These brief activity ideas can be adapted into more fulsome activities to guide learner inquiry.
Core Question: How are healthy waterbodies connected to my daily life?
Overview: Brainstorm different types of waterbodies (e.g., oceans, rivers, lakes, creeks, etc.). Refer to the
Metro Vancouver Satellite Map to identify local examples of these waterbodies (e.g., Pacific Ocean, Salish Sea, Fraser River, Sasamat Lake, Pitt Lake, Serpentine River, Byrne Creek, Mosquito Creek, False Creek, etc.). Choose one local waterbody in your community or region and sketch it. In small groups, discuss the following questions:
- How is your waterbody connected to other waterbodies in the region?
- How is your waterbody connected to (or impacted by) humans in your community?
- What makes a waterway healthy? What makes a waterway unhealthy?
- What makes a waterbody worth protecting? What value do they provide your community?
- How can we protect the health of local waterbodies?
Write a letter to yourself detailing how you will protect your local waterbody, put it in an envelope, take it home and keep it somewhere safe to review in the future.
Follow the Flow!
Core Question: How is your school community connected to the nearest bodies of water?
Overview: Find the creek or waterbody nearest to your school. Where is it compared to your school? What’s the source of this water? Which direction is the water moving? Where does the water go? What’s the relationship between students at your school and these waterbodies? Create a map to illustrate the relationship between your school / community and this body of water. How could this map help to promote awareness about protecting local waterbodies?
The Underground Connection
Core Question: What is the difference between Sanitary Sewers, Storm Sewers and Combined Sewers?
Overview: Beneath the streets of Metro Vancouver are three types of sewer pipes. Each play a role in protecting the health of region and our environment. How are these pipes unique? Explore the
What Happens When I Flush (PDF). Address these questions:
- What do these sewer pipes have in common?
- How are they unique?
- Where do you find these types of sewers?
- Which of these sewers is being phased out? Why?
Core Question: What happens when we flush?
Overview: Explore the
What Happens When I Flush (PDF). Ask students to write the story of a drop of wastewater that travels from their school toilet to the ocean. Ensure they include all the key parts of the journey including the pipes they travel in and treatment systems they move through. Illustrations encouraged! Key questions to explore in their story include:
- Where does wastewater from your school go for treatment? Is it a primary or secondary treatment facility? What’s the difference?
- What geographical and infrastructure challenges are faced through this journey?
- What do you notice about the location of wastewater treatment pipes and facilities?
- What additional questions do you have about the journey of your flush?
No Pollution Solution
Core Question: What are the impacts of small amounts of pollutants in waterways?
Overview: Pour 250 mL of cold water into a glass bowl to represent clean water. Add approximately 1mL of any flavour of jelly powder to represent chemical pollution (e.g., cleaning agents, household chemicals). Ask students if they can see evidence of the pollutant. Would they swim in water that is as polluted as this? Slowly add more and more cold water in 250 ml increments, keeping track of total volume. At what point is the jelly powder no longer evident? Would students swim in this water now? How much would we need to dilute polluted waterways before they’re safe to swim in? How could we remove these pollutants? Ask students to investigate different ways to clean up chemical pollution.
No Pills for the Gills!
Core Question: Why are medicines such as dissolvable pills harmful to fish and other aquatic life?
Overview: Show students the
Never Flush Medications video. Ask them to consider why dissolvable pills and medicines could be harmful to fish. Challenge students to research how ibuprofen affects fish kidneys, then share their findings with the class. Are all medicines harmful to fish and other aquatic life? How can we remove these chemicals from wastewater before it is released to waterways? Are there easy steps we could take to limit the impact of these and other chemicals upon fish and other aquatic life? Brainstorm ideas for action. For possible actions to protect receiving waters (habitat for fish and other species), visit
Treating it Right
Core Question: What is primary wastewater treatment? How does it work?
Overview: The primary wastewater treatment process is similar to the natural process by which water is cleaned while moving through the water cycle. This simple experiment will develop student understanding of primary treatment. Ask the students to predict: What will happen when you add 1 tbsp plastic beads, 1 tbsp vegetable oil, 1 tbsp coffee grounds, 1 tbsp dish soap and 1.5 L water to a 2 L jug? Add contents to the jug. What happened? Record and discuss your observations. Ask the students to predict what will happen when the contents are agitated or swirled. Close the lid and shake or swirl contents for 15 to 20 seconds. Place the bottle on table. Observe what happens (after 1 minute, 5 minutes, 10 minutes). Record and discuss your observations. Review the
What Happens When I Flush (PDF) to learn more about the primary wastewater treatment process. Reflect on these questions:
- Were your predictions accurate? What surprised you?
- Which components of the mixture sunk to the bottom? Describe these materials. Where does ‘settling’ occur during the primary treatment process?
- Which components of the mixture floated to the surface? How are these materials different? Where do suspended materials float to the surface during primary treatment?
- Where do these processes happen naturally (in your community)? Identify and discuss ideas and examples (e.g., streams, lakes, oceans, puddles, ponds etc.).