Search for Resources

Local Aquatic System Health

Elementary, Middle


Students will learn how aquatic environments are affected by human activity through climate change, industrial development and hydroelectric dams. They will also learn how indigenous knowledge can be used alongside western scientific practices to gain a deeper understanding of the changing face of the waterways. The activities include hands-on experiences.

The lesson begins with a class discussion about local waterways and their health. The students explore the World Wildlife Fund's online Watershed Report & map as a class. They will then work together to write a definition of water pollution after viewing and discussing a PowerPoint presentation

During the next section of the lesson, students will participate in  a field trip to a local waterway. To help understand the different economic challenges faced by various groups in addressing polluted water sources, students role play how different communities will pay for and build a water filter.  An elder is invited to speak during the field trip and share stories and observations of the water and water pollution so that the students can assess the water quality using indigenous knowledge.

During the culminating activity the students will reflect on their learning by answering questions provided.  There is also an option to complete a writing piece and other extension activities.

The lesson includes a word bank of water-related terms in First Nation languages that the teacher is encouraged to learn and use.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

The resource does not explicitly teach skills; it has a focus of developing an awareness around the importance of clean water and how indigenous knowledge can compliment more traditional scientific methods.


  • interesting and engaging resource
  • hands on activities that the students will enjoy
  • all materials are provided


  • no tools for assessment provided
  • no strategies for learners who may have difficulties
  • the resource is not easy to follow: it is comprised of a number of other resources and following the plan involves visiting a number of sites for the activities.

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This resource is best suited for the middle school Science classroom.  It fits very well with outcomes related to aquatic environments, ecosystems and the impact of human activity on the environment.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

Themes Addressed

Human Health & Environment (1)

  • Quality of Life

Human Rights (1)

  • Environmental Racism/Justice

Indigenous Knowledge (1)

  • TEK -- Traditional Ecological Knowledge

Water (4)

  • Water Quality
  • Water Treatment and Distribution
  • Water Use
  • Watershed Protection

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Very Good

The students explore both the scientific and traditional indigenous knowledge in order to gain a firm understanding of the issues related to clean water.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Very Good

Through the hands-on activity to build a water filter, the students gain an awareness of the environmental and economic dimensions of water pollution.  During the class discussions, the students are also made aware of the social factors at play.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Very Good

The activity in which the students build a water filter illustrates concretely for the students the different challenges faced by countries in securing clean water for their people.  

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Satisfactory

The focus of the lesson is to allow the students to learn about the water quality in their local area and how indigenous knowledge can help provide a complete picture of an area's overall health. The acting on learning activities are not core components of the lesson plan but offered as extension activities.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Good

The writing activity to complete the lesson allows the students to solidify their understanding and express their thoughts.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Satisfactory

The greater challenges in providing clean water for some groups more than for others is made clear.

Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Very Good

The addition of the field trip and invitation for an elder to speak to the class  allow the students to gain a greater appreciation of the importance of clean water.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Very Good

Although this resource is based on the MacKenzie River Basin, it can easily be adapted to any waterway in any community.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Very Good

The use of indigenous knowledge and the invitation to an elder to speak to the students helps to develop an understanding of the past.  The field trip to the waterway gives the students a sense of the present.  The discussions about the importance of maintaining clean water for the future help to complete the description over time.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Very Good

The resource allows for the students to use trial and error when building their water filter.  It also allows for flexibility in the class discussions and end of lesson reflections.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Very Good
  • Science
  • Literacy
  • Indigenous studies
Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Good

The students work in groups to build a water filtration system.  There are no guides provided for them to follow.  

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.


Differentiated Instruction Satisfactory

There are no strategies for learners who may experience difficulties.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Very Good

The field trip and presentation by the elder help to make the learning authentic.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory

Group work is central to the lesson.

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Satisfactory

There are no tools nor suggestions made for evaluating student learning.  Some of the products from the activities could be used for assessment.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Satisfactory
Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Poor/Not considered

Case studies are not provided.

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Satisfactory

The final activity allows for the students to choose how they would like to write their final reflection piece.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.