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Outreach and Education

Explore our conservation educational resources for students and curious minds of all ages! Select a topic of interest below to navigate to the material or scroll the page to take it all in.

Sea Lamprey

Wildlife Forever and the North American Fishing Club teamed up to create videos entitled “Silent Invaders!” about aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes. There are multiple episodes to keep you entertained, but the first begins with Sea Lamprey (Vampire of the Deep!). See video below.

Follow this lesson plan for an engaging activity: Grades 4-8 Sea Lamprey Lesson Plan (print and conduct a board game activity!)
Conduct this worksheet activity to assess learning:
Sea Lamprey Worksheet for Students
Answer Key – Sea Lamprey Worksheet for Students

Activity challenge: get outdoors and enjoy Lake Superior! Or practice your casting for an upcoming fishing season! If you actually go fishing, observe all fishing regulations. Inland fishing re-opens in May. 

Key Questions:

  1. How does introduction of a non-native species affect the dynamic balance of native ecosystems?
  2. Positive changes resulting from non-native species? Negative?
  3. Why should people be concerned about exotic species?
  4. What factors favor population growth of a species?
  5. What biotic and abiotic factors influence species survival?
  6. What are examples of good and bad decisions people can make with regard to exotic species?
  7. Why do exotic species sometimes out-compete native species? (Reflect)
  8. Who should decide which species should be protected? What should this decision be based on? (Generalize)
  9. What actions can you take to prevent the spread of non-native species? (Apply)
  10. Invading species can change present ecosystems in sometimes unpredictable ways that may be beneficial or detrimental. actions can you take to prevent the spread of non-native species? (Apply) – Invading species can change present ecosystems in sometimes unpredictable ways that may be beneficial or detrimental.

What should your learner grasp after watching Silent Invaders and/or completing the lesson above?

  • The differences among the various types of technology used to control the sea lamprey population (Discuss with your learner)
  • The location of lamprey-associated, spawning ground “hot spots” in the Great Lakes (take a look at the board game, or visit US Fish & Wildlife Service for more information on the Sea Lamprey Control Program)
  • Describe parasite/host relationships.
  • Identify the placement of the Great Lakes and describe how the lakes are connected.


 This lesson focuses on riparian forest buffer zones.

Lake SWCD has prepared this video on riparian forest buffers to begin your lessons:

You can use the lessons linked here (from alternate sources, credited) or refer to the brief activity outline below.

Lesson: USU Water Quality Extension (Utah) – Riparian Review (with worksheets for measuring greenline or riparian zon

Lesson: Chesapeake Bay – Restoring a stream near your home


  1. Take your learners to a stream near your home. Suggested locations: a small tributary near your home; Skunk Creek in Two Harbors –Burlington Bay or Seagog are good spots to observe the creek; Knife River (there’s a nice Recreation Trail off of Scenic 61 provided by the Knife River Recreation Council!); the Baptism River – The Finland Campground is an excellent spot to visit the Baptism, or anywhere along the river in Tettegouche State Park. You can also look at the Minnesota DNR’s Aquatic Management Areas and visit one of these fish easement areas for angling – they are usually along coldwater trout streams. Much of the SWCD’s riparian management work, when not on private lands, occurs in conjunction with partner organizations (MNDNR) along AMAs. Follow all DNR regulations when visiting easements or state lands.
  2. Bring along a measuring tape of some sort. Students should measure how big the riparian zone near their house is – is it greater than 35 feet?
  3. Identify trees, shrubs and other plants (or lack thereof) in the riparian area. 
  4. Following the outdoor activity, map the stream segment. This can include the width of the riparian zone, areas with or without canopy cover, different types of plants, or areas they think might need a “timber stand conversion” from hardwoods to long-lived conifer shade canopy. Learners can do the “mapping” activity by simply coloring on a sheet of paper – what does their riparian forest buffer look like? 
  5. For more advanced learners: Compare (graphically) different reaches of a river if you visit multiple sites – does the riparian area of a city versus the remote headwaters differ? You can refer to Lake Superior Streams for stream data to compare flow of rivers in the watershed with your riparian observations.
  6. Ask your family members: Does your family have a riparian forestry easement, such as one protecting trout (an AMA)? What about your neighbor? Call a grandparent and ask them. Would an easement be an option for your family in the future? MNDNR AMA’s, and the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) through BWSR and SWCDs, are both options for riparian buffer protections.
  7.  Assess learning and discuss using key questions below.

