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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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What is the impact of beach litter?

In this activity, students will construct a web of things that may increase or decrease as a result of beach litter. Student construct a life-size concept map to be to explain many potential impacts of beach litter and then discuss various interpretations of the possible debris impacts.

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Should Chlorine Be Banned from the Great Lakes?

A classroom debate allows students to visualize a complex issue from many different perspectives, describe the legislative process, its functionaries (agencies, individuals involved in creating legislation), and the time involved in creating environmental legislation, and appreciate the difficulties in consensus-building in environmental disputes.

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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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Beach Mysteries

Students learn about bacteria as an indicator of beach water quality for swimming. In groups they solve
hypothetical problems associated with beaches. Then students write persuasive essays on the issue.

Activities:

  • Discuss the effect of harmful bacteria on swimming conditions at beaches.
  • Diagram three reasons for beach contamination.
  • Explain solutions for beach health problems.
  • Write a persuasive essay about beach health

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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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How Can Disappearances Within the Triangle Be Explained?

Investigating multiple hypotheses, students discuss the values of using several data types and sources to solve a science problem, demonstrate how bathymetric charts are used and constructed, demonstrate how weather information is mapped and interpreted, and explain how scientists use multiple working hypotheses to solve complex problems.

Your class should first study the locations of missing craft and personnel in the activity titled, “What is the Great Lakes Triangle?” Like scientists, you should examine the data for trends and indicators; in this case you examine concentrations of the disappearances and speculate on their causes. The present investigation is actually three activities that are to be performed by different classroom groups simultaneously through cooperative learning. If time permits, all three activities could be done by the entire class.

The activities treat the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald as example of a Great Lakes Triangle tragedy. When all three topics have been considered, there will be a discussion to consider whether the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald was an accident resulting from natural causes or whether other supernatural or extraterrestrial forces might be at work (as proposed in Berlitz’ The Bermuda Triangle).

Objectives:

  • Discuss the values of using several data types and sources to solve a science problem.
  • Demonstrate how bathymetric charts are used and constructed.
  • Demonstrate how weather information is mapped and interpreted.
  • Give an example of how scientists use multiple working hypotheses to solve complex problems.

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