Science 7: Ecosystem Shift – Aquatic

Science 7 Ecosystem Shift – Aquatic 

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 the environmental impacts of industrial projects.



Students will learn the significant relationship between humans, their environment, and the consequences of human activities on the environment. This lesson shares important quotes from Elders, Land Users, and community members who have noticed a shift in the local ecosystem.



Industrial projects are becoming more commonplace in the Mackenzie River Basin, causing changes in the local aquatic ecosystem. One key ecosystem shift is the change in fish habitat, health, and population. 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: 

Why is fish or fishing important in the Mackenzie River Basin and local waterways? How has the ecosystem that local people rely on and interact with change over time? How might certain human activity contribute to this change? How does this change impact the people who are living and relying on the river?



In classroom 


Length of activity:

45-60 minutes 

Teacher Resources
  • A NWT Map showing fish consumption notices demonstrates certain areas in which fish consumption is not suggested due to contamination
  • This short bulletin talks about how Traditional, local and scientific knowledge were used to understand the Patterns of Fish Habitat Use and Migration in the Slave River System
  • Tracking Change website:  Mackenzie River Basin (location and introduction)
  • Tracking Change website:  Community Projects (description and results)
  • Introduce the importance of fish to culture, family, wellbeing, and intergenerational knowledge with the story, “Strong Stories Coast Salish: Mom, How Do You Make Smoked Fish?” 
  • Protocol for inviting elders into NWT schools


Materials Needed:

Note:  Handouts and worksheets are provided in the downloadable 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 a key Social Studies 7 question: What are the main environmental problems facing 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 analyze changes that have occurred in a certain circumpolar society.

Knowledge – Students will demonstrate knowledge of the following:

  • How the environment of the circumpolar regions affects peoples: their lifestyles, occupations, leisure and economic activities
  • How technological, societal, political, and economic changes have impacted traditional circumpolar societies

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