Experiential Science 30 – Sustainability and Freshwater Resources

Experiential Science 30 – Sustainability and Freshwater Resources 



Ecotourism is increasingly promoted in the Mackenzie River basin as a means of boosting local economies while maintaining sustainable practices. It is important for students to recognize different definitions of “sustainability” in order to determine whether (and how) ecotourism would fit within their local community. Students will learn to listen to Elders and/or local fish harvesters definitions of sustainability and apply local and Indigenous knowledge to decision-making around ecotourism.



A common definition of “sustainability” is: “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs” (Brundtland, 1987). Sustainability often involves three pillars: economic, environment, and social sustainability. Only recently have western institutions recognized the importance of sustainability. Indigenous peoples have lived in a sustainable way since time immemorial. This lesson will introduce students to the concept of sustainability from Indigenous perspectives, as well as how the principle can be applied to ecotourism in northern communities.


Key questions for student inquiry: 

Should we have ecotourism in my community? How do Indigenous definitions of sustainability help me decide whether ecotourism is a sustainable option or not?



In the classroom and in the school/community (survey)


Length of activity:

180-300 minutes

Teacher Resources


Materials Needed:

Note: Case studies and handouts are provided in the downloadable Lesson Plan Package

Connections to Curriculum


Unit 4: Resource Management

Focusing Questions: How can freshwater resources be managed to ensure a sustainable future for generations to come?

  • 6 – Students will gain an understanding of ethical issues concerning freshwater resources by:
    • Discussing the need and ways of balancing one’s cultural values and of ensuring a sustainable future
    • Researching and discussing, with elders or other subject matter experts, the historical values and traditions used by Aboriginal people of harvesting the freshwater ecosystems to ensure sustainability. 
    • Comparing and contrasting the traditional values and practices of harvesting fish, and the cost benefits to the ecosystem and economy of ecotourism vs. industrial harvesting of fish stock.
    • Preparing a defence to support the advantages or disadvantages of ecotourism to the local economy.