Science 7: Ecosystem Shift – Ice

Science 7 Ecosystem Shift – Ice 

This lesson meets cross-curricular outcomes for Science 7 and Social Studies 7. Students will learn about Indigenous knowledge of freshwater ecosystems in the Mackenzie River Basin, which is within the circumpolar region, including how Indigenous peoples track changes over time to seasonal ice freeze-up and melt.



Students will learn the significant relationship between humans and the ecosystems of which they are part, including the consequences of human activities on the environment. This lesson shares important quotes from Elders, land users, and community members who have noticed shifts in the local ecosystem.



The change in warmer winters and shifting seasons caused by human activities over the past couple of decades is becoming more noticeable. One key change is in the timing and predictability of ice freeze-up and melt. This lesson introduces students to the implications/consequences of human activities and how these changes have been noticed and recorded.


Key questions for student inquiry: 

How are patterns of ice freeze-up and melt changing in the Mackenzie River Basin? How does human activity contribute to this change? How does this change impact people who rely on the river?



In the classroom


Length of activity:

90 minutes 

Teacher Resources


Materials Needed:

Note:  Handouts and worksheets are provided in the Lesson Plan Package

Connections to Curriculum


Unit A: Interactions and Ecosystems (Social and Environmental Emphasis)

Focusing Questions: How do human activities affect ecosystems? What methods can we use to observe and monitor changes in ecosystems, and assess the impacts of our actions?

  • Investigate and describe relationships between humans and their environments, and identify related issues and scientific questions
    • Students will describe examples of interaction and interdependency within an ecosystem (e.g., identify examples of dependency between species, and describe adaptations involved; identify changing relationships between humans and their environments, over time and in different cultures—as, for example, in aboriginal cultures)
    • Students will identify examples of human impacts on ecosystems, and investigate and analyze the link between these impacts and the human wants and needs that give rise to them (e.g., identify impacts of the use of plants and animals as sources of food, fibre and other materials; identify potential impacts of waste products on environments)



This lesson explicitly addresses Indigenous Knowledge, a key focus of the social studies curriculum (Junior Secondary Social Studies Curriculum, 1993, p. 10), in order to address key Social Studies 7 questions: What are the major changes facing the circumpolar world? What are the main environmental problems facing the circumpolar world? What impacts do physical geography and climate have on the human populations of the circumpolar world?

Major understandings – Circumpolar regions are changing rapidly in areas of technology, economic activity, social structure and political organization.

Common learning experiences – Students will use maps and other resource materials to find data on the populations, economic resources, climates and physical features of the circumpolar world.

Knowledge – Students will demonstrate knowledge of the following:

  • Physical and climatic characteristics of circumpolar regions.
  • How the environment of the circumpolar regions affects peoples: their lifestyles, occupations, leisure and economic activities

Attitudes – Students will be encouraged to develop:

  • Respect for the rights, needs and concerns of others.
  • An appreciation for the consequences of people’s interactions with their physical and social environments