Civically-Engaged Connected Learning Equity & Access Media Literacy

Advocacy for Rivers

Water Protection in Native California Curriculum

Overview and Context 

This unit will contain several lessons for students to contextualize their geographical relationship to their local watershed and determine local water issues pertaining to the watershed. Students will create a presentation utilizing a green screen app. This unit is adapted from the: “Advocacy & Water Protection in Native California Curriculum” developed by Save California Salmon. Also used is curriculum from Teacher’s Curriculum Institute (TCI) sections: Attending a Public Meeting & Testifying Before a Public Body.  This lesson was created for grades 6-12, and can be adapted for students to learn and write about other local environmental areas and issues, particularly issues that involve water and indigenous land.

Related California Standards

  1. CCSS. ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1
  3. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12
  4. HSS10.3.2
  5. HSS.11.1
  6. HSS.12.8
  7. HSS.11.6.4
  8. HSS.11.8.6
  9. HS-ESS2-2
  10. HS-LS2-7

Learning Objectives

  1. Students will learn to contextualize where they live within a watershed and determine the conditions of that watershed.
  2. Students will develop knowledge about local histories and analyze local environmental issues.
  3. Students will learn how to write a letter to their local government agency or official about local environmental issues.
  4. Students will learn about community advocacy through creating a three minute presentation/testimony that will be memorialized as a green screen.


Students will be assessed through multiple measures. They will have completed graphic organizers throughout the unit. They will have a completed letter to a local government official or agency detailing what their concerns are for their watershed and the people that rely on the resources for the local watershed. Students will have created a green screen that will demonstrate students’ potential to advocate for a local watershed.

Resources and Preparation


  1. Paper and pens/pencils
  2. Internet access/laptops
  3. Green Screen materials: green backdrop, tablets with green screen app, microphones
  4. Graphic Organizers


INTRO Trump Water Plan, the Shasta Dam Raise and the Fight for Sacramento River Bay Delta Salmon

Trump Water Plan, the Shasta Dam Raise, and the Fight for Sacramento River Bay Delta Salmon

INTRO Bringing Salmon Home Eel River Dam Removal

Bringing Salmon Home Eel River Dam Removal

INTRO Telling Your Story Outreach and Media

Telling Your Story Outreach and Media

Youth Water Advocacy & Education


  1. Preview lessons 1.3, 1.4, 3.3 & 3.4 from: Advocacy & Water Protection in Native California Curriculum. Also, preview lessons from TCI curriculum: Attending a Public Meeting & Testifying Before a Public Body.
  2. Preview: How’s my Waterway? website and pick a location close to the school site to highlight and demonstrate how the website works.
  3. Collect and prepare materials for green screen recording: green drop cloth, tablets with GS App, microphones.

Step-by-Step Instructional Plan

Day 1: How has California water policy and management impacted daily lives? 

  1. Discussion questions: Do you have access to clean water? Have you experienced droughts or flooding? Are there any canals or dams near where you live? (Advocacy & Water Protection, page 8). Create a classroom agreement if one is not already in place.
  2. Students will watch a video discussing the Shasta Dam and the daming that has occurred with the resulting environmental degradation. Graphic organizer will be provided.
  3. Video Reflections:
    • See Appendix 1: 1.3 Matching Activity for a worksheet to complete while students watch presentations by Regina Chichizola and Morning Star Gali (Advocacy & Water Protection, page 20)
    • In this session, Morning Star Gali and Chief Caleen Sisk both speak of the differing problems that are faced by non-federally recognized, unacknowledged, terminated, disenrolled, and disenfranchised Tribes and Tribal peoples. What are some of these problems?
    • How is federal recognition tied to the ability for Tribes to access resources and support?
    • Summarize what Chief Caleen Sisk says about 1) the importance of salmon to ecosystems and 2) the importance of salmon to Winnemem Wintu peoples.
    • How has the Shasta Dam impacted the ability for Winnemem Wintu peoples to participate in traditional practices or care for their ancestral homelands? (Advocacy & Water Protection, page 20)
  4. Students will be guided to the ‘How’s my watershed?’ website and shown how to discover their local watershed. Graphic organizer will be provided.

