Alaska Sea Grant

Teacher Background

New! Webinar for K-12 educators: “It Takes a Watershed . . . to Grow a Salmon” Review of Alaska salmon life cycles, use of different parts of the watershed, and salmon-human connections, and recent research about potential climate change impacts on salmon habitat. Presenters are Laurel Devaney, retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fisheries education specialist, and Sue Mauger, Science Director, Cook InletKeeper. Teaching tips on use of the information in teaching Alaska Seas and Watershed units at various grade levels are included. 3/21/2016

Investigation 1

The first lesson in this unit focuses on two concepts: (1) the water cycle and (2) the watershed. Both concepts are included in science textbooks.

The water cycle involves precipitation, evaporation, and condensation.

Useful Web sites to provide additional background information and downloadable diagrams include U.S. Geological Survey site for explanations of each component of the water cycle and diagrams at various sizes that can be downloaded and printed out, including the diagram without text. The site also has the story of a drop of water and a printer-ready placemat of the water cycle for kids.

Kidzone. The water cycle explained for kids plus downloadable worksheets or posters in color or black and white of the water cycle and each stage of the process.

Enchanted Learning is another source for water cycle diagrams (with and without text) and explanations.

USGS Water Science for Schools has a variety of resources, including a downloadable coloring book showing the journey of a drop of water.

Precipitation falls as rain or snow into water, or it may fall on the land where it evaporates again or returns to the ocean by running over the land or through the soil to streams or other water bodies. The watershed concept focuses on this relationship between water and land. Following the straightforward understanding that water moves downhill and questions about where the water they drink every day comes from and where it goes, students can begin to understand that all water drains off the land back into streams and that all streams flow to the ocean.

Environmental Protection Agency's defiintion of a watershed is “that area of land, a bounded hydrologic system, within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water course and where, as humans settled, simple logic demanded that they become part of a community.” This site also has a watershed illustration.

To find information about your watershed, go to EPA’s Surf Your Watershed. You can locate your watershed by city name, zip code, or a point-and-click map. You can then retrieve information about organizations that focus their efforts on education, monitoring, and/or protection of the health of the watershed, and follow the links to information specifically about your watershed, including information about other Web sites specific to your watershed, and background on all aspects of watershed science and water pollution.

Investigation 2

For background information about the water cycle,

What is a Septic Tank? is a lesson/activity to create a model septic tank.

Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation On-Site Septic brochure. 

Investigation 3

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has downloadable PowerPoint presentations on fish habitat, watersheds, and people on their webpage It Takes a Watershed to Raise a Fish

Cyber Salmon focuses on the salmon, habitat, and people in the Yukon River drainage. The fish section links to descriptions of the life cycle of each species of salmon and excellent color photos and illustrations of all life history stages. The text is suitable as teacher background but not for reference material for this grade level.

Investigation 4

A wealth of background information is available for teaching about Alaska salmon. This unit has a focus on salmon as ecological connectors. The first part of the unit focuses on the cycling of water, but salmon also cycle in the form of the nutrients they transfer between land and sea. When they migrate to the sea as juveniles they bring nutrients from the watershed, and when they return they bring the nutrients from the ocean to the streams where they die after spawning. The nutrients cycle through predation and decomposition, eventually nourishing the roots of plants that grow in the watershed. Salmon habitat in the watershed is thus both about where salmon meet their needs and about where salmon are doing their ecological work of transferring nutrients.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has downloadable PowerPoint presentations on fish habitat, watersheds, and people on their webpage It Takes a Watershed to Raise a Fish

U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Cyber Salmon focuses on the salmon, habitat, and people in the Yukon River drainage. The fish section links to descriptions of the life cycle of each species of salmon and excellent color photos and illustrations of all life history stages. The text is suitable as teacher background but not for reference material for this grade level. The people section links to a history of the occupation of Alaska by people and salmon fisheries with a good selection of historical photographs.

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