Education Links

Trash Trunk

The Trash Trunk is designed for both formal and informal educational settings. The loanable trunk contains an Educator’s Guide with fourteen lessons and activities reprinted from a variety of sources, informational display cards and supporting materials needed to perform the activities. The activities are presented in three sections addressing the origins of marine debris, its impacts, and what can be done. Educators may select a single lesson or develop a unit utilizing Trash Trunk content, supplemental materials, and common classroom supplies.

Download the Trash Trunk Educator Guide
Download the Trash Trunk Display Cards
Request to borrow a Trash Trunk from your Sea Grant program

Have you used our kits? We welcome your YOUR FEEDBACK. Please complete our educational resource survey.

Trash Trunks were created by the UW Sea Grant Institute in partnership with Ohio and Michigan Sea Grants and NOAA Marine Debris with Center for Great Lakes Literacy funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Fish-o-pedia Pack: A Grab-and-Go Teaching Tool

The Fish-o-pedia Pack is an education pack  filled with materials to help teach students and other groups about Great Lakes fish. Each pack includes average size vinyl cutouts of twelve native and non-native Great Lakes fish.  The pack also contains the Fish-o-Pedia cards – filled with facts and figures about each of the species and the 4th edition of The Life of the Lakes: a Guide to the Great Lakes Fishery (2019) Brandon C. Schroeder, Dan M. O’Keefe, and Shari L. Dann with Michigan Sea Grant.

Download the Fish-o-pedia Guide 2019

Request to borrow a Fish-o-pedia Pack from your Sea Grant program.

Have you used our kits? We welcome your YOUR FEEDBACK. Please complete our educational resource survey.

Fish-o-pedia Lesson Plans, from the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network

  • CSI: Fish – Students take on the role of an expert witness in a lake sturgeon poaching trial. Using a variety of data sets they identify the need to visually represent data in order to find trends and make predictions, and provide evidence based reasoning to explain their findings in a fish poaching case study.
  • Fashion a Fish – Students design a fish while learning about adaptations to various habitats.
  • Fish Habitat and Humans – A healthy environment supports a variety of native species. This is especially true for Great Lakes fish. Different species of fish require specific habitats, and loss or alteration of fish habitat can lead to population declines. This lesson explains some of the characteristics of healthy fish habitat and guides students in making their own field observations and scientific predictions. It will require 3 50 minute class periods.
  • Fish Identification using a dichotomous key – Each family of fishes in the Great Lakes region has physical traits that set it apart from others, called distinguishing characteristics. These characteristics help fish survive in their environment. By observing and comparing these features, students learn that fish, like other living organisms, can be organized and classified into meaningful groups for identification and further study.
  • Go Fish – An active lesson where students investigate components of habitats and their impact on the survival of populations.
  • Great Lakes Fisheries and the Economy – Students participate in a role play investigating the economics value of fishing in the Great Lakes.
  • What are the Characteristics of Some Great Lakes Fish? If you know how to construct a dichotomous key, you can make one that classifies real organisms, some fish in the Great Lakes. For this activity you will work in groups of 3 or 4. Your group will construct a key to identify some fish families and learn something about them. Lake Erie has a larger variety of fish life than any other Great Lake. Scientists believer this is because of the southern position of the lake and because it is shallow. Lake Erie has 138 species of fish. These species can be grouped into 27 families. All of the fish in a given family share certain characteristics.In this exercise you will learn how to use these characteristics to identify the 27 families.
  • Who Can Harvest a Walleye? – The Great Lakes are an example of a natural community. In this community the small organisms (living things) outnumber the large organisms. The smaller organisms may be eaten by the larger ones.In this activity, students will count all the organisms of one kind, then count all the things they eat and all the things that eat them, creating pyramid of numbers that will also show who eats what.

The Fish-o-pedia Packs were created by the UW Sea Grant Institute with Center for Great Lakes Literacy funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Great Lakes Basin Map

This 7 foot by 10 foot vinyl Great Lakes Basin map illustrates the 2,212 mile journey from the tip of Lake Superior out to the Atlantic Ocean. The map includes a depth profile of the lakes and major rivers within the system, shows the direction and volume of flow through each of the lakes, and represents the journey of water from Lake Superior out to the Atlantic Ocean.

Request to borrow a Great Lakes Basin map from your Sea Grant program.

Have you used our kits? We welcome your YOUR FEEDBACK. Please complete our educational resource survey. Thank you!

Suggested lessons to use with the basin map from the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network:

  • How big is a crowd? – In this teacher-facilitated activity, learners will construct the five Great Lakes from string and use wrapped candy or peanuts in shells to investigate the impacts of population centers on Great Lakes fish production and water quality. Students learn to compare the relative sizes of the five Great Lakes and their human populations, as well as describe some of the problems that arise when many people depend on a limited resource.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Twister! Create your own Great Lakes Twister game to be used with the basin map.

Attack Pack: A Grab-and-Go Teaching Tool

The Aquatic Invaders Attack Pack is a rucksack filled with materials to help teach students and other groups about Great Lakes aquatic invasive species (AIS), the problems they cause and what can be done about them. Each pack includes preserved specimens of some of the most problematic AIS in the Great Lakes, rugged plastic fact sheets and a classroom guide. Additional materials are below.  The packs are designed to complement the Nab the Aquatic Invaders! website hosted by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant.