Key Questions:

  • How does the canopy cover affect the physical properties of the stream itself?
  • How do humans affect the health of the riparian zone?
  • Why would stream area be a good habitat for wildlife?
  • How do functions of riparian zones differ in big rivers vs small streams?

What your learner should take away from this lesson:

  • Use of mathematics (measurements of the riparian zone) as a precise method for showing relationships.
  • The link between riparian forest buffers and water quality.
  • How humans can impact riparian forest buffers.
  • Apply: suggest ways to maintain or improve a riparian area near your home (stand conversion, gap management, tree planting, restrictions on human use, etc.)

Conservation Corner Podcasts

Learn from the experts about a wide variety of natural resource topics by listening to archived Conservation Corner podcasts on KTWH’s website:

You can learn more about climate change, spruce budworm, septic systems, and more! 

Lake County SWCD produced a radio program, Conservation Corner, from 2015-2017, which aired on 99.5 FM, KTWH, Two Harbors Community Radio. 


Did you know that the University of Minnesota has a Bee Research Lab?

The Bee Lab has a lot of resources to help you get involved in bee conservation. Visit their website for more information: University of MN Bee Lab

The Xerces Society has put together some amazing video resources to help you learn all about pollinators in North America! Check out their YouTube channel

If you are interested in getting involved and planting a pollinator garden, the Xerces society has a planting guide tailored to the Great Lakes region to help you select plants. 

Xerces Society Great Lakes Region Planting Guide

Key Questions:
What are pollinators? 
Why are pollinators important?
What challenges face different kinds of pollinators?
How can people help pollinators?

Rusty Crayfish

Follow along with Ralph in the video below to learn more about Aquatic Invasive Species, Rusty Crayfish, and management efforts.

Lesson & Activity Guide about Rusty Crayfish
Additional activity: head out to a local river or lake and catch crayfish by hand or trap (obeying all applicable bait laws)! The Mouth of the Baptism River (stay safe, especially in the Spring, and adhere to all applicable signs) is a great spot to look for crayfish. You can utilize this Minnesota Crayfish Identification Guide to identify the crayfish you find. Worksheet – for Lesson above or standalone. Engage & Discuss: Read this brief article and discuss with your learner about how invasive species are covered in the news Crayfish Boil at Home? Use these recipes as a starting point Key Questions:

  1. How does introduction of a non-native species affect the dynamic balance of native ecosystems?
  2. Positive changes resulting from non-native species? Negative?
  3. Why should people be concerned about exotic species?
  4. What factors favor population growth of a species?
  5. What biotic and abiotic factors influence species survival?
  6. What are examples of good and bad decisions people can make with regard to exotic species?
  7. Why do exotic species sometimes out-compete native species? (Reflect)
  8. Who should decide which species should be protected? What should this decision be based on? (Generalize)
  9. What actions can you take to prevent the spread of non-native species? (Apply): Invading species can change present ecosystems in sometimes unpredictable ways that may be beneficial or detrimental.

What your learner should grasp:

  • Explain how ecosystems can change as a result of the introduction of one or more new species (geared toward 9th-grade MN Grad Standards,
  • Describe the social, economic, and ecological risks and benefits of change a natural ecosystem as a result of human activity (
  • Social and natural systems may not function well if parts are missing, damaged, mismatched, or misconnected. 
  • Describe how adding a species to, or removing one from, an ecosystem may affect other organisms and the entire ecosystem.

More about Lake County Aquatic Invasive Species:

Mapping Natural Resources

You can use this video about how natural resource managers utilize maps to frame your lesson. The video includes a brief how-to on use of the application Avenza the last three minutes, but it gets a bit blurry.

 Activity: Orienting Yourself to Maps 

  1. Search your social studies book, around your house, in the car, or visit the local chamber of commerce for a map. Identify components of the map. Review or explain: cartographers are people who make maps.
  2. Review glossary items. Key word: topography = a detailed description or representation on a map of the natural and artificial features of an area, usually consisting of lines representing elevation changes.
  3. Complete this topography mapping activity. Can you match the topography lines to the appropriate hill silhouette?

