Driftless Environmental Education


Sustainable Driftless, Inc. brings you a world-class environmental documentary film, Decoding the Driftless, along with lesson plans to integrate into your school’s learning environment.

Our highly awarded film and lessons are being made available to you and your students for free because we believe in the importance of understanding and protecting the Driftless Region of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois.

Our film tells the captivating story of this uniquely beautiful region which is the home to one of the largest migratory bird flyways in the world, the Upper Mississippi River watershed, precious and rare ecosystems including bluff prairies, underground rivers, along with precious archaeological features from Native Americans. Our hope is for your students and your community of learners to develop a strong sense of place and to become stewards and protectors of this important resource.

We created six lessons as a starting point for learning about the Driftless Region and the many treasures it holds. Each lesson is correlated to specific film segments and aligned with national educational standards. Please adapt these lessons to the grade level and curriculum as appropriate.

Please contact sustainabledrifltess.outreach@gmail.com with your comments, questions, and suggestions for expanding our educational outreach. We deeply value your feedback and suggestions.

Film Producers Tim Jacobson and George Howe
Jan Wee, Education Outreach Coordinator


Download Free Driftless Region Lesson Plans Here


Schools located within the Driftless Region are eligible to take advantage of Sustainable Driftless’ education outreach initiative and receive up to two copies of the full length documentary, Decoding the Driftless, on USB flash drive, along with six lesson plans and related online resources.

For more information, contact:
Jan Wee, Education Outreach Coordinator
P.O. Box 1231 | La Crosse, WI 54602
sustainabledriftless.outreach -at- gmail -dot- com



Endorsements for Sustainable Driftless, Inc.’s environmental education resources

As a classroom teacher, I want the absolute best for my students … particularly when it comes to quality content and engaging delivery. However, I cannot be an expert on everything … and I don’t have the time to package every lesson with cutting edge visuals, music, humor, etc. Decoding the Driftless does all that and more! The video is enjoyable for all ages, but its design is perfect for an educational setting. My students enjoyed every aspect of the film, and I was thrilled to have the benefit of so many experts essentially teaching my class for me. One of the unique benefits to the film Decoding the Driftless is that students develop local pride and a sense of belonging to something truly special. Students feel better about themselves after viewing the film because they feel more connected to this special place in which we live.

-Keri Growkowski – Teacher, Holmen High School

I have found no better way of engaging students in a discussion of environmental responsibility than showing them the film Decoding the Driftless. We can only care for the things we know, and that is why a full length film about the Driftless Region is such a valuable teaching tool.

-Dr. Richard Kyte – Professor, Viterbo University


Educational Standards Covered by Sustainable Driftless Lesson Plans

NextGen Science Standards https://ngss.nsta.org/AccessStandardsByTopic.aspx

Students who demonstrate understanding can:

Lesson 1

4-ESS1-1. Identify evidence from patterns in rock formations and fossils in rock layers to support an explanation for changes in a landscape over time.
4-ESS2-1. Make observations and/or measurements to provide evidence of the effects of weathering or the rate of erosion by water, ice, wind, or vegetation.
4-ESS2-2. Analyze and interpret data from maps to describe patterns of Earth’s features
MS-ESS1-4. Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence from rock strata for how the geologic time scale is used to organize Earth’s 4.6-billion-year-old history.
MS-ESS2-2. Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth’s surface at varying time and spatial scales.
MS-ESS2-3. Analyze and interpret data on the distribution of fossils and rocks, continental shapes, and seafloor structures to provide evidence of the past plate motions.

Lesson 2

ESS1.C: The History of Planet Earth: Some events happen very quickly; others occur very slowly, over a time period much longer than one can observe. (2-ESS1-1)
ESS2.A: Earth Materials and Systems: Wind and water can change the shape of the land. (2-ESS2-1)
ESS2.C: The Roles of Water in Earth’s Surface Processes: Water’s movements—both on the land and underground—cause weathering and erosion, which change the land’s surface features and create underground formations. (MS-ESS2-2)
LS4.A: Evidence of Common Ancestry and Diversity: Some kinds of plants and animals that once lived on Earth are no longer found anywhere.
(3-LS4-1) Fossils provide evidence about the types of organisms that lived long ago and about the nature of their environments.

