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Great Minds, Great Lakes


Social Studies

The Journey of the Great Lakes



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The Lake Guardian Explores Lake Superior

Lake Guardian was excited to start her journey in Lake Superior, the largest of all the Great Lakes and the one with the least amount of pollution. Lake Superior is so large and deep that all the other Great Lakes plus three more lakes the size of Lake Erie could fit in it. It is well-known for its lovely beaches and clear blue water. The water is so clear you can see fish swimming way down deep. Lake Guardian knew she needed to be careful, for Lake Superior's mood can be so peaceful and serene one minute, and the next minute a ferocious and lashing storm will rise out of its depths.

Lake Guardian started in the town of Duluth, Minnesota, and headed northeast towards Thunder Bay, Canada. As she cruised, Lake Guardian learned that very few people live around this Lake area compared to the rest of the Great Lakes, and she knew that this was a large part of they Lake Superior is so beautiful and clean. The more people there are in an area, the more pollution problems Lake Guardian knew she'd find. How did she know this?

The vast expanse of the water and many pretty hills around Lake Superior would make it hard for Lake Guardian to leave. As Lake Guardian cruised toward Thunder Bay, she saw people hiking, swimming, fishing, skiing, and boating. Then she looked over and was so shocked she almost dropped her anchor! As a motor boat passed her bow she watched a family toss a six ring plastic can holder overboard with a plastic grocery bag. Lake Guardian was very upset because beautiful birds can get their beaks or heads caught in the rings, and then they can't eat. She was concerned that the fuel from the motor boats was polluting the water too. People often forget that when they have fun, they need to be careful that they don't harm nature. Lake Guardian wished all people had respect for the Great Lakes like the Chippewa culture does. In the Chippewa language the work "Wayzhigwanaad" means "water spirit" and they emphasize that the health of our water is directly related to the quality of life for all livings things on the planet.

Lake Guardian collected some samples of water to study how much fuel spills from the motorboats and freighters into the water. As she passed by Thunder Bay she saw big paper mills and large fishing boats. Crossing over to Marquette Michigan, she followed the coastline towards Sault Ste. Marie, where she would travel to get to Lake Huron. The Lake is so big that sometimes Lake Guardian thought she was in an ocean. "Where did all this water come from?" Lake Guardian asked the scientists on board. Dave, the environmental scientist, told her about the pathways of water on Earth, called the hydrologic cycle. Dave told her that rain helps keep the Great Lakes full. The rain that falls on the land either runs off the surface back into the Lakes through streams and creeks, or soaks into the ground. As she was talking to Dave, a speckled trout swam by. Lake Guardian asked the trout if he knew how water in the ground finds its way back to the Lakes. The trout explained that the water travels underground and enters creeks and stream which drain into the lakes, and sometimes enters the Lakes directly below the surface. Dave then added that when it is hot, water evaporates up into the air. When the water gets high enough in the air, it cools off and comes back down as rain and the cycle starts all over again.

"Lake Guardian, it will be important for you to understand how water finds its way to the Great Lakes, because pollution sometimes follows the same paths to enter that lakes and hurts them," Dave explained. Lake Guardian thought a lot about what Dave said, and quickly began collecting samples of water and fish to study. She wanted to see what kinds of pollution were already using some of those pathways into Lake Superior.


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