Curriculum

How Long Does it take Water to Flow Through the Great Lakes Basin?

Water that is in a lake does not stay in that lake. Where does the water go? The length of time that it takes for the amount of water in a lake to be completely replaced (enter the lake) is called retention time. Each of the Great Lakes has a different retention time. Construct an appropriate model of the water flow of the Great Lakes learn about retention time and replacement time, and how how Lake Superior affects the dynamics of water flow, retention time and flushing rates for the Great Lakes system.

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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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How Does Stratification Affect Water Quality?

Some lakes have water quality problems related to the layering of the lake’s waters, which occurs in the summer months. During the summer, the warm surface layer of water does not mix with the colder bottom layer of water. If a lot of algae has grown in the lake, decay of the dead algae on the lake bottom may use up all of the oxygen in the cold bottom water layer. In the fall, the surface water cools and mixes with the bottom water, resupplying the bottom water with oxygen needed for life. Learn how stratification of lake waters influences water quality and phosphorus affects oxygen levels in lakes.

Objectives

When you complete the activity you will be able to:

  • Describe how stratification of lake waters influences water quality.
  • Explain how phosphorus affects oxygen levels in lakes.

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How Well Do You Know the Great Lakes?

Many people, including a large portion of those who live close to the Great Lakes, do not a have a basic understanding of the individual characteristics of and the differences between the lakes. Since it is difficult to understand many of the Great Lakes issues, such as global climate change, pollution, and water use without a basic understanding of the lakes, this activity is designed to help visualize the differences in volume, shoreline length, human population distribution, and fish populations of the Great Lakes.

After completing this activity, students will be able to:
  • Compare and contrast the differences between the Great Lakes in water volumes, length of shoreline, human population distribution, and the amount of fish harvested from each lake.

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Making Great Lakes Connections

Groups of learners work on a single Great Lake and connecting waterway and then come together as a class to construct a simple three-dimensional model of the Great Lakes. Individual groups also
present their Great Lake and connecting waterway information.

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More Than Just a Lake!

By creating a map of the rivers flowing into your Great Lake, learn how rivers form a watershed.

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Your Great Lake!

How much water does each Great Lake hold? Use this lesson as a demonstration or a classroom lesson to create visual representations of the Great Lakes, Lake Baikal, and the relationships between surface area, retention time and pollution effects.

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Density: Sea Water Mixing and Sinking

Two of the most important characteristics of ocean water are its temperature and salinity.
Together they help govern the density of seawater, which is a major factor controlling the ocean’s
vertical movements and layered circulation.

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Going with the Flow

Students use a simple model to discover that air moving over water causes the surface of the water
to move horizontally. In writing and in a discussion, students relate this concept to surface currents in
the ocean and the Great Lakes.

Objectives:

  • Relate the motion of surface currents (cause) to the motion of objects floating in the ocean and Great Lakes (effect)
  • Relate the transfer of energy from wind moving across water (cause) to the horizontal movement of water (effect)
  • Use the term “surface current” to explain horizontal movement of surface water caused by wind
  • Explain that surface currents affect surface water, not deep water

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