These educator resources are designed to be used with the program If Our Water Could Talk. They are recommended for teachers in elementary, middle and high schools to explore specific biology, earth science and historical themes.
Below are activities designed to enhance the understanding of Buffalo Niagara waterways, as well as broader, relatable themes to be used in your classroom. We have also provided links to many other types of resources and activities.
Buffalo Water Renaissance
Water has defined Buffalo over the last two hundred years. Water helped build Buffalo into a shipping hub in the 1800’s and a manufacturing powerhouse in the 1900’s. Most of those industries are long gone but their legacy along the waterways of Western New York is not. Many water related issues face Buffalo today, industrial clean up, environmental restoration, and public access are only a few. But if handled correctly, water can be one of the keys to Buffalo’s future.
Stanley Spisiak: A Voice for the Water
Stanley Spisiak was a local jeweler in Buffalo who had a passion for the outdoors and particularly for the water. He was an advocate for the waters of Western New York long before it was common or popular to speak out about environmental concerns. His actions laid the ground for the path to recovery of the Buffalo River and Lake Erie. Meet Spisiak and his grand-niece Jill Spisiak Jedlicka, who continues that work today.
Listening to the Water
Jill Jedlicka is the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper. She and her organization have done much of the legwork to help clean up the Buffalo River and other waterways around Western New York. The work done by Riverkeeper has been integral to the recovery of water all over the region. In her extended interview, Jill mentions "listening to the water."
More Educational Activities and Resources:
Water Treatment Plant (grades K-8)
In most parts of the United States, getting clean, safe water is as easy as turning on a faucet. Generally, this water comes from either groundwater or nearby streams and reservoirs. What most of us never see or have to worry about are the steps required to make this water drinkable. In this video segment adapted from ZOOM, cast member Noreen finds out how a water treatment facility in Cambridge, Massachusetts purifies its city's water.
WaterSense Game (grades 3-7)
Think you know everything there is to know about water? Move the water-efficiency hero Flo through water pipes and answer water-efficiency questions while avoiding water-wasting monsters.
How Much Water Do We Use? (grades 3-8)
Show how much you know about water conservation in this animated game. Match these everyday activities (like taking a shower) with how much water they use.
What is a Watershed? (grades 3-12)
Even if you live, work or play far from a river, your actions could have an impact on the quality of the water in an area. Runoff from fields, lawns, and pavement could carry potentially harmful materials from our watersheds to our rivers. These effects could be felt far from the point of origin. This video from KET's Raindrops to Rivers shows how smaller watersheds flow into larger ones.
Water Testing (grades 4-6)
How clean is your water? Meet some smart kids in Queens, New York who are answering just that question at the Alley Pond Environmental Center. After collecting water samples, they measure the temperature and test the oxygen and nitrate content. The resulting data tells them how hospitable the water is for fish as well as the overall health of the aquatic ecosystems.
These two sets of eight videos explore how to prevent and mitigate non-point-source water pollution. The first set (for grades 4-12) focuses on Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, located near Louisville, Kentucky, and how its "green" Visitor Center helps protect and conserve water. The second set of videos (for grades 6-12) focuses on the problem of acid drainage from abandoned Kentucky coal mines.
Human Impact on Water Quality (grades 6-8)
Water is a vital natural resource that all living things depend on to survive, but water quality is being affected by human activity. In this lesson, students explore how humans have impacted the quality of our water resources, and consider ways to avoid further pollution. Students first examine the causes of water pollution, then investigate the quality of their community's water supply. They conclude with an exploration of ways to make water safe for human consumption.
Urban Solutions to Water Pollution (grades 6-12)
In this KET video segment from Louisville Life, learn how a rain garden in an urban community helps prevent storm water runoff from contaminating an urban watershed. Students describe how building a rain garden helps improve their community, prevents storm water runoff, and provides a personal sense of accomplishment and pride.
Poisoned Waters: How Can Communities Fight Industrial Pollution? (6-13+)
More than three decades after the Clean Water Act, iconic American waterways like the Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound are in perilous condition and facing new sources of contamination. In this special collection of educational resources from FRONTLINE Poisoned Waters, correspondent Hedrick Smith investigates the growing hazards to our waterways and emerging threats to human health.
What’s in Your Stream? (grades 9-12)
In this lesson students will learn about the impact of the environment on the rivers and streams in Pennsylvania through online resources and scientific investigation of water quality through hands-on fieldwork. The suggested time frame for this lesson is three 50-minute class periods.
Fishing for Safe Food (grades 3-8)
In this interactive game adapted from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, students on a fishing trip try to catch different types of fish. Once a player catches a fish, he or she decides to keep it or throw it back, based on safety information provided by the EPA. The game teaches students which fish have high or low levels of mercury, and how much is safe to eat.
Acid Lake (grades 3-8)
This interactive activity adapted from EcoKids introduces acid rain—how it affects aquatic ecosystems, the difference between acid rain and normal rain, and how certain species as well as entire ecosystems, react to emissions from industrial and other man-made sources that contribute to acid rain. The activity also explains the pH scale, which is used to measure acidity.
The Hydrologic Cycle (grades 3-8)
Water continuously travels between Earth's surface and the atmosphere via the hydrologic cycle. Through five main processes — condensation, precipitation, infiltration, runoff, and evapotranspiration — water is perpetually recycled. In this interactive resource adapted from NASA, explore the steps of the water cycle.
The Three Rivers (grades 3-12)
Students engage in a scientific mystery that they solve by exploring interactive panoramic images of Columbia, SC and picking up clues along the way. Along the waterways they study the history, geography, ecology, plants and wildlife of this region and also learn how rivers were instrumental in forming this historic city.
Global Water Distribution (grades 3-12)
Earth is covered by water, hence its nickname: the Blue Planet. This interactive resource adapted from Oxford University Press reveals just how much water is saline -- the kind that fills the oceans -- and how much is fresh water. As you explore these statistics further, you may be surprised to learn just how little water is available to share among Earth's six billion human inhabitants, not to mention all the other organisms that rely on fresh water for their survival.
Environmental Hazards at the Coast (grades 6-8)
In this interactive activity adapted from the National Library of Medicine, explore the environmental hazards found at various coastal locations, including beaches, coastal brownfields, cruise ships, fish farms, homes, marinas and boats, power plants, storage tanks and pipelines, and wastewater treatment facilities.
Ecological Art (grades 3-13+)
In this Spark video produced by KQED, follow environmental artist Daniel McCormick as he creates temporary sculptures in the creek beds of West Marin.
Riveropolis (grades K-13+)
Gregory Gavin is an artist with a social cause. In this Spark video produced by KQED, explore his project called "Riveropolis," which was born out of his interest in bringing inner-city people together in a man-made environment reminiscent of nature.
Students K-12 - Environmental Protection Agency games, quizzes, homework help, contests, community service and science fair projects.
Teachers - Environmental Protection Agency resources and lesson plans.
TEACH Great Lakes - features mini-lessons on many Great Lakes topics: environment, history & culture, geography, pollution and careers & business. (grades K- 12)
Give Water a Hand: Action Guide - This book is your guide to action. It will help you figure out what you can do to protect water. Investigate the water in your community and Give Water a Hand. (grades 4-8)
Give Water a Hand: Leader Guide Book - Here you’ll find step by step guidelines for helping your youth group or class (grades 4-8) make a difference for their community and the environment.
EPA’s Water Sense Program for Educators
Drinking Water: Protecting the Source - National FFA Organization