Lesson Plan

Impact of Human Activities


Grade Levels

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Big Ideas




In this lesson, students examine the effects of human actions over time on aquatic ecosystems. Students will:

  • describe the biotic and abiotic factors of aquatic ecosystems.
  • explain how human use of resources affects the environment.
  • create a public service announcement that describes the impact of various human actions on aquatic ecosystems in Pennsylvania.

Essential Questions

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  • Community: All of the organisms that live in an area and depend on one another for survival.
  • Runoff: Water from rain or melted snow that flows into bodies of water; may contain fertilizers, pesticides, and other pollutants.
  • Wetland: Transitional areas between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems that are saturated with water either permanently or seasonally; may be covered partially or completely by shallow pools of water. Includes marshes, swamps, bogs, meadows, mud flats, and other habitats where land and water meet.


75–90 minutes/2–3 class periods

Prerequisite Skills


  • three clear plastic bottles filled with water
  • oil, soil, and/or food coloring for “polluting” the water in the bottles
  • funnel
  • Model Wetland (S-7-5-3_Model Wetland.docx)
  • Model Wetland demonstration materials:

o   modeling clay

o   long, shallow baking pan

o   sponge

o   watering can

o   cup of soil

o   jar of muddy water (can use the bottle of muddy water)

Related Unit and Lesson Plans

Related Materials & Resources

The possible inclusion of commercial websites below is not an implied endorsement of their products, which are not free, and are not required for this lesson plan.

  • “The Basics of Water Pollution in Pennsylvania” from Angler & Boater, 2001. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)


  • Wetland in a Pan


  • “Some Allegheny County Streams, Rivers, Still Far from Meeting Pollution Standards: Don’t Go Near the Water” by Don Hopey. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


  • The Story of Honey Hollow (a primary source document about the effects of agriculture in Pennsylvania through history). ExplorePAhistory.com.


  • Muddy Waters: A Historical View of Land Use Patterns, Water Quality, and the Conservation Movement (lesson plan including “The Story of Honey Hollow”)


Formative Assessment


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