Collection 2

An Exploration of THREATS to the Great Lakes Lesson Plan Collection


Great Lakes Now: An Exploration of Threats to the Great Lakes is an introduction to the natural threats to and human impact upon, the Great Lakes. This collection of lessons — the second volume — aims to build on prior knowledge introduced to students in the first volume pertaining to basic scientific and geographic concepts about the Great Lakes but focusing how manmade and naturally occurring conditions threaten aspects of the world’s largest supply of surface freshwater.

There are 11 lessons in this collection, each aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards and either Common Core standards, Earth Science or SEP standards. The lessons feature a number of interactive and hands-on activities for students to explore topics ranging from invasive species and algae to climate change and pollution. Beyond the specific look at some of the harm to the Great Lakes environment, this lesson collection gives special attention to potential solutions to the problems threatening the Great Lakes and explores some of the restorative measures being taken on some of the issues. Through the activities and lessons, students are introduced to ways that they can adjust their own behavior, or raise the awareness of those around them in their lives, to positively impact the Great Lakes and work to mitigate the effects of some of the threats.

The 11 lessons from this collection can be taught individually or sequenced together as a larger unit on modern threats facing the Great Lakes. Embedded throughout the collection are links to videos produced by Detroit Public Television and Great Lakes Now, as well as a range of other resources from PBS that support citizen science and encourage exploration.

Download the collection >


Photo credit: Dusty Klifman

Lesson Plan 1: Dear Great Lakes

Students will be introduced to the threat of coastal flooding that faces the Great Lakes and many other coastal areas in the world due to climate change. View >




Lesson Plan 2: What’s Greenland Got to Do With the Great Lakes?

Students deepen their knowledge of the impact that climate change and rising water levels can have on the Great Lakes. The focus here is to connect melting glaciers and sea level rise to the volume of water in the Great Lakes. View >


Lesson Plan 3: Fish Population Dynamics

Students will model how the population of two freshwater fish species change over time and depend on one another. View >





Photo by James Proffitt

Photo provided by James Proffitt

Lesson Plan 4: Does Fishing Threaten the Great Lakes?

Students will understand the link between fish population dynamics and the fishing industry. There is a mutual relationship between the two, which students should realize by the end of the lesson, because humans and fish are part of a common food chain in the Great Lakes. View >





Lesson Plan 5: Lake Invaders

Students will examine one of the most notable invasive species threatening the Great Lakes—the Asian Carp—and explore some of the solutions that are being tried to deal with the invasive species around the lakes. They will learn about the invasive species through several short videos and then integrate their knowledge by creating an infographic about the threat posed to the Great Lakes by the Asian Carp. View >


Lesson Plan 6: The Bloomin’ Algae Harming Lake Erie

Students will learn about the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles and investigate how these nutrients are cycled through the ecosystem near Toledo, OH, eventually causing significant algal blooms that threaten the water supply along the western coastline of Lake Erie. View >


Lesson Plan 7: A Freshwater Oil Spill Cleanup Simulation

Students will learn about a remote Canadian research station where scientists are working to understand the effects of oil spill pollution on freshwater and simulate an oil spill cleanup effort in the lab. View >


Lesson Plan 8: Restoring Rivers of the Great Lakes

Students will become familiar with two major river projects, one in the Chicago River and the other on the Cuyahoga River, and the restoration efforts involved with each. View >



Lesson Plan 9: Responding to the PFAS Crisis

Students will learn about per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and synthesize their learning into curious questions, as well as evidence-based responses, about the chemical that is threatening the Great Lakes. View >


Lesson Plan 10: The Supply and Demand of Groundwater

Students will investigate solutions to groundwater shortage and be introduced to the story of Ottawa County, MI where a water shortage caused such water scarcity that taps ran dry for residents. View >





Lesson Plan 11: Fatberg, Right Ahead!

Students will become familiar with fatbergs, how they form, move, and affect the sewer systems of municipalities. View >

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