Activity: Avenza Maps & Walk Outside

  1. Download Avenza maps. Setup a free account and search in the store for existing maps of a state park (Split Rock, Gooseberry, Tettegouche, and Crosby Manitou all have maps online), superior national forest map (these are paid but exist for SNF west and east), or a topography map. You can also download a map for the Lake County Demonstration Forest northwest of Two Harbors.
  2. Visit a mapped area you downloaded in Avenza. Utilize the map to track your progress on a walk. What do you notice? What other ways can you use mapping? For more ideas and to document what you find on your walk, go to 
  3. Extend and apply depending on age: map your family’s property or experiment with mapping resources online (this can be done with color crayons and simple symbols, or with more advanced resources such as a free ESRI subscription through your education institution). You can also use the Lake County Parcel Viewer to map your property.
  4. Extend and apply: Practice utilizing a compass and topography map to navigate without technology using a bearing (especially useful for BWCAW travel or timber cruising!).
  5. Extend and apply: Review mapping coordinate systems, such as where Latitude and Longitude come from.

 Key Questions:

  • How are maps important for natural resource management?
  • How has mapping evolved through the years?
  • How can I use maps in my everyday life?

By the end of this lesson your learner should be able to:

  • Identify components of a map, including: title, compass rose, scale, legend or map keys with associated symbols. An important component of a map is also the purpose for which it was created.
  • List one reason natural resource managers might utilize maps.
  • Reflect on an area that you visited & point it out on a map.
  • Apply: map your property. 
  • Apply: utilize Avenza maps at a local state park. 

Water Monitoring and Water Chemistry

Watch the video below to conceptualize your lesson and to learn more about how we monitor and measure water chemistry!

Refer to this lesson for activities related to water quality (clarity).

Key Questions:

  1. What measurements are used to determine a lake’s trophic status?
  2. What are some key characteristics of each trophic class?
  3. Besides trophic status, what else can we measure to help us understand the health of a lake or stream?
  4. What does it mean for a lake or stream to be “impaired?”

What your learner should grasp by the end of this lesson:

  • Explain the importance of unimpaired water supplies.
  • Describe at least 2-3 words from the glossary list at the end of the lesson.
  • Demonstrate one way of determining water quality: measure water clarity with a secchi disc (apply). 
  • Anticipate how humans do or could impact water clarity and chemistry near your home.
  • Generate a scientific conclusion from an investigation, clearly distinguishing between results (evidence) and conclusions (explanation). (
  • Communicate scientific and/or technical information (e.g. about a proposed object, tool, process, system) in writing and/or through oral presentations. (Next Generation Science Standards – MS-ESS3-3). 

Water Conservation

Lake Superior is home to some of the most pristine and abundant sources of freshwater in the world. One way Lake County residents (and youth!) can manage natural resources is by conserving water so there is plenty to go around. Understanding how pollution impacts these freshwater resources, and how to prevent it, is also a form of effective water resource management.


  1. List ways in which you use water. Share answers aloud, or make a list together. Remember: we only use freshwater! And most of the water on the Earth is saltwater.
  2. Discuss the difference between fresh and salt water. How much freshwater is in the Great Lakes?
  3. Calculate your water footprint – how much water do you use per day? Go to to calculate your water footprint. is another great interactive website for learning about ways to conserve water.
  4. Action: suggest a way in which your family can reduce your water usage and implement it for at least a week.

You can use this video to provide context for your lesson about water conservation in Lake County.

What your learner should take away from this lesson:

  • Analyze freshwater usage data to describe ways humans use water.
  • Explain why it is important to conserve water.
  • Be able to construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capital consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems (National Standards Core Idea: ESS3.A).
  • List at least one way you can reduce your water consumption.

Mussel Mania

This lesson focuses on native and invasive mussels in Minnesota. 
Mussels are COOL! And they have all sorts of fun names: monkeyface, washboard, elktoe, fatmucket, pimpleback, and sheepnose! Some native freshwater mussels to Lake County include: fatmuckets, heelsplitters, higgens eye, and giant floaters. Creek heelsplitters (threatened) are found in an estimated 1.3% of the northern part of Lake County!

Lake SWCD has prepared this video on Minnesota mussels to guide your learning: 

You can use this lesson: Mussel Mania! Adapted from MinnAqua by Lake SWCD for activities and a full lesson outline. 

For more advanced (9-12th grade) learners, complete this Zebra Mussel Graphing Exercise to incorporate math and data analysis into your lesson. The exercise is from the Cary Institute and focuses on the Hudson River, but is effective at helping to understand and illustrate the effects of this invasive species.

Extending your learning: For more exploration, visit a local stream or lakeshore near you and snorkel or wade to look for native mussels! Or, build a zebra mussel sampler to monitor your local lake. 