The Attack Packs were created by the UW Sea Grant Institute with Center for Great Lakes Literacy funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Download the Attack Pack Classroom Guide 2018

Download the Attack Pack Aquatic Invader Fact Sheets 2018

Request to borrow an Attack Pack from your Sea Grant program.

Have you used our kits? We welcome your YOUR FEEDBACK. Please complete our educational resource survey. Thank you!

Attack Pack Lesson Plans, from the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network:

  • Beat the Barriers – This board game teaches students about the various methods used to limit the sea lamprey population in the Great Lakes. Students assume the identity of sea lampreys and attempt to migrate from Lake Ontario to Lake Superior.
  • Don’t Stop for Hitchhikers – Students role-play the part of lake inhabitants and the aquatic exotics who displace the native species. Props are used to help demonstrate how aquatic exotic species enter a lake or river system, the negative effect they have on the native species, and things people can do to stop the spread of exotic species.
  • Great Lakes Most Unwanted – Students work in small groups to organize invasive species cards, featuring facts and photos. Each group presents a different invasive species in a poster or fact sheet to the class.
  • Invader Species of the Great Lakes – Students do a card-matching activity to learn about aquatic invasive species (AIS). In groups students select an aquatic invasive species, create a poster or factsheet and develop a charade-like game to demonstrate ways to prevent invasive species from spreading.
  • Rival for Survival – This activity presents real-life choices involving exotic species found in the Great Lakes, such as zebra mussels and purple loosestrife. Students are to analyze a situation related to ecology and make an environmentally sound decision. After playing the game, students organize what they learned into a concept map.
  • Ruffe Musical Chairs – Students use role-play to mimic the behavior of an invasive, non-native fish called Eurasian ruffe (pronounced rough) to experience firsthand how and why the species has multiplied so rapidly in some Great Lakes harbors.
  • Seeing Purple: A Population Explosion – Through a simulation, sampling, and estimation activity, students learn about the impact of purple loosestrife on a wetland due to its exponential growth. They learn about purple loosestrife’s life cycle and appreciate how scientists determine population size in an ecosystem.
  • What are the Characteristics of the Great Lakes Exotic Species – This puzzle activity is designed to help students review facts and information about the characteristics of the Great Lakes exotic species. They also learn about origin and introduction methods.

Limno Loan Program

Check out the Limno Loan Program! This program provides the opportunity for educators to borrow actual monitoring equipment used by scientists in the field and for students to experience collecting and analyzing real water-quality data. It is a great way to bring to life the topic of water quality for your students, and bring the outdoors to your classroom or your classroom outdoors!


US EPA Research Vessel Lake Guardian

Learn about the Great Lakes Research Vessel, the R/V  Lake Guardian, and the research and education opportunities associated with it.


Nab the Aquatic Invader

Nab the Aquatic Invader! is a fun way to learn about aquatic invaders. By using this site you can check out lots of unusual species that create real problems in the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf, and Great Lakes regions.


Fresh and Salt Curriculum

Fresh and Salt is a collection of activities connecting Great Lakes and ocean science topics to enhance teacher capabilities for accessing science information in Great Lakes and ocean sciences. Designed to be used by teachers in grades 5-10, this exemplary collection provides teachers with an interdisciplinary approach to ensure students achieve optimum science understanding of both Great Lakes and Ocean Literacy Principles. A varied range of instructional modes is offered, including data interpretation; experimentation; simulation; interactive mapping; and investigation.


NOAA Educator Opportunities

The Educator Opportunities website is designed to provide information about educational opportunities that are available to educators through NOAA. Using the tabs below, educators can find information on in-person workshops, online trainings, field experiences, and conferences and events where NOAA staff will be in attendance.


Teaching Great Lakes Science: Lessons and Data Sets

“Welcome to Great Lakes Lessons! This website features a suite of lessons, activities and data sets all focused on various scientific aspects of the Great Lakes. Throughout the website, you will find usable data sets, an overview of teaching methods, and ready-to-go lessons and activities. Any of these resources may be easily incorporated into formal and informal educational settings and many are multidisciplinary. All the lessons, activities, teacher tools and data sets are free.”

All lessons are fully developed and read to use. They have clear learning objectives, background information, and complete hands-on learning activities making it easy for any educator to implement these in their classroom or outside. Use these lessons to enrich already existing curriculum and subject matter.


Estuary Education: National Estuarine Research Reserve System

“ helps educators bring the beauty and the importance of estuaries into classrooms and educational programs. This site provides, primarily, an avenue for elementary, middle and high school students, and their teachers, to learn more about estuaries, research, and explore NOAA’s “living laboratories” – the National Estuarine Research Reserves.”

Features include current content, real-time data, FREE online curriculum, live broadcasts and a video collection, resources, a glossary, and are recommended for teachers, students, and anyone interested in estuaries and coastal issues.


National Estuarine Research Reserve System: Centralized Data Management Office

“NOAA’s National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) acknowledges the importance of both long-term environmental monitoring programs and data and information dissemination through the support of the NERRS System-wide Monitoring Program (SWMP). The goal of the SWMP is to “identify and track short-term variability and long-term changes in the integrity and biodiversity of representative estuarine ecosystems and coastal watersheds for the purpose of contributing to effective national, regional and site specific coastal zone management”.”

This website is home to real-time data for the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve’s monitoring stations. The three stations are located at the Oliver Bridge on the St. Louis River, the LSNERR’ sentinel site in Pokegama Bay, and at Barker’s Island on the St. Louis River.