Teacher Notes

Grade level/Unit:

Grade 4 - Unit 6b: Agriculture and Irrigation
or Unit 7c Modern California Water Projects
Grade 9 - Unit 2: Physical Geography Land Forms/Water

Lesson Purpose:

The students will be able to explain what water rights are and the events that lead up to the damming of Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park.



Draft H/SS Standards Grade 4:

Students describe the main stages in the transformation of California's economy that changed the state from an underdeveloped region into an industrial giant ..., with emphasis on the significance of water, reclamation of marshlands, great engineering projects that make water available, and continuing conflicts over water rights.

Language Arts Standards Grade 4:

Reading comprehension: Students read and understand grade-level-appropriate material. They draw upon a variety of comprehension strategies as needed, including generating and responding to essential questions, making predictions and comparing information from several sources.

Writing applications: Students write compositions that describe and explain familiar objects, events, and experiences. Student writing demonstrates a command of standard English and [good] drafting, research and organization strategies.

Information Literacy Skills:

Length of Lesson: Five 45-60 minute class sessions.

Resources or materials needed:
internet access
CD-ROM based encyclopedias
access to a library
maps of California
poster paper
colored pencils or markers

For a full unit plan for this age group on the Hetch Hetchy controversy, past and present, see A Child's Place in the Environment , Unit 4, Lesson 13.

Background Information that might be helpful:

We all depend on one of California's most important natural resources water. In addition to agriculture, people use water for drinking, cooking, bathing, washing clothes, and for a many other reasons. We live in a very dry state. People have to be careful not to use water in a way that is wasteful. The people of California must work together to make sure the water is clean and plentiful.

There is little, if any, summer rain in much of California. Farmland is a very important resource of California. Over 16 billion dollars is added to the California economy each year from agriculture. The Central Valley and the Imperial Valley are the two main areas where fruit and vegetables, dairy products, cotton, cattle, nuts, and grains are produced. Farms depend on irrigation systems to provide the water needed to grow their crops. Usually this water is brought from a remote location by aqueduct to the farmer. It was in the 1850's that farmers from Mussel Slough in the Tulare Basin began digging trenches to bring river water to the fields.

In the early 1900's the city of San Francisco needed more water. This became quite evident after the Great San Francisco Earthquake. The city asked the United Stated Government to build a dam in the Hetch Hetchy Valley of Yosemite. This dam would create a reservoir which would hold water to be used by the city of San Francisco. The growing city was afraid it would not survive without this new water supply. In 1908 the citizens of San Francisco voted in favor of the plan to dam the Tuolumne River and flood the Hetch Hetchy Valley. The dam was built, even though John Muir and others were against the plan. The new dam, named O'Shaughnessy was completed in 1923.

In 1906 the Los Angeles Aqueduct was being built. The aqueduct brought water from the Owens Valley to Los Angