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Impossible places - Assessment

Impossible places - The Skywalk, a step too far?

Impossible places

This lesson focuses on an engineering project that made an ‘impossible' place ‘possible' - the Grand Canyon Skywalk. Suspended more than a kilometre above the Colorado River and able to withstand a magnitude 8.0 earthquake. In the second lesson students explore whether this development could be a step too far.

Key questions

  • What is the Skywalk?
  • Where is the Grand Canyon?
  • Why was the Skywalk built?
  • What are the issues surrounding the construction of the Skywalk?
  • What do students think of the construction? Is it a 'step too far'?

Key Concepts

  • Place
  • Environmental interaction and Sustainable Development
  • Cultural understanding and diversity

What is the Skywalk?

The Grand Canyon Skywalk is a tourist attraction on the edge of the Grand Canyon. It is a horseshoe-shaped glass walkway at 1,200m above the floor of the canyon.

Where is the Grand Canyon?

The Grand Canyon is in the U.S. state of Arizona.

Why was the Skywalk built?

It was built by a Las Vegas businessman in partnership with the Hualapai tribe of Native American in the hope that it will be the catalyst for a larger plan of economic development in the area. It would open up a 160 km stretch of the rim of the canyon to include hotels, restaurants, golf courses and a cable car down to the Colorado River. The idea is that this will combat a serious unemployment rate (50%) and poverty within the 2000 Hualapai residents.

What are the issues surrounding the construction of the Skywalk?

  • Some of the Hualapai tribe see it as disturbing scared ground
  • Concern over future over-development of the area
  • The lack of sustainability: water is not taken from the Colorado River but piped or trucked in from elsewhere
  • Environmental groups think it spoils the natural landscape and a national and world treasure
  • Some have suggested that the Hualapai had argued that they were best suited to look after the Grand Canyon and have now decided to exploit it
  • Much of the Hualapai tribe say they need employment and financial income to counter social problems and poverty





"This was a dream. Just like an eagle can fly into the Grand Canyon, my vision was to enable visitors to walk the path of the eagle, and become surrounded by the Grand Canyon while standing at the edge of the Glass Bridge. The bridge gives us the chance to share the wonder of the canyon that the Hualapai Tribe has graciously offered. My dream was to find a balance between form, function and nature. Once a dream... Now a reality."

Download the excerpts from the website.

What is being described?

What do you think of Skywalk? Take an opinion poll of your class using the Excel Pollster.

Try to find the Skywalk in Google Earth

Why do some people view the Skywalk as a "step too far"?



Watch the You Tube video introduction to the Skywalk or watch the Washington Post video.

In small groups compare the official Skywalk website with the Washington Post news story and the Wikipedia Skywalk article.

Make a Concept Map to illustrate the issues behind the construction of the Skywalk.

Read the comments about the Skywalk that have been posted on You Tube.

Which opinion is the most popular with the class?



Carry out a second opinion poll to gauge the extent to which the class has changed their views about the Skywalk.

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