Jazzed about Mussels? Print this awesome mussel poster for your wall!

Key Questions:

  •  How do mussels feed themselves?
  • What impact has past commercial mussel harvest in Minnesota had on current native mussel populations?
  • What are some factors that make it difficult for native mussel populations to recover from over harvesting?
  • Native freshwater mussels are considered to be an indicator species, what does that mean?
  • In what ways are invasive species harmful to native mussels?
  • How did invasive zebra mussels arrive in the US and how are they able to spread to new lakes? How can we prevent the spread of invasive species?
  • Name two things you can do yourself to be a mussel citizen scientist.

What your learner should take away from this lesson:

  1. Explain why freshwater mussels are important to ecosystems.
  2. Name one freshwater mussel native to Minnesota.
  3. Identify the effects of zebra mussels on other aquatic organisms.
  4. List two ways in which human activity has introduced zebra mussels into Minnesota waters.

Storm Water and Rain Gardens

This lesson focuses on stormwater.

What is stormwater? Stormwater is surface water that falls in an abnormal quantity as a result of heavy snow falls or rain. Rain and snow melt run over impervious surfaces in urbanized areas, like roads and rooftops, and pick up pesticides, fertilizers, oils, metals, pathogens, salt, and other pollutants. These pollutants are carried into storm drains by this overflow stormwater and, eventually, into our lakes and local streams! The U.S. EPA under the 1987 Clean Water Act established rules for cities and other places to manage all this extra stormwater (or the “Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System” (MS4) regulations). In Minnesota, stormwater regulations (MS4s) are managed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. You become an MS4 if a city (or University, campus, etc.) has a population of 10,000 or more; 5,000 or more if water drains into some specially classified bodies of water. There are no MS4s in Lake County, but stormwater still affects and impacts our local waters, especially in urban areas like Two Harbors and Silver Bay.


IMPERVIOUS surfaces are often key to figuring out the impacts of stormwater. Our partners at Great Lakes Aquarium, MinnAqua, MN SeaGrant, and Wolf Ridge ELC have created an excellent lesson “A Very Impervious Situation” to guide your learning about stormwater. A key part of this lesson is calculating the impervious surface of your school yard – we encourage you to do this for the home in which you reside! You can use Google Maps or Lake County GIS Parcel maps (with new 2020 oblique imagery!) to guide your calculations. This lesson walks you through the calculations and process. The lesson also includes a vocabulary list.

You can use this worksheet to guide your activity.

As they become available, you can also check out a kit to complete this lesson from the Great Lakes Aquarium’s resource library.

  • Did you know? A property in Lake County (or anywhere in the State of Minnesota) that resides in a “shoreland area,” or next to a lake or river, can have a maximum of only 25% of their property as impervious surface. This means your house, garage and driveway (all IMPERVIOUS surfaces) can only comprise 25% of your land. Does your family’s home take up only 25% of your property? What about your neighbors?
  • Any type of natural area can serve as filtration for stormwater runoff. In the Northland, the predominant “natural filtration” are trees. While many property owners (or young learners!) may not have the ability to put in a rain garden or stormwater pond, you can walk around the Golf Courses in Silver Bay and Two Harbors to realize the extent of water storage taking place! Allowing water to remain on our lawns (in this area, some of the only flat areas around!) can slow water down, reducing stress on our stream channels and therefore erosion. 
  • Rain gardens are the next type of natural filtration after trees. Unlike existing trees and other natural water storage areas, rain gardens require deliberate designs to make them effective, especially with the clay soils in this region. 

Are you interested in filtering some of the stormwater where you live and making waters by your home cleaner? Watch former Lake SWCD staff member Wayne Seidel speak about the Lake County Courthouse’s rain garden. Rain garden’s are a stormwater “best management practice” that can help filter runoff.

Extending your learning: After you watch the presentation, visit a rain garden near you! Our two suggestions: the rain garden at Castle Danger Brewery on their back deck, or the rain garden next to the parking lot at SpokenGear/Cedar Coffee Company. You can also visit the rain garden at the Lake County Courthouse! What do you notice? What plants are in these rain gardens?All three rain gardens were designed and funded in part by Lake SWCD.

Applying your learning: Design a rain garden for your home. Use color to bring it to life, and graph paper to design it to scale. Where would you put the garden to maximize water filtration (hint: where is there ponding in your yard?)? What plants would you include? This plant list and design from BlueThumb is a great place to start.

