Aquatics Curriculum Guidelines

Click here for a list of Virginia and federal agencies related to Aquatics plus general Aquatics websites

Click here for a list of sample Aquatics tests

Click here for a list of state guides and glossaries on aquatics

Key Point 1: Abiotic Factors

Learning Objectives:

  1. Know the processes and phases for each part of the water cycle and understand the water cycle’s role in soil nutrient erosion, salinization of agricultural lands and climatic influences.
  2. Understand the concept and components of a watershed and be able to identify stream orders and watershed boundaries. Know the features of a healthy watershed and an unhealthy watershed.
  3. Know how to perform and interpret chemical water quality tests and understand why aquatic organisms and water quality are affected by the physical, chemical and biological conditions of the water.

Suggested Activities:

  1. Use topographical maps to investigate the concept of a watershed, identify a river’s watershed system and delineate the watershed of a given area. Be able to describe how different land uses and watershed characteristics can affect water runoff, water flow, types of stream habitats and management approaches.
  2. Investigate and find out who is using the water in your watershed and become familiar with historic data to determine the health of your watershed.
  3. Conduct chemical water quality tests to determine the temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, phosphorus, alkalinity, nitrogen and percent of saturation of a water sample and explain why these test results are indicators of water quality and can be used to assess and manage aquatic environments.

Resources:

  1. Water Science Basics: What is the Water Cycle? (USGS)
  2. Basic Concepts on Watersheds (EPA)
  3. How to Read a Topo Map & Delineate a Watershed (NRCS)
  4. Biological and Chemical Stream Monitoring (Georgia Adopt-a-Stream)
  5. Virginia’s Watersheds (DCR)
  6. 2014 Water Quality Assessment for Virginia (Virginia DEQ)
  7. ABCs of Hydrogeology (VASWCD)
  8. Physiographic Provinces of Virginia (Virginia DEQ)

Additional Resources for Key Point 1 (this will bring you to a list of resources from Envirothon programs throughout US and Canada)

Key Point 2: Biotic Factors

Learning Objectives:

  1. Understand the dependence of all organisms on one another and how energy and matter flow within an aquatic ecosystem.
  2. Understand the concept of carrying capacity for a given aquatic ecosystem and be able to discuss how competing water usage may affect the ability of the system to sustain wildlife, forestry and anthropogenic needs.
  3. Identify common, rare, threatened and endangered aquatic species as well as Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) through the use of a key.
  4. Know how to perform biological water quality monitoring tests and understand why these tests are used to assess and manage aquatic environments.

Suggested Activities:

  1. Describe the habitat needs of three specific aquatic animals and compare and contrast the flow of energy in three different aquatic food chains.
  2. Create a visual display of rare and endangered aquatic species. Explain how human activities are causing species imperilment and specify actions being taken to protect these species.
  3. Conduct a biological stream assessment by collecting macroinvertebrate. Stream Data sheets (Key Point 1 Resource 3) should be used to record and analyze information. Explain why these organisms are biological indicators that help us determine the health of a stream or waterway.

Resources:

  1. Introduction to Water Ecology: Watershed Academy Web (EPA)
  2. The Endangered Species Act: Marine Species (NOAA)
  3. Biological and Chemical Stream Monitoring (Georgia Adopt-a-Stream)
  4. Macroinvertebrate Field Guide (West Virginia Save our Streams)
  5. Freshwater Fishes in Virginia (Virginia DGIF)
  6. Freshwater Mussels in Virginia (Virginia DGIF)
  7. Amphibians in Virginia (Virginia DGIF)
  8. Virginia is for Frogs (Virginia DGIF)
  9. American Toad/Leopard Frog coloring pages (Virginia DGIF)
  10. Virginia Frog and Toad Calling Survey (Virginia DGIF)

Additional Resources for Key Point 2 (this will bring you to a list of resources from Envirothon programs throughout US and Canada)

Key Point 3: Aquatic Environments

Learning Objectives:

  1.  Identify aquatic and wetland environments based on their physical, chemical and biological characteristics.
  2. Know characteristics of different types of aquifers and understand historical trends and threats to groundwater quantity and quality.
  3. Understand societal benefits and ecological functions of wetlands.
  4. Understand the functions and values of riparian zones and be able to identify riparian zone areas.

