Students will be able to:
- identify their drainage basin;
- describe the path water takes from their community to the ocean;
- identify at least one other human community that shares the watershed/coastline; and
- identify five species of ocean wildlife their watershed affects.
In this three-part activity, students use various resources to trace the surface waters that connect their community to the ocean, to other communities along their watershed, and to ocean wildlife.
"Resource Sheet: Canada's Drainage Basins" (PDF), Canadian geographic atlases, Internet maps from Government of Canada (optional), local topographic maps (optional), local municipal sewer maps (optional), Ocean Creature Cards (game - see "Extensions"), large piece of flip chart paper or newsprint
We and our communities are connected to ocean wildlife—and other human communities— through water. How we treat our water matters.
Not all fresh water will leave our communities and make it to the ocean (some will be diverted for use or evaporate), but most will eventually flow into one of five ocean bodies— depending on the drainage basin we live in: Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic oceans, Hudson Bay, or the Gulf of Mexico.
Creating a geographic map of their watershed gives students an excellent visual image of their connections to the ocean, its wildlife, and other communities. The simplest activities here can be done with just the "Canada's Drainage Basins" map and a good Canadian geographic atlas. For more detailed maps, see "Where to Get Maps" below.
- Identify and gather the appropriate maps showing surface waterways from your community to their ocean outlet.
- Introduce the topic. Discuss how water and watersheds connect us to the ocean and other communities (see "Understanding Watersheds" below).
- Identify your drainage basin. Have students work alone or in groups of two to four. Distribute "Canada's Drainage Basins" maps and others showing major river systems. Have students identify their primary drainage basin and trace the route from home to the ocean. Take up this part of the activity to ensure the students know the source and destination of the water in their community.
- Have the students sketch a map showing the watershed and their community. Their map should include: a title, a scale, a north direction arrow, a legend, and basic features, such as rivers, lakes, the ocean, and major communities. Students can create this map at any level of detail, from rough sketches to scale maps using a grid, from a small page to an entire wall.
- Add other details, such as:
- upstream and downstream communities (e.g., Who sends us water?);
- local wetlands, streams, rivers, and lakes;
- areas of agricultural or industrial concentration;
- natural or protected areas and parks; and
- municipal water intakes and sewage outflows.
- Using the cards from the game, "Creature Connections Discovery Tour", have students draw ocean wildlife in the correct areas.
- Add direction arrows showing the flow of water from home to the ocean communities and wildlife.
- Illustrate the map with colourful drawings.
- Discuss the activity.
- Humans and wildlife along the route share the same water, pollutants and toxins.
- How would you like others to treat the water you drink?
- What land-based threats to ocean wildlife are described on the game cards?
- Identify sources of pollution in your watershed.
- Identify areas of water and wildlife protection.
- What can you do to ensure the water leaving your community is safe for others and ocean wildlife?
- Play the game, "Creature Connections Discovery Tour".
- Download the “Ocean Creature” cards here:
- Atlantic Ocean Drainage cards (PDF)
- Gulf of Mexico Darainage cards (PDF)
- Hudson Bay Drainage cards (PDF)
- Inland Habitats cards (PDF)
- Pacific Ocean Drainage cards (PDF)
- Card "backs" (PDF)
- Instructions (PDF)
- To order a print copy of the “Creature Connections Discovery Tour” game board contact CWF.
- Create a scale model of your watershed in the schoolyard, using chalk on the pavement, or in the school gym, using newsprint.
- Read the book or watch the film, Paddle to the Sea.
Where to Get Maps
- The Atlas of Canada has free downloadable maps that require no special software. View and print maps with many different features, locations, and scales. Look in the menu for Freshwater maps, Drainage Patterns, Population Densities, Agricultural Maps, Economic/Industrial Maps, and Parks.
- Purchase highly detailed topographical maps from local suppliers. Costs can add up if you wish to trace a long path to the ocean; you may want this level of detail for just your immediate area.
- Very detailed Canadian maps are free at www.geogratis.cgdi.gc.ca, but you need special software. Check your school computer lab.
- Get maps of local sewer systems and outflows through local municipalities.
A watershed is a territory or catchment area that drains precipitation through a connected system of waterways. It includes wetlands, ponds, lakes, streams, rivers, underground waters, and the lands surrounding them. A watershed has boundaries, like a country, except these are land ridges. And, just as townships are combined to form counties and counties to form provinces, smaller watersheds are parts of progressively larger watersheds, like giant jigsaw puzzles. All watersheds eventually connect to the ocean. For an excellent resource, see the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Can the students identify their community's drainage basin and the ocean into which their wastewater flows? Can they identify ocean wildlife connected with their community and the land-based threats to those creatures?
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