Key Questions:

  • What is the difference between pervious and impervious surfaces?
  • Think about “point pollution” and “nonpoint pollution” – Where might stormwater pick up pollution?
  • What are some basic things we can do to avoid stormwater contamination?
  • What happens to your yard during heavy rains? Where is there ponding? Why?

What your learner should take away from this lesson:

  1. Be able to define the difference between impervious and pervious surfaces.
  2. Demonstrate use of formulas to find area and volume.
  3. List one way we pollute our waters through stormwater runoff.
  4. List one way we can reduce stormwater runoff and pollution.

Curious about other forms of stormwater management? This graphic illustrates the many different forms of green and greywater filtration and storage systems. Instead of naturally existing forests or wetlands, urban areas might manage stormwater through filtration and infiltration basins where concentrated contaminants may exist, or through temporary flood storage. Rain barrels or cisterns are one example of temporary flood storage for private landowners. Underground storage in highly developed areas or conventional storm sewers may also be used to slow and filter stormwater runoff. What other ways can you think of to slow waterflow across your landscape?

Adapted from McPhillips, L.E.; Matsler, A.M. Temporal Evolution of Green Stormwater Infrastructure Strategies in Three US Cities. Front. Built Environ. 20184, 26.

For more advanced learners, check out the Minnesota Stormwater Manual and explore Minimal Impact Design Standards (MIDS) – a calculator where you can engineer your own stormwater system! 

Terrestrial Invasive Species

Now that summer is on its way, we’re starting to see green growth all around us. Along with native and cultivated plans, invasive species are also starting to sprout. Invasive plant species can lead to many negative consequences, including habitat degradation, monocultures, and even human health. Controlling the spread can protect native species and the health of ecosystems.

To control invasive species, we must first familiarize ourselves with them. Here is a video featuring some common invasive species in Lake County. 

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has a wealth of information about terrestrial invasive species on their website, including individual identification profiles for each species, a distribution map, and videos detailing the impact invasive species have on our environment.

Once you’ve learned to identify invasive plants, you can report them using EDDMapS. You can also report them using the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network smartphone app

Key Questions

  • What is an invasive species?
  • What harm is caused by terrestrial invasive species?
  • What can we do about existing invasive species infestations?
  • How can we prevent the spread of invasive species?
  • What can we do if we find invasive species in our yard? On public lands?


This lesson is about watersheds. For this lesson, Lake SWCD is sharing an already created, MN Grad-Standards-referenced, lesson plan focused on a key watershed in Lake County – the Lake Superior Watershed! This lesson was created by Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, a 501(c)(3) organization located in Lake County’s Finland, MN. Lake SWCD makes no representations or endorsements for Wolf Ridge ELC. Lesson copyright Wolf Ridge ELC.   LessonVisit Wolf Ridge’s webpage for more information and alternative formats, or follow along in the Story Map Map Lesson on Watersheds! This lesson includes a topographic map activity we encourage you to complete outlining the watershed near your home, and a YouTube video following a drop of water as it travels from Wolf Ridge’s campus in Finland, Lake County, MN to Lake Superior. 

 Utilize the included worksheets to assess learner progress, or you can access the full lesson plan at the end of the story map. Key Questions

  • How can mapping watersheds help us understand how they work and how we affect them?
  • What watersheds are in Lake County?
  • Does what happen at the headwaters of a stream or “start” of a watershed impact what happens downstream? How?

 What your learner should grasp by the end of this lesson:

  1. Interpret a topographic map and predict how water will travel in a watershed.
  2. Create a map of a body of water and its watershed. 
  3. Evaluate how their life choices may influence their watershed.
  4. Name one watershed in Lake County.


Review this video presentation on wetlands to learn more about different types of wetlands and how we define (or delineate) them. This video also discusses the Wetland Conservation Act. 

This lesson utilizing a sponge can demonstrate to students how wetlands filter water (from “Great Lakes in My World): Value of Wetlands (Grades 4-8)

Key Questions:
How are wetlands like kidneys?
Who uses wetlands?
What three types of indicators do we use to define wetlands?
Do wetlands need our help?

What your learner should grasp by the end of this lesson:
List one reason wetlands are important.
Describe how wetlands have been lost in the United States. 
List three tools we use to define where a wetland is, and where a wetland is not.
Identify four different types of wetlands.
Describe the importance of wetlands in the environment.