Suggested Activities:

  1. Describe the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of a stream, river, pond, lake and wetland.
  2. Explain how different types of aquifers are indicators of water quality and quantity. Describe how subsidence and salt water intrusion are related to the falling water table in many aquifers.
  3. Describe three functions of wetlands and explain how these functions are met in the absence of wetlands.
  4. Describe three functions of riparian zones and explain how the removal of or damage to the riparian zone would affect water quality and specific aquatic food chains.

Resources:

  1. Groundwater (USGS)
  2. Types of Wetlands (EPA)
  3. Wetlands Functions and Values (EPA)
  4. Vernal Pools in Virginia (Virginia DGIF)
  5. Virginia Lakes (Virginia DGIF)
  6. Virginia Rivers and Streams (Virginia DGIF)
  7. Private Pond Management (Virginia DGIF)
  8. Groundwater Programs (Virginia DEQ)
  9. Wetland and Stream Protection (Virginia DEQ)

Additional Resources for Key Point 3 (this will bring you to a list of resources from Envirothon programs throughout US and Canada)

Key Point 4: Water Protection and Conservation

Learning Objectives:

  1. Understand how education programs and enforcement agencies are working together to protect aquatic habitats and preventing those who use our waterways and inadvertently transporting Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) from one river to another.
  2. Interpret major provincial, state and/or federal laws and methods used to protect water quality. Utilize this information to propose management decisions that would improve the quality of water in a given situation.
  3. Be familiar with Federal, Provincial and state agencies that provide oversight of water resources and understand that Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is a useful and important tool in the management of water resources.
  4. Identify global and local sources of point and non-point pollution and be able to discuss methods to reduce point and non-point source pollution.
  5. Understand the interaction of competing water uses of water supply, hydropower, navigation, wildlife, recreation, waste assimilation, irrigation and industry.
  6. Know the meaning of water conservation and understand why it is important every time you turn on the faucet.

Suggested Activities:

  1. List at least 3 Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) and describe their effects on an aquatic ecosystem. Consider what can happen when predator ANS are imported and develop a plan for the eradication of a target ANS.
  2. Site water protection laws at a mock hearing to decide whether a permit should be given to a new shopping mall along a river.
  3. Explain how Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are being used to help communities assess water quality and watershed health information.
  4. Compare water usage in different regions of Canada and the United States and propose actions to help countries strike a balance between supply and demand in order to realize maximum benefit from our water resources.
  5. Design a comprehensive water conservation plan for your home and the watershed below your home. This should include groundwater replenishment, securing sediment on your property, managing non-point source pollution and following the path of good water quality as it leaves your property on its way to the sea.
  6. Many dams are used to provide low cost electricity at the critical time of day when there is peak demand for electricity. Today a major issue is deciding which is more important to the economy, low cost energy or improving/restoring the ecology of a river. Evaluate the issue and develop recommendations for conservation groups and utility executives.

Resources:

  1.  What are Aquatic Nuisance Species? (ANS Task Force)
  2. ANS Task Force Overview (ANS Task Force)
  3. Understanding the Safe Drinking Water Act (EPA)
  4. The Quality of Our Nation’s Waters (USGS)
  5. GIS and Hydrology (Wikipedia)
  6. Water Resources (Wikipedia)
  7. Water Conservation (Wikipedia)
  8. Polluted Runoff — Nonpoint source pollution (Wikipedia)
  9. Environmental Laws in Virginia (DEQ)

Additional Resources for Key Point 4 (this will bring you to a list of resources from Envirothon programs throughout US and Canada)