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Muddy Waters: A Historical View of Land Use Patterns, Water Quality, and the Conservation Movement
What to Know
Teaching Time
Two 50-minute class periods
Grade Level
Middle School
  • Ecology and Environment
  • Geography
  • History
Historical Period
  • The Great Depression and World War II - 1929-1945
  • Post-WWII Pennsylvania - 1946-1974
  • Contemporary Pennsylvania - 1975 to Present
This lesson leads the student to discover the impact human activities have had on water quality in Pennsylvania over time. The teacher will review historical periods in regard to population density, changes in technology and tools and general land use patterns. Students will analyze these changes and determine the impact they have had on water quality. The students will also discover that a conservation movement began which initiated improvements in land use patterns and thus made progress toward better water quality. Students will read about the Honey Hollow Watershed project as a case study for the conservation movement.


Students will: 1. Understand the major time periods of Pennsylvania's history and recognize patterns of population density, technological changes and land use patterns that characterized each. 2. Evaluate the impact of land use patterns on water quality from 1600 through present day. 3. Distinguish which period of history represented the "worst of times" for water quality. 4. Recognize that an improvement in water quality occurred through the efforts of a conservation movement at the state and national level. 5. Understand the concept of a watershed. 6. Recognize the importance of cooperation within a watershed using Honey Hollow as a case study. 7. Describe activities in which they are involved that could cause water pollution, not only in their own area but also for those "downstream."

Standards Alignment

  • Environment and Ecology

    4.1.7. B. Understand the role of a watershed.
    4.8.7. C. Explain how human activities may affect local, regional and national environments.
    4.8.7. D. Explain the importance of maintaining the natural resources at the local, state and national levels.
    4.9.7. A. Explain the role of environmental laws and regulations.

  • Geography

    7.1.9. B. Explain and locate places and regions.
    7.4.6. B. Describe the impacts of people on physical systems.
    7.4.9. B. Explain the impacts of people on physical systems.

  • History

    8.2.9. C. Identify and analyze how continuity and change have influenced Pennsylvania history.

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