Featured Lesson

Lesson 3:5 - The Lake Game

by Michelle Kelly

September 2010

Image of the Lake Game

The Lake Game

The theme for MinnAqua’s Fishing: Get in the Habitat! Leader's Guide third chapter is “Water Stewardship.” In Minnesota, fresh, clean water contributes significantly to healthy habitat for fish and to the quality of life we enjoy, too!

As students grow in their understanding of the water cycle; the watersheds in which they live; and how fish and people need and use water, they can begin to see the relationship between their own everyday behaviors and choices to a variety of water issues in their communities. When we are well-informed, develop skills for critically analyzing problems and practice working cooperatively with others - together we can make better choices and take effective action in stewardship of our water resources… fish benefit and we benefit too!

Chapter 3 houses seven of our 39 lessons. Lesson 3:5 – The Lake Game is the fifth lesson in Chapter 3.

The Lake Game – is adapted from Liukkonen, B. (1998). The Lake Game, For People Who Care About Lakes. University of Minnesota Sea Grant Program. The Lake Game is reprinted for Fishing: Get in the Habitat! with permission from the University of Minnesota Sea Grant Program.

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Lesson Summary

Lesson 3:5 - The Lake Game challenges students to make decisions in an variety of situations related to water use, pollution, recreational and industrial values, economics, and exotic species. Using role playing cards, students assume the roles of local people representing a variety of interest groups and consider situations and make community decisions that affect a local lake. As the game progresses, whether the lake’s water becomes polluted and depleted depends on the players’ decisions. After the game, the decisions are discussed and alternatives explored.

Tips & Tricks

Take your students fishing - first! Lesson 6:1-Safety and the Fishing Trip includes background information and resources to help ensure a successful, safe and fun class fishing trip experience for your students. A class fishing trip at a nearby lake, pond or stream, is a wonderful way to orchestrate a common authentic, relevant experience for your students - setting a firm foundation on which to construct learning about water, aquatic ecosystems, water quality, and water stewardship with Lesson 3:5 - The Lake Game. Starting the lesson with fishing first gets your students excited about their new lesson or unit.

Fishing first can provide a fun conceptual context to launch your students into the process of Inquiry. Inquiry-based Science describes a range of philosophical, curricular and pedagogical approaches to help students along the process of discovering knowledge themselves through developing and practicing experimental and analytical skills. Raising questions about the world around you and seeking answers to those questions through careful, real-world observations are fundamental to the basic process of Inquiry.

  • While on the fishing trip, ask students to make a list of 15 to 20 observations that gets to the heart of what it is you will be teaching later in the lesson (or unit).
  • Have your students bring a journal and a pencil (and colored pencils, for observation drawings) on the fishing trip to record their observations. Ask students to work in teams of two and create a list of 10 observations (notes and drawings) about how the people who are living, working and recreating around the lake or river may be using and might be impacting that water and list or draw an additional 10 observations about how the fish in the lake might need and use water. Afterwards, back in class, have each team share three observations from their list they found most interesting. Compile each team’s three most interesting observations to create a class list. To set the stage for the lesson guide the students in narrowing the class list down to a total of two or three observations that focus on the new lesson’s or unit’s primary learning objectives. 
Fun Fish Facts

Testable Questions

Many of the questions asked by student and professional scientists lend themselves to systematic investigations. But questions often need to be reworded or asked in such a way so they can actually be tested. Minnesota Science Standards for History and Nature of Science 3.I.B.1 requires students to be able to write a measurable, investigable question or a “Testable Question.”


Testable Questions are questions that begin with “How can,” “How does,” “What if,” “I wonder,” but, typically NOT “Why.”


There are two forms or ways of asking Testable Questions:


  1. How does “this” affect “that”? What if “this” affects “that”? I wonder if “this” affects “that”?
  2. How does “a” compare to “b”?
  • If you’d like to dive deeper into the process of Inquiry after Lesson 3:5 - The Lake Game, you can create new teams and have students work with their partner to design an investigation to further explore or test a question inspired by one of the “focused class observations” and what they learned in the lesson; conduct their investigation; gather and record their data; analyze the data; prepare a poster and present their findings to the class; and decide what next steps they would wish to pursue with additional investigation. Finally, after class presentations and discussions, have the teams work together to tease out the Testable Question from their data.
  • Science is a dynamic process that generates a continuous collection of data and a search for patterns. Scientific publications end with “conclusions,” but Inquiry and the Scientific process illuminate new observations and inspire new questions. Developing Testable Questions from observations and data generated through investigation is a necessary skill for students to be able to identify, analyze, resolve and prevent problems in their ever-changing immediate, school-based, community-based, regional and global worlds; and for empowering students to become active agents in their own life-long learning and co-creators of a vision for a better world.

After the lesson (or unit), go fishing - again! If your students had fun the first time, the anticipation of a second fishing trip is sure to be an even more powerful incentive for engaging in the lesson. A culminating fishing experience is also a great way to reinforce the learning that your students accomplish during the lesson or unit. For example:

  • Bring cameras, treats, the school principal, family members and Lesson 3:5 - The Lake Game along for everyone to “play” and make the culminating fishing trip a celebration in recognition of your students’ learning!
  • Have students compare their two fishing trip experiences by asking them to reflect in a paper, presentation, group discussion or journal on the question: “Compared to my experience on our first fishing trip, how did the things I learned in Lesson 3:5 - The Lake Game, MinnAqua Water Quality unit, and or Inquiry Investigation affect my experience on our second fishing trip?”

MinnAqua Lesson Connections

Land for Sale

Lesson 4:3 - Town Meeting Involved citizens can make decisions about lakeshore land-use that can benefit the community, the economy and the environment.

In Lesson 3:5 - The Lake Game students make decisions about impacting water quality in a lake and discuss actions that make them better stewards of our water resources. Lesson 4:3 - Town Meeting ties in nicely by simulating a land-use public hearing where students practice skills used in community decision-making that may impact water quality in a local lake. Working in small groups, students take on roles playing different local stakeholders and/or representatives from a variety of special interest groups to design and defend proposals for the development of a local lakeshore property.



Watershed Model

Lesson 3:3 - Wonderful Watersheds The daily choices and actions we make in our watersheds are reflected in the water quality of our lakes and rivers.

Many of items in the materials list for Lesson 3:5 - The Lake Game can also be used for Lesson 3:3 - Wonderful Watersheds. You can also try using the Role-playing Cards and Discussion Cards from Lesson 3:5 - The Lake Game with the watershed models the students make in EnviroScape™ activity kit. Contact your regional MinnAqua Education Specialist to check out an EnviroScape™ activity kit.


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