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Grade 8 Integrated Water Unit



This six-week comprehensive learning package developed for Grade 8 students in Ontario and British Columbia, but with applications in all regions, addresses the importance of water to humans, other animals and their habitats.  It also addresses current and historical impacts of water systems in local watersheds and The Great Lakes.  Attention is given to the accessibility of potable water. Students research water pollutants, water rights issues, and global access. The unit culminates with student-driven action projects on a local water issue.

A thirty-day unit plan includes the following activities:

·       Students creating illustrated word walls

·       Brainstorming water-user lists

·       Examining water issues around the world through art

·       Creating watershed maps and 3-D models

·       Researching and presenting information about present and historical commercial and industrial use of water in local watersheds

·       Reflecting and discussing  the impacts of the Great Lakes water system on local weather patterns and watersheds

·        Predicting the percentage of potable water on earth, and after a teacher-led demo on the actual amount, reflecting on the result.

·       Create an art display on types of water pollution

·       Examining the water rights of local industries and globally

·       Creating a mind map and picture collage of concerns related to local watersheds

·     Using the Engaging Students in Sustainable Action Project Guide to choose, research, plan, organize and implement action plans to address local water issues.

The first three weeks of the unit plan involve teaching some content related to water issues to inform the student’s action choice and enhance their projects.     

A “hands-on” investigation into hazardous materials is suggested as an extension. Students research proper disposal methods, do a home audit of everyday hazardous materials and then present their findings to the class in the form of a poster, pamphlet, skit, or TV commercial.

Lessons can serve as "stand alone" activities, or be combined with others lessons, as time permits.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Working cooperatively with team members to carry out a plan
  • Critical/creative thinking strategies
  • Identifying and suggesting solutions for local problems
  • Using a variety of sources to gather information
  • Evaluating group and individual processes in problem solving and decision making
  • Building consensus
  • Creating written and media text in a variety of forms
  • Engaging in and responding to oral presentations


  • The creation of a 3-D watershed model is an interesting and engaging activity
  • Art is a strongly encouraged in summarizing and reflecting on activities
  • The Engaging Students in Sustainable Action Projects Guide is an excellent document in teaching action skills and planning/implementing positive action in communities
  • Helps students form concepts, beliefs, and attitudes
  • Provides different ways of collecting information-research, demonstrations, simulations, creation of models, and peer teaching
  • Promotes community awareness and has excellent local focus
  • Encourages open-ended solutions
  • Multi-disciplinary approach
  • Strong action opportunity
  • Links are relevant to the topic and appropriate to both the teacher and student
  • Lessons are well-organized with suggested time lines


  • Assessment tools must be developed by the teacher
  • The teacher needs to gather information about the local watersheds and research articles for students to use
  • Does not address Aboriginal perspectives or First Nations water issues in Canada
  • No graphic organizers for research
  • No out-of-doors experience
  • No modifications are suggested for struggling learners

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This resource can be used to address outcomes in the water systems unit in Grade 8 science. The multi-disciplinary approach and strong action plan component could also be used at any grade level or as a club initiative to promote positive changes in local/global communities for a sustainable future.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

  • Step 1Select a province
  • Alberta
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 8
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Freshwater and Saltwater Systems
  • Manitoba
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 8
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Water Systems on Earth
  • Newfoundland & Labrador
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 8
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Water Systems on Earth's Surface
  • Northwest Territories
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 8
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Freshwater and Saltwater Systems
  • Nunavut
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 8
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Freshwater and Saltwater Systems
  • Ontario
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 8
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Geography
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Global Inequalities: Economic Development and Quality of Life
        • Global Settlement: Patterns and Sustainability
      • History
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Canada, 1890-1914: A Changing Society
      • Science & Technology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Earth and Space Systems: Water Systems
  • Prince Edward Island
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 8
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Water Systems on Earth
  • Saskatchewan
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 8
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 8: Water Systems on Earth

Themes Addressed

  • Citizenship (2)

    • Community-Building and Participation
    • General Guide to Taking Action
  • Human Health & Environment (1)

    • Environmental Contaminants & Health Hazards
  • Waste Management (3)

    • Hazardous Waste
    • Liquid Waste
    • Source Reduction
  • Water (5)

    • Privatization & Sale of Water
    • Water Quality
    • Water Treatment and Distribution
    • Water Use
    • Watershed Protection

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Satisfactory

Students gather facts and information to form their own conclusions. The Aboriginal perspective on water issues in First Nations communities is not addressed.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good

The message is that humans are dependent on the resources provided by the environment, specifically water, for personal and economic needs. We must implement strategies to achieve a more sustainable future.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Satisfactory

The approach promotes dialogue and discussion within groups of students. It encourages open-ended solutions and research activities related to environmental and social issues on both local and global levels.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Very Good
Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Good

Students are given many opportunities for both group and personal reflection and the sharing of beliefs and values.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Satisfactory
Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Good

Although it has no out-of-doors experience, the resource does promote stewardship in hopes of a sustainable water supply in the future.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Good

The students investigate their own local watershed.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Satisfactory

Lessons learned form the past with regards to the historical commercial and industrial uses of water in their local watershed are explored. Present day situations are evaluated and students are asked to play a role in implementing solutions for a sustainable water supply for future generations.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Good

Students are encouraged to consider, develop, and reflect on their own thoughts, opinions and values. Activities encourage interaction and participation.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Good

Although primarily a science resource there  are opportunities to address outcomes in language arts, social studies, history, art and math. Artistic expression and creativity are encouraged.

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Good
Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.


Differentiated Instruction Good

Although there are no accommodations suggested for students with learning difficulties a variety of instructional strategies are used to provide individual students with the instruction and experiences they need to succeed in both understanding the issues and taking action.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Good

This resource makes use of a comprehensive 3-D model of a watershed that requires students to apply their learning in an authentic context.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Good

Students take part in a jigsaw activity to summarize water issue articles.

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Satisfactory

Although a rubric is provided for evaluating the 3-D model, all other assessment tools and answer keys must be developed by the teacher. Reflection questions are provided but no suggested answers accompany these.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Satisfactory

Students are encouraged to present their plans to their peers and their communities.

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Satisfactory

A five minute video case study on water rights issues in Bolivia is included in the activities.

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Good

The structure and variety of activities provide meaningful opportunities for students to delve deeper into a chosen issue.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.