K-2 Lesson 4: Hydropower - Is it Bad or Good?

Hydropower: Is it Bad or Good?

Water Dam Hydroelectricity Hydropower

"We wouldn't be able to live without water. Nothing would." – Autumn Peltier

Energy, we all use it every day. We often hear that renewable sources of energy are better than non-renewable sources of energy. However, renewable sources of energy also have effects on the environment.

In this lesson, students will learn about hydropower and see the growth of their knowledge. They will also form an opinion on whether hydropower is bad or good.

Lesson 4: First Nations’ views on Hydropower

Grade: K-2

Topic: Hydropower: is it bad or good?

Time: Two lessons – the first one will be approximately one hour and the second one will be approximately 50 minutes.

Space requirement: Classroom

Materials: Popsicle sticks; Sink or bucket of water and Rubbermaid bin/plastic container; Paper plates; Cups; Aluminum foil; Straws; Masking Tape; Plastic Spoons; Sheets of paper; Scissors; Markers; Long, shallow, clear Tupperware container; Sand; Small rocks (small gravel pebbles will work); Little plastic animal toys (optional); Bucket of water; Pencils, chart paper and marker or whiteboard and dry erase marker

Objectives: To understand the effects of hydropower on the environment in and around First Nations communities.

Keywords: Hydropower, Water Turbine, Nature, Electricity, Dam, Reservoir, Renewable Energy

Prior to the first lesson starting, the teacher will make a water turbine as a model for students. To build the water turbine, you will need two Popsicle sticks, one pencil, and masking tape.

Create a model of a water turbine:

Step 1) Cut the two Popsicle sticks in half creating four “blades” which are equal in size.
Step 2) Attach the four blades to a pencil, arranging them so that each one is perpendicular to the adjacent blades. Use masking tape to keep the blades in place.

Prior to the second lesson starting, the teacher will use the long, shallow, clear Tupperware container, the sand, the small rocks, and Popsicle sticks to create a model of a dam.

Create a model of a dam:

Step 1) Fill the Tupperware container with sand
Step 2) Dig the path of a river in the sand
Step 3) Choose a spot somewhere along the river to build your dam
Step 4) Use Popsicle sticks and small rocks to construct a dam that will let only a little bit of water come through, keep in mind that the deeper the water, the greater the water pressure. Therefore, the bottom of your dam will need to support more pressure than the top of your dam. (If you were to build your dam in a triangular shape, you would put the larger side at the bottom as this side would be able to support more pressure.)
Step 5) (Optional) Place little plastic animal toys along the banks of the river to demonstrate what may happen to wildlife near the river as a result of the dam). 

Day 1
1. Collaborative discussion – If the students are in kindergarten then a whole class discussion (with guidance from the teacher) will take place instead of setting up stations. The teacher will make a list of student responses on chart paper/the whiteboard. If the students are in grade one or grade two, the teacher will lay out five stations with each station having a question or questions for discussion on it with a pencil and paper for recording notes and/or pictures based on the students’ discussions. The teacher will explain the process to the students.

Here are some example questions:
1.      Where do we see water in nature?
2.      What is electricity?
3.      What uses electricity?
4.      What things in the classroom are using electricity?
5.      What things at home use electricity?
6.      From where do we get electricity?

Use the first four slides of the PowerPoint presentation to help students answer the following questions:

7. What are dams?
8. What do dams do?
9. How do dams work?
10. How do we create electricity using water?
11. What does it mean to create electricity by using water?
12. How does water in nature affect animals?
13. How can we get electricity from nature?

Grades one and two:
Station 1: Where have you seen water in nature? Can you name any specific rivers or lakes?
Station 2: What is the source of electricity in your home/at school?
Station 3: Which animals live in this area? How do lakes and rivers affect these animals?
Station 4: What are dams? What do dams do? How do dams work?
Station 5: How do we create electricity using water? What does it mean to create electricity by using water?

To speed up the challenge, you could give each group only two or three minutes at each station, so that they only have a certain amount of time to discuss the question(s) at each station before moving to the next station. The objective of the activity is to prepare students to learn about hydropower and the effects it has on First Nations People and their natural resources.

Next, you will take the pieces of paper on which students wrote and/or drew about their discussions and display them to compare and contrast later in the lesson. This will be the assessment for the lesson. (15 minutes)

2. A PowerPoint presentation will be used for students to make connections to not only the topic, but the definitions as well. Students will get visuals of the keywords in the lesson through the PowerPoint. During the PowerPoint, the teacher will use the teacher notes to strengthen understanding and to further their inquiry into the topic. (15 minutes)

3. Show the students your model water turbine. Ask them what they think would happen if you were to put the turbine model under the tap. (2 minutes)

4. Hold the turbine model horizontally underneath a tap and turn the water on low or hold the turbine model over a Rubbermaid bin/plastic container and slowly pour water out of a bucket. (Note: hold the turbine loosely; it should be able to spin in your fingers or place the pencil inside a large straw so that the pencil can freely spin.) The turbine should begin to move, due to the energy of the water continuously pushing each blade down and creating motion. Ask the students “What do you see happening as we pour the water over the turbine?” (3 minutes)

5. Put students into groups of two or three students. Tell them that they will have access to paper plates, cups, aluminum foil, straws, Popsicle sticks, masking tape, plastic spoons, sheets of paper, scissors, and markers. Ask each group to first make a sketch of their turbine. Give them materials to build their turbine. Students build their turbines. (15 minutes)

6. Students test their water turbines in the sink or over the Rubbermaid bin/plastic container. (5 minutes)

7. Ask students: “What did we learn from testing all of your turbines? What did the water do to the turbines? Do you think this means that we can get electricity from nature?” (5 minutes)

8. Review content from PowerPoint slides 2, 3 and 4. (5 minutes)

Day 2

1. Discuss the previous lesson as a group – review that we can get electricity from nature – hydropower comes from water. Ask students, “Where do we see water in nature? How do you think electricity from water (like the turbines you made) may impact the environment and First Nations people?” Review the effects of hydropower on the environment and First Nations people by reviewing slides 5 and 6 of the PowerPoint. Brainstorm thoughts as a group and teacher records on chart paper/whiteboard. Remind students that hydropower uses water (that they needed water to make their turbines run). Ask students: “Do animals in nature use water? How do animals use water? How do lakes and rivers affect animals? How do you think hydropower affects animals? What happens to water when the dam/reservoir is built? What do you think happens to the animals in the water? What do you think happens to the nature around the water?” (15 minutes)

2. Students will test your model of a dam by pouring water down the path of the river. Experiment with different variables – What if you made the river wider? What if you made the river deeper? What if you made the dam larger? What if you made the dam smaller? Etc. Ask students what would happen to the animals living in the area if the river became wider and what would happen to people living in the area if the river became wider. Ask students, “How does all of this affect First Nations people?” (20 minutes)

: For the evaluation, the teacher will set up stations with the same questions at them and have students, in their same groups, spend two or three minutes at each station to discuss what they now know and draw and/or write about their discussion. If the students are in kindergarten, then a whole class discussion regarding the same questions you have been discussing will take place. You will then place the old notes/drawings and the new notes/drawings side by side to compare and contrast with the class. The teacher will ask the students questions about what they think about the amount they learned. This will not only give the teacher a method of assessment for the lesson, but also give the students confidence because they will have a visual of how their learning changed and grew. Also discuss whether hydropower is good or bad. (15 minutes)

For the Teacher
: A PowerPoint is provided along with teacher notes.

Resource List

Building Dams (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/rtttec13.ela.fdn.pdams/building-dams