|Living in the water-rich Great Lakes basin, many Michigan
students take water for granted. The MEECS Water Quality Unit is designed
to provide students with a solid foundation in understanding the critical
importance of having adequate supplies of clean, available fresh water
for the environment, Michigan’s economy, and our quality of
life. The unit provides a national and international perspective on
water availability, an appreciation for Michigan’s “dirty”
water history, and an understanding of the challenges that Michigan
faces in addressing water quality and quantity issues related to groundwater,
streams and rivers, wetlands, inland lakes, and the Great Lakes. Not
only can humans not survive a week without water, neither can an economy
survive without sufficient supplies of clean water.
The MEECS Water Quality Unit contains nine core lessons and five
extension lessons, as well as numerous extension and enhancement
activities. All lessons are correlated to middle and high school
benchmarks for science and social studies. The lessons and activities
may be adapted for specific grades, as well as for non-formal education
programs. In addition, six interactive online learning modules have
been developed to support several lessons in the unit (http://techalive.mtu.edu/meec_index.htm).
Both individual lesson assessments and a MEAP-like unit assessment
are included. The embedded lesson assessments are either project-based
or invite student reflection and discussion. Teachers also have
the option of using a pre- and post-unit assessment. Use of a science
journal throughout the unit is also encouraged.
Topics addressed in the unit include the availability and distribution
of water on Earth (Lesson 1); household water use and water used
in the manufacture of goods and services in Michigan (Lesson 2);
managing water quantity and movement within a watershed (Lesson
3); land uses and water pollution (Lesson 4); groundwater quality
and potential contamination (Lesson 5); measuring water quality
and the history of water quality protection in Michigan (Lesson
6); assessing the health of aquatic ecosystems with stream monitoring
(Lesson 7); managing storm water runoff (Lesson 8); and threats
to the Great Lakes (Lesson 9). Some of the current challenges that
we face are invasive species, emerging contaminants, proposed out-of-basin
export of Great Lakes water, over-pumping of groundwater, combined
sewer overflows and storm water runoff, cleaning up Areas of Concern
and Superfund sites, potential impacts of climate change on water
levels and aquatic ecosystems, beach closures, loss of wetlands,
declining biodiversity, bioaccumulation of contaminants in fish,
and more. Students are encouraged to explore possible solutions
to these challenges including pollution prevention strategies, using
data to make management decisions, personal behavior and product
choices, engaging in activities that inform their communities, and
more. The role of government and environmental stewardship to protect
water quality and quantity is woven into lessons throughout the
The water management choices that Michigan residents make now and
in the future will have significant environmental, economic, and
social impacts for us as individuals, for our communities, the State
of Michigan, and for our country. How can Michigan residents, businesses,
and industry continue to meet their needs without compromising the
ability of future generations to meet their water resource needs?
In order to ensure a healthy, sustainable future, Michigan residents
must have the knowledge and skills necessary to make informed data-based
decisions about the water resource challenges facing us as residents
of a Great Lakes state and as participants in a global economy.
The Water Quality Unit addresses the following “Enduring
Understandings.” Upon completion of the unit, students will
- (Awareness) Good quality water and an adequate supply of water
are essential to Michigan’s communities and to our quality
- (Connections) All Michigan residents live in a watershed that
is part of the Great Lakes watershed, a unique global resource of
unprecedented importance to Michigan, the United States and the
- (Concern) Our activities have past, present, and future impacts
on Michigan's water resources.
- (Knowledge) Water quality standards have been established to
protect the many uses of Michigan’s water.
- (Knowledge) We can assess the health and water quality of Michigan’s
streams, rivers, lakes, and groundwater by collecting and analyzing
- (Knowledge) We need to know where our drinking water comes from
and where our wastewater goes.
- (Decision-making) We need data to make decisions about protecting
and restoring Michigan’s water resources.
- (Stewardship and sustainability) It is up to every citizen to
be a steward of Michigan’s water resources.
The future of Michigan’s environment, economy, and quality
of life depends on the decisions made by today’s youth as
tomorrow’s decision-makers. The MEECS Water Quality Unit will
help Michigan students gain the knowledge and skills they need to
become stewards of Michigan’s water resources and to help
keep this Great Lake’s state GREAT!
or Print Lesson Table
Overview of Michigan Environmental Education Curriculum Support
Water Quality Unit for Science & Social Studies (Gr. 6-8)
How much water is available for human use?
Water cycle processes; distribution of water on
Why is clean, available freshwater important to
Direct and indirect water uses; value of water
to Michigan’s environment and economy.
How Do We Use Water?
Students identify the many ways we use water daily in all we do
and all we consume. Students calculate their weekly water use and
its cost compared to gasoline.
Why are watersheds important?
Watershed, runoff, surface water, groundwater,
3. Do You Know Where Your Watershed Is?
Students define watershed and the parts of a river; compare watershed
size and stream flow in Michigan; examine their watersheds’
relationship to the Great Lakes
How do different land uses affect water quantity
Land uses, sources of pollutants, point and non-point
4. How Do Land Uses Affect Water Quality?
Students build a simple watershed model to observe point & non-point
pollution from different land uses; identify the types of pollution
resulting from different land uses; give examples of best management
practices to reduce pollution.
How can groundwater become polluted?
Connection of groundwater and surface water; groundwater
movement; sources of groundwater contamination.
5. Why Care About Groundwater?
Students examine groundwater characteristics, how groundwater is
used in Michigan, and how groundwater interacts with surface water.
Build a model to show how groundwater is recharged and how it can
How do we know if water is clean?
Water quality standards; drinking water protection;
history of water quality protection.
6. Would You Drink This Water?
Students consider whether the ‘look’ and ‘smell’
of water is enough to indicate its quality; conduct a serial dilution
to observe the tiny quantities that can be harmful to humans and
aquatic organisms; and become familiar with who protects Michigan’s
How do you know if a stream is healthy?
Stream health: water quality, bio-assessment,
physical measurements, habitat quality.
7. How Healthy Is This Stream?
Students identify characteristics of healthy streams; use real Michigan
data to select the best stream for brook trout.
How does storm water runoff impact rivers, lakes
and the Great Lakes?
Sources of storm water pollutants and strategies
for controlling storm water runoff and improving water quality.
8. Can We Stop Storm Water?
Identify pollutants in storm water; use aerial photos to compare
changes in land use and runoff quantity; identify best management
practices to reduce storm water impacts.
What is bioaccumulation and other challenges to
the Great Lakes? What can I do?
Bioaccumulation in the Great Lakes food web; stewardship
of Michigan’s water resources.
9. Bioaccumulation and the Great Lakes
Investigate the bioaccumulation of contaminants in Great Lakes food
chains; investigate Great Lakes concerns and answer ‘How can