Collection 4 – Lesson Plans from Our Monthly PBS Program

Lesson Plans, New Each Month

These new, original, free lesson plans and at-home activities are based on videos produced for the award-winning “Great Lakes Now” public television series and are downloadable for use with your middle schoolers.

Watch for a new one each month!

Authored by a former science teacher, each collection of lessons is aligned with national education standards, are easily downloadable and organized into manageable sections with all the handouts needed to engage learners with the science and study of the Great Lakes.

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Episode 2304: Sweet sweet energy

This lesson will explore the phenomenon of maple sap production in the Great Lakes, as it pertains to chemical energy storage and transfer, in contrast with mechanical energy storage and transfer in wind turbines. Students will model the production of maple syrup from sap by making simple syrup and perform a distillation experiment with cola.


Episode 2303: How Is Our Climate Changing?

This lesson will explore the phenomenon of disappearing ice in the Great Lakes and the impact this has on ice fishing as a result of climate change. Students will explore the global average temperatures over time, model the greenhouse effect, conduct an experiment to model ocean acidification, and create an infographic to communicate the issue of climate change and how the impacts of human activites on the natural system can be reduced.


Episode 2303: Citizen science in the Great Lakes

This lesson will explore the phenomenon of light pollution in the Great Lakes and some of the citizen science efforts going on around the region. Students will explore the impact that artificial lights have on night sky visibility for star gazing, learn about how everyday people can contribute to scientific research, and engage in citizen science projects in their community.


Episode 2302: How cold is melting ice?

This lesson will explore the phenomenon of ice climbing in the Great Lakes. Students will explore the phase changes associated with water going between the liquid and solid state in order to learn about the formation of ice that is climbable, the melt patterns of ice, and how salinity affects ice melting.


Episode 2301: Shrewd Sanitation

This lesson will explore the phenomenon of water pollution from combined sewer systems in the Great Lakes by learning about the smart sewer technology developed at Notre Dame and implemented in South Bend, IN. Students will learn about the technology, the water pollution problem it is trying to solve, and engineer a model sewer system of their own using household materials to transport water a distance.


Episode 2211: Venomous Fish in the Great Lakes

This lesson will explore the phenomenon of venomous fish in the Great Lakes by learning about the Northern Madtoms. Students will learn about the species, learn about how scientists make decisions to classify species like the Northern Madtom, and create an infographic about the species to inform others about it.


Episode 2210: Constant Speed Ahead

This lesson will explore the sport of eFoiling and how Newtonian physics can be used to explain the phenomenon of the surfboard moving on the Great Lakes. Students will learn to model constant speed and how balanced forces allow objects to move at constant speeds.


Episode 2209: Mapping the Floor of the Great Lakes

This lesson will explore the phenomenon of sound waves underwater used to map landforms and how modern technology is helping update the maps of the terrain beneath the Great Lakes. Students will learn about the history of mapping the lakebed and the SONAR technology used by NOAA to upgrade our maps.


Episode 2209: Fascinating Freshwater Fish

This lesson will explore the phenomenon of biodiversity in the Great Lakes and the efforts one museum in Ontario, Canada has taken to catalog it. Students will learn about the history of fish indexing in the Great Lakes, the type collection at the Royal Ontario Museum, and discover why this kind of organism library is helpful to preserving the Great Lakes ecosystem.


Episode 2208: Combatting Coal Ash

This lesson will explore the phenomenon of coal ash contamination in groundwater and the threat it poses to Lake Michigan and other areas of the Great Lakes waterways. Students will learn about the history of coal ash disposal, the discovery of coal ash in groundwater, and efforts to address the problem.


Episode 2207: Superior Salamanders

This lesson will explore the phenomenon of salamander migration — across a main road — in Presque Isle Park near Lake Superior and the efforts to protect the population from the effects of human activity. Students will learn about the salamander migration, including the unique female-only population, to vernal pools.


Episode 2206: The Great Lakes “Vampire”

Photo courtesy of T. Lawrence via Wikimedia

This lesson will explore the phenomenon of invasive species in the Great Lakes, specifically the sea lamprey, to help students learn how predator-prey relationships affect populations in an ecosystem, why invasive species like the sea lamprey pose a threat to the Great Lakes, and which efforts can most successfully control them.


Episode 2205: The Cost of Drinking Water

Based on an independent project by the Great Lakes News Collaborative to better understand the real cost of water, this lesson will explore the costs associated with providing drinking water to communities in the Great Lakes and across the U.S. Students will learn how water infrastructure systems naturally age and need to be maintained, upgraded, fixed, or replaced, and how that life cycle of the infrastructure affects water quality and cost to communities who depend on fresh, clean water.


Episode 2204: The Fungus Among Us

This lesson will explore the phenomenon of fungal networks in the city of Crystal Falls, MI to help students learn some of the science of the fungi kingdom. They will learn how fungi help plants to communicate with each other and contribute to everyday foods we enjoy. Learners will engage in experiments to investigate the factors that affect mold growth on bread, how temperature influences yeast growth, and create a model to explain fungal networks.


Episode 2203: Sailing Close to the Winter Wind

This lesson will explore the phenomenon of wind in the winter through the pastime of ice boating to learn about the science behind how winds are produced, sailboats move, and how wind can be a renewable source of energy. Learners will engage in design projects to build a wind-powered sail cart, anemometer, and windmill.


Episode 2202: The Great Lakes on Thin Ice

This lesson will explore the phenomenon of ice cover as students learn about ways that winter is “shrinking” in the Great Lakes. They will engage with the science of phase changes as it relates to temperature.


Episode 2201: Lighting the Way

Lighthouses appear on coastlines throughout the Great Lakes and beyond. This lesson will introduce students to the phenomena of light intensity and the inverse-square law that governs it by helping them understand how a lighthouse functions to light the way for ships and boats. Plus help your young learners imagine what it would have been like to be a lighthouse keeper.


Episode 1031: (Pollution) Free Shipping

Going beyond the Great Lakes’ iconic freighters, this lesson exposes students to the science and engineering practice of developing and using models. Through an exploration of some of the measures that the shipping industry is taking to reduce environmental impact, students will investigate possible solutions and mathematically model how they might work. The Great Lakes Now video and articles used in this lesson plan were produced with support from Solutions Journalism Network.


Episode 1030: The Power of Perspective

Students build perspective and empathy as they explore multiple points of view on a common issue by observing and participating in discussions of issues with people from different points of view. Built out of this Great Lakes Now special broadcast of the Canadian program “Political Blind Date,” the video narrative follows Karen Weaver, former mayor of Flint, Michigan, and Mitch Twolan, mayor of Huron-Kinloss in Ontario, Canada as they explore how to best protect the region’s water. Students will explore and interpret different sources of information for point of view, context, bias, frame of reference, or perspective as well as articulate their perspective on the issue after being informed about it.


Episode 1029: Great Lakes Now Floats My Boat

Based on a video visit to the Great Lakes Boat Building School, lessons include the phenomena of buoyancy and water displacement to help students understand why a boat floats. Activities also include learning about how boats have been made out of various materials — including wood — over the years and engineering a boat according to certain constraints to hold a certain amount of weight.


Episode 1028: Algal Blooms on Lake Superior

This lesson will introduce students to the phenomenon of eutrophication by helping them understand the reasons behind the novel algal blooms observed in Lake Superior, the impact that climate change has on algal blooms, and how toxic algal blooms affect the Great Lakes.