7th Grade Arkansas

South China Sea

This inquiry leads students through an investigation of the South China Sea dispute, in which several nations in East and Southeast Asia are claiming ownership of parts of the sea for various purposes.   By investigating the compelling question “Can nations own the sea?” students evaluate whether nations have the sovereign right to claim parts of the sea for themselves and if so, whether the rights of certain nations outweigh the interests of others. The formative performance tasks build on knowledge and skills through the course of the inquiry and help students construct an understanding of the current international laws governing the sea as well as the claims both China and Southeast Asian nations have made to the South China Sea in particular.  Students create an evidence-based argument about whether nations can claim parts of the sea for themselves.

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Compelling Question:

Can nations own the sea?

Staging the Question: Examine teacher-selected before-and-after photos of China’s reclamation of sand reefs in the South China Sea and infer what is happening. Watch the CNN Video “South China Sea territorial dispute.”
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Supporting Question What laws and treaties govern the sea and its use?

Formative Task Write a paragraph summary of the United Nations treaty on the sea describing how it has changed over time.

Sources Source A: UN Convention on the Law of the Sea: Part II: Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone
Source B: UN Convention on the Law of the Sea: Part V: Exclusive Economic Zone
Source C: LinkedIn: The Law of the Sea and “creeping jurisdiction” of coastal states
Source D: Wikimedia Commons: Sea areas in international rights

2

Supporting Question How does China justify its sovereignty over the South China Sea?

Formative Task Create a graphic organizer to list the major sovereignty claims China holds of the South China Sea and rank them from most important claim to least important.

Sources Source A: Spratleys.org: Spratley Islands History Timeline
Source B: YouTube video: Stirring waves in the South China Sea
Source C: Time.com: Just Where Exactly Did China Get the South China Sea Nine-Dash Line From?

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Supporting Question How do the claims of other nations interfere with China’s claims?

Formative Task Create a map illustrating the claims being made by all sides in the South China Sea.

Sources Source A: Global Security: Territorial claims in the Spratly and Paracel Islands
Source B: Permanent Court of Arbitration: South China Sea Arbitration (pages 1-2)
Source C: Wikimedia Commons: South China Sea claims map (public domain)
Source D: Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative: Gas and Oil Reserves Map

Summative Performance Task

Argument: Can nations own the sea? Construct an argument (e.g., detailed outline, poster, essay) that discusses the compelling question using specific claims and relevant evidence from current sources while acknowledging competing views.
Extension: Debate whether the U.S. should continue patrolling in the South China Sea waters.

Taking Informed Action

Understand: In individual groups representing key nations in the South China Sea dispute, determine the position of each nation regarding the South China Sea dispute.
Assess: Debate whether the U.S. should continue patrolling in the South China Sea waters.
Act: Engage in a public mock United Nations session to decide how to peacefully resolve the South China Sea dispute. Create alliances, propose resolutions, and allow all members to vote on the best resolution.