used appropriately?
5. Is there at least one photo regarding the bridge’s history (e.g., a photo of the engineer who built it, or a photo of the blueprint followed, or a photo of the community during the historical period in which the bridge was built)?
C. Analysis of the Bridge Design
1. Is the load capacity of the bridge given?
2. Are the specific forces acting on the bridge identified?
3. Is there a discussion of the bridge’s structural strengths?
4. Is there a discussion of the bridge’s structural weaknesses and how these can be improved upon?
5. Are there photos or illustrations of some of the structural features of the bridge?

The prefect score for the group report is 30 points. Group members will of course receive the same grade so you must take an interest in each’s other’s work on the different parts of the group report. In other words, do not be concerned only about your part of the report.

Your individual final grade for the project will be computed from your score for the group report (to account for 70% of the project grade) and your score for the self-assessment and peer evaluation (15% each of the project grade).

After doing this project, I hope that you will have a better appreciation of the bridges in your community and of bridges in general. A world without bridges is a world in which communities are islands unto themselves, and people are unable to link up with each other.

You will have learned from doing this webquest that bridges are ingenious structures, and that building a bridge requires technical know-how from various fields, such as civil engineering and physics. See how what we learn in the classroom works in the world around us!