Curriculum

Out One Lake and In Another – How long does it take water to flow through the Great Lakes?

Water that is in a lake does not stay in that lake. Where does the water go? If you think about the water cycle, you will be able to figure out several places that it might go. The length of time that it takes for the amount of water in a lake to be completly replaced (enter the lake) is called retention time. Each of the Great Lakes has a different retention time. Lake Superior’s retention time is much longer than the others: 194 years compared to just 75 years for Lake Huron, for example. Since the water mixes as it pours in and out, over the course of 194 years only half of the water in Lake Superior actually leaves.

Objectives:

When you have completed this activity you will be able to:

  • Construct an appropriate model of the water flow of the Great Lakes.
  • Define the concepts of retention time and replacement time and, describe how they are different.
  • Discuss how Lake Superior affects the dynamics of water flow, retention time and flushing rates for the Great Lakes system and why this is important

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How does water move in the Great Lakes basin?

You are familiar with the water cycle. The sun heats the surface of the earth, water evaporates, water vapor rises in the atmosphere cools and condenses, precipitation falls and then water flows in the streams, rivers, lakes and oceans. In this activity you will find out how water moves in the Great Lakes system.

Objectives:

When you complete this activity you will be able to:

  • Locate and identify the Great Lakes on a map.
  • Identify the connecting waters.
  • Define water basin.
  • Begin an analysis of the flow of water.

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Paddle-to-the-Sea, Google Lit Trip

Google Lit Trips let people experience the journeys in great literature. Paddle-to-the-Sea, a picture book written and illustrated by Holling C. Holling, teaches children and adults alike about the natural and cultural wonders of the Great Lakes. It remains timely seven decades after its initial publication. Follow “Paddle-to-the-Sea”, a carving of a young Indian boy in a canoe, on a journey through all the Great Lakes. This Google Earth application shows the path of Paddle’s journey to the sea.

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Great Lakes Waves and Water Safety Lesson

Students learn about how to analyze wind and wave data in the context of the famous historical wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, as well as a more recent storm in 2010. This lesson provides the opportunity for students to perform a retrospective investigation of the meteorological conditions that led to the shipwreck and explore how modern data sources could help prevent such a disaster. Additionally, students use weather maps to plan a “safe route” for a ship to navigate through the “North American Extratropical Cyclone of October 2010.” This lesson was prepared to support the educational mission of the Great Lakes Observing System.

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Wisconsin’s Great Lakes Shipwrecks

Wisconsin’s shipwrecks and maritime attractions are tangible reminders of how important water has been in shaping the state’s history and culture. Discover more about how underwater archaeologists unearth this lost history and learn about the research that is currently underway.

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