camping Elbow Lake

Water and Contaminants in the Environment

Grade 8

Big Ideas

  • Water is a sacred element sent by the Creator that sustains life
  • Water shapes human culture and teaches lessons about how to live well
  • Water is law ie: What happens on the land will end up in the water. 
  • Our rights are connected to the responsibilities we have to the water.
  • We have a responsibility to protect the water for the next 7 Generations ie: Water Walkers pray to and raise awareness about safe drinking water and hold the government accountable.
  • We must give thanksgiving to the water.
  • Water is associated with femininity. Women are water protectors.
  • Water isn’t just a molecule. Water is the relationship it has with everything else. 

Big ideas were developed out of conversation with the following local Indigenous Knowledge Keepers:

  • Deb St. Amant is Métis from Penetanguishene and Ojibwe (Bear Clan) from Henvey Inlet First Nation currently residing in Trenton Ontario.
  • Liv Rondeau is a Kanyen’kehá:ka (Akwesasne Mohawk Territory), Wolf Clan educator living and working in Katarokwi and the Vice Principal of Indigenous Education and Reconciliation Lead at the Limestone District School Board.
  • Yakothehtón:ni Jennifer E. Brant is Kanyen’kehá:ka, Bear Clan, from Kenhtéke Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, ON.
  • Lindsay Brant is a Kanyen’kehá:ka Knowledge Keeper from Kenhtéke Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.
  • Al Doxtator is Bear Clan, From On^yota’a:ka’ (Oneida) of the Thames First Nation. He is an Elder/ Culture advisor at Queen’s University.
  • Dr. Elder Shirley Ida Williams is Ojibway and Odawa, from Bird Clan, Midewewin- kwe, born in Wikwemikong, Ontario Manitoulin Island, now residing in Peterborough, Ontario.
  • Liz Osawamick is Beaver Clan from the Anishinaabe and Odawa Nations, originally from Wiikwemkoong Unceded First Nation located on Manitoulin Island.
  • Erin Hayward is a Kanyen’kehá:ka and German, non-status, urban, Indigenous person, from Six Nations of the Grand River Territory currently residing in Whitby, Ontario.
  • Robert Lovelace is an associate professor in the Global Development Studies program at Queen’s University.
  • Candace Lloyd is a Métis Knowledge Keeper whose family is from Cross Lake Island, Saskatchewan and Sault St. Marie, Ontario currently residing in Napanee, Ontario.

Inquiry Questions and Activities:

Inquiry questions providing structure to this Learning Bundle were developed out of the Big Ideas listed above.

There are more activities listed here than can be done in one unit. Pick the activities that suit the learning interests and level of your students. You may also need to modify these activities to fit your students’ learner profiles. Complete the Minds On Activity as a formative assessment before completing the bundle.

Minds On Activity

  • What Do We Know About Water?

Inquiry Question 1: According to local Indigenous groups, what is water, where did it come from, and why is it important? 

  • Activity 1: Ohé:ton Karihwatéhkwen (The Words That Come Before All Else) 
  • Activity 2: Medicine Wheel Teachings
  • Activity 3: Relationships to Water
  • Activity 4: Where is Water
  • Activity 5: Water as Relative

Inquiry Question 2: What is the relationship between water and local Indigenous cultures and people? 

  • Activity 6: Names of Water
  • Activity 7: Trade and Travel
  • Activity 8: Water in Ceremony 
  • Activity 9: Water in Song

Inquiry Question 3: What is the law of water and why is it important that this law is respected?

  • Activity 10: Law of Water
  • Activity 11: Treating Oilsands Wastewater
  • Activity 12: Watershed Activity

Inquiry Question 4: How do contaminants threaten water?

  • Activity 13:  Broken Promises and Access to Clean Drinking Water in Indigenous Communities Across Canada
  • Activity 14: Testing for the Presence of Road Salt in Local Lakes
  • Activity 15: Understanding the Impact of Road Salt on Local Lakes
  • Activity 16: Biomagnification Tag Game

Inquiry Question 5: What are our collective responsibilities to water and how can we fulfil them?

Culminating Activity:

For the culminating task, teachers can choose from one of the following two activities based on the interests and learner profiles of their students. 

  • Option 1: Environmental Issues and Activism Inquiry Project
  • Option 2: Town Hall Meeting