Day 2: How has daming affected the ecosystem? 

  1. Students will watch a video about the Eel River and the effects that daming has had on the ecosystem downstream. Graphic organizer will be provided.
  2. Students will be tasked with writing a letter to a local government representative about the conditions of the Eel, Klamath or any other watershed. They will be asked to report on their findings from the “How’s my watershed?” exercise and incorporate at least three actions that local officials may take to remediate or take action.
  3. Exercise 3, Lesson 1.4
    • The Shasta Dam Raise would drown cultural and sacred sites used by the Winnemem Wintu peoples to this day and would further degrade salmon rearing habitat.
    • Option: Write to the Department of Interior telling them why the Shasta Dam should not be raised. (See Module 3 for information on how to write letters to public officials.) (Advocacy & Water Protection, page 21)

Day 3: How can students take action through writing? 

  1. Students will edit letters to their government officials.
  2. Students will watch a video about writing for media and persuasive writing and create talking points for their Green Screen Project.
  3. Video reflection (Advocacy & Water Protection, page 54):What are some examples of advocacy and some components of a successful campaign as described by Regina Chichizola? Have you ever participated in any of these activities? (E.g. public outreach, education, rallies, public speaking). How did it make you feel? What do you think makes for effective campaign strategies
    • How can media be a useful tool for advocacy? What other types of media might be useful? (Eg. social media, YouTube, blogs, magazines/zines, community newsletters, resource groups, story maps).
    • Which types of media reach which audiences? How do their stories and styles differ?
    • What kinds of things influence which stories are covered by the media? Has your perspective ever changed after hearing about an issue through a media source? What is a topic that you wish was covered more in the media? How can media be made more equitable in the types of stories they cover?
    • Look up some examples of press releases and op-eds. What are key aspects of writing a story or press release? How do they address the who, what, where, when, and why? Who is a good spokesperson or center for a story? How does explaining how you are impacted personally fit in with the sharing of facts and information? (Advocacy & Water Protection, page 54)
  4. Exercise 4: Proposing Solutions (Advocacy & Water Protection, page 57):
    Think of the water-problem you have been researching. Design a potential solution to this problem. Does it require a policy change or new regulations? Does it require that infrastructure like dams be removed? Does it require that a source of pollution be prevented from getting into waterways?
    Write a letter to an official or create an infomercial describing your proposed solution. Explain how it would work and why it is important. Think about using diagrams and images. You could create before and after images or scientific literature to predict what this solution might do to the water system.

Days 4 and 5: Video Creations, Presentations, and Celebrations 

  1. Students will create a green screen video about their talking points with the idea that it would be a presentation/testimony for the initial three minutes of public comment at a public meeting.
  2. Students will be shown a quick video about the application they’re using and be given time to practice what they have stated. Students will tape each other and use their devices to develop the background of their videos.
  3. After everyone has created videos, a class celebration will occur, where all videos will be played together, whole group.


ELL/Below Grade Level

  1. Students may choose to create testimony/presentation in their native language having a partner that could also give the presentation in English. Both languages could be used in the final recorded presentation.
  2. Students will be given sentence frames for classwork and model responses will be demonstrated to the whole group.
  3. All instructions will be given both orally and in written form in Google Classroom.
  4. Access to Google Translate can be offered.
  5. Modified work will be assigned as per IEP or 504 plans.

Accelerated Learners

  1. Students may create a CANVA infographic that visually summarizes their research and talking points.
  2. Students may be offered an opportunity to explore the Fish Wars that occurred in the region and/or learn about water policy and law.

Extensions and/or Enrichment:

There is an “Analyzing Symbolism in Art with a Local Artist” unit that highlights the work of Lyn Risling. Students may create art pieces that demonstrate advocacy for a watershed or river.

Related Resources:

Saving California Salmon has also created a TEK curriculum for middle school students: Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Science & Management.

This post is part of the Civic Engagement and Civic Journalism collection.