Lesson 3

LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience: When the environment changes in ways that affect a place’s physical characteristics, temperature, or availability of resources, some organisms survive and reproduce, others move to new locations, yet others move into the transformed environment, and some die. (secondary to 3-LS4-4)
LS4.C: Adaptation: For any particular environment, some kinds of organisms survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all. (3-LS4-3)
LS4.D: Biodiversity and Humans: Populations live in a variety of habitats and change in those habitats affects the organisms living there. (3-LS4-4)
LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems: Organisms, and populations of organisms, are dependent on their environmental interactions both with other living things and with nonliving factors. In any ecosystem, organisms and populations with similar requirements for food, water, oxygen, or other resources may compete for limited resources, access to which consequently constrains their growth and reproduction. Growth of organisms and population increases are limited by access to resources.

Lesson 4

Social Studies Standards

D2. Geo.4.3-5. Explain how culture influences the way people modify and adapt to their environments.
D2.Geo.7.3-5. Explain how cultural and environmental characteristics affect the distribution and movement of people, goods, and ideas.
D2.Geo.2.6-8. Use maps, satellite images, photographs, and other representations to explain relationships between the locations of places and regions, and changes in their environmental characteristics
D2.Geo.6.9-12. Evaluate the impact of human settlement activities on the environmental and cultural characteristics of specific places and regions.
D2.Geo.8.3-5. Explain how human settlements and movements relate to the locations and use of various natural resources.

NextGen National Science Standards

4-ESS2-2 Earth’s Systems Analyze and interpret data from maps to describe patterns of Earth’s features.

Lesson 5

ESS2-2 Earth’s Systems: Processes that Shape the Earth Develop a model to represent the shapes and kinds of land and bodies of water in an area.
MS-ESS2-4 Earth’s Systems: Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth’s systems driven by energy from the sun and the force of gravity
5-ESS-2 Earth’s Systems: Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth’s surface at varying time and spatial scales
MS-ESS-4: Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth’s systems driven by energy from the sun and the force of gravity.
HS-ESS-2-2: Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.
HSS- 2-5 Plan and conduct an investigation of the properties of water and its effects on Earth materials

Lesson 6

Environmental Education Standards

Wisconsin Environmental Education Standards https://dpi.wi.gov/environmental-ed/standards
(For other states, please check your state’s education standards pertaining to environmental education.)

Standard 1 Students develop and connect with their sense of place and well-being through observation, exploration, and questioning.
Grades 3-5 Describe natural and cultural histories of a locality, explain the relationship between the two from a variety of perspectives, and identify how that creates a sense of place.
Grades 6-8: Understand the relationships between the environment and geography of a locality and its history, culture, and economy.
Grades 9-12: Analyze relationships between parts of local and global natural and cultural systems. Compare and contrast historical and current resource use, and analyze effects on the local, regional and global natural and cultural systems.
Standard 5: Students investigate and analyze how change and adaptation impact natural and cultural systems.
Grades 3-5: Describe how living things respond to changes in natural systems. Explain how changes affect how organisms adapt and survive…
Grades 6-8: Explain how change and adaptation can enhance…or limit the carrying capacity of a system. Analyze historic climate patterns to describe the impacts on natural and cultural systems.
Grades 9-12: Argue a perspective regarding a sustainability issue by examining individual and group actions, critiquing the decision-making processes, describing shared and conflicting values and principles, and assessing the impact on natural and cultural systems.
Standard 7: Students engage in experiences to develop stewardship for the sustainability of natural and cultural systems
Grades 3-5: Design and implement a plan to address a sustainability issue, weighing the pros and cons of proposed solutions.
Grades 6-8: Examine sustainability issues that need attention in the school or community, identify perspectives of various stakeholders, and consider how different perspectives could contribute to solutions.
Grades 9-12: Research issues related to environmental sustainability, critiquing the economic, environmental, and societal aspects of the issue, and examine how citizen action and public opinion can influence outcomes. Evaluate the needs of a local community to identify potential projects related to environmental sustainability. Identify and describe perspectives of stakeholders in the issue.

NOTE: Additional education standards apply to Decoding the Driftless, including English Language Arts, Arts & Design, Mathematics, Ag, Food & Natural Resources, etc. The noted standards above are the primary standards correlated to the film and the lesson plans.