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Freedom Seekers: The Underground Railroad, Great Lakes, and Science Literacy Activities

Great Lakes connections to Underground Railroad – Black History Month
Free Curriculum for Middle and High School Educators

Learn about Freedom Seekers and the Underground Railroad
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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.

Objectives:

  • name and visually recognize some invader (nonindigenous/ exotic) species of the Great Lakes
  • understand and analyze the positive and negative impacts of invader species on the Great Lakes ecosystem
  • explain the ways in which invader species are introduced into the Great Lakes
  • describe and act out ways to avoid the spread of exotic species

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Where do all the toxins go?

When students have completed this activity, they will be able to demonstrate how chemicals accumulate in fish fat, the biopathways of the toxins in the fish’s body, and ways to prepare fish to avoid consuming the toxins.

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How Big is a Crowd?

The Great Lakes and the surrounding land provide many resources for the people who live in the area. Water for drinking and industry, fish for food, minerals, and other resources are abundant. However, people change the landscape. They create wastes and add chemicals to the environment when they use resources, and these can be harmful. When many people are concentrated in one area, they may compete for resources. In addition, the wastes these people generate tend to concentrate in the area immediately around them and may cause pollution problems.

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.

Objectives

When students have completed this activity, they will be able to:

  • Compare the relative sizes of the five Great Lakes and their human populations.
  • Describe some of the problems that arise when many people depend on a limited resource.

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Hydropoly: A Decision Making Game

Students play a board game to hone their decision-making skills. Through the various choices posed in the game, they are asked to consider both economic and environmental well being in making decisions.

Objectives:
  • Discuss land-use practices that affect Great Lakes wetlands
  • Make decisions and recognize personal priorities with regard to wetlands
  • Describe some of the economic factors that often drive land use

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Who Can Harvest a Walleye?

Students play a board game where they learn the meaning of the following terms as they relate to a
biomass pyramid: producer, herbivore, first-order carnivore, second-order carnivore; calculate the relative number of kilograms at each level of the biomass pyramid in a given environment; and analyze how different conditions in the environment affect the pyramid.

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Indoor Dunes

Students study Creature Cards at sand dune ecosystem stations and determine what adaptations help the organisms to live in their environments.

Objectives:

  • List organisms that live in the dunes.
  • Describe the specialized adaptations of sand dune organisms.
  • Explain the different habitats in sand dunes.

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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.

Students will be able to:

  • Identify exotic species and ways they are transported.
  • Learn about several exotics that affect water habitat.
  • Identify the negative or positive effects of exotic species on native animals.
  • Know how these exotics are transported and ways people can help to stop further spread.

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Where Should I Relocate in the Great Lakes Region?

This activity will allow students to describe the Great Lakes region using a map and identify some of the resources the region has to offer. Also, by using maps and graphs students can demonstrate how they can provide information for decision making. Students will describe a decision making process by which people can evaluate a geographic area as a possible home site.

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