How do you talk about the larger impacts of the Great Lakes watershed on the health and wellbeing of our region?  How do you tell the big picture of this bioregion and your place within it?

This feature length video goes into detail about the long-term impacts of water quality in the Great Lakes on human and natural health.  Inspired by the book and short film, Paddle-to-the-Sea, Waterlife goes into our current struggle to handle our past environmental issues and look to the future for solutions.  The issues delved into include modern chemical impacts on health, water use and abuse, invasive species and native American perspectives on Great Lakes Water.  To see a trailer, visit:  Waterlife Trailer.  This movie is appropriate for high school audiences, and it focuses on the state of the lakes how we can change our policies and practices to support the future of this unique bio-region.  It would be a great addition to the research phase of an Earth Force project that looks at NOAA data on the Great Lakes.

While the Great Lakes have a history of industrialization that is often focused on in history classes, there is another history below the surface that includes Native American cultures and practices, and a strong environmental advocacy history.  To get multiple perspective on the health of the Great Lakes and solutions for the future, the following resources are helpful to guide your way:


The Living Great Lakes, by Jerry Dennis A fantastic story of the Great Lakes living legacy.

A Native Grandmother’s Epic Walk for Water A native American perspective on water quality and water rights.

The Great Lakes Conservancy A policy based looked at conservation and resource regulation in these international waters.

Common Aquatic Plants of Michigan A description of some of the most commonly occurring aquatic plants in Michigan.

FLOW  FLOW is Irena Salina’s award-winning documentary investigation into the mounting threats to our earth’s precious fresh water supplies through unchecked pollution, corporate privatization, and political malfeasance, what some experts label the most important political and environmental issue of the 21st Century – The World Water Crisis. This DVD is great for courses on global studies, environmental policy, environmental/Earth science, agricultural studies, and sustainable development. (Members of NAAEE can receive a 25% discount by entering the code “NAAEE” when ordering online.)

Give Water a Hand National watershed education program designed to involve young people in local environmental service projects.

Pollution Pipe: Street to Stream (pdf) For students in Grades 6-12 on non-point sources of pollution found in runoff and the effects of development on watersheds. Shows the relationship between urban development and impervious ground cover created by streets, parking lots, and roofs. Provides a list of pollutants found in runoff, as well as some steps that can be taken to prevent water pollution. From the Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE).

Preventing Groundwater Contamination (pdf) Information about groundwater and ways to prevent contamination.

Storm Water Month Outreach Materials and Reference Documents An EPA website designed to educate all people on storm water.

T.E.A.C.H. Great Lakes Focuses on advancing the nature and distribution of Great Lakes-related education materials to the broad audience of educators and students in the Great Lakes region and beyond.

Water’s Journey: The River Returns  This new environmental web documentary is an in-depth exploration of the St. John’s watershed, threats to the river and efforts to clean it up. “Water’s Journey: The River Returns is part of the award-winning “Water’s Journey” series directed by Wes Skiles of Karst Productions.

Great Lakes Education – Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory has great resources by State.

The Global Rivers Environmental Education Program, run by Earth Force has many curriculum resources to understand local watershed health!

National Geographic Water Footprint Calculator will help students understand their local water use.  You can then calculate your potential water capture, either at home or at school, by using the following formulas:

  • Building Runnoff:  building square footage (ft2) X annual rainfall (ft) X 7.48 gallons/ft3 = maximum runoff (gallons)
  • Site Catchment Capability:  catchment area (ft2) X annual rainfall (ft) X 7.48 gal/ft3 X runoff coefficient = net runoff (gal)
  • Some runoff coefficients:City
    Urban areas                  0.70 – 0.95Lawn/Field
    Sandy soil, flat, 2%              0.05 – .10
    Sandy soil, avg., 2-7%          .10 – .15
    Sandy soil, steep, 7%           .13 – .17
    Heavy soil, flat, 2%              .15 – .20
    Heavy soil, avg., 2-7%          .18 – .22
    Heavy soil, steep, 7%            .25 – .35Agricultural land
    Bare packed soil              0.30 – 0.60
    Cultivated rows              0.20 – 0.50
    Pasture                          0.15 – 0.45
    Woodlands                      0.05 – 0.25
  • You can calculate your potential water catchment through rain gardens, rain barrels and other methods to balance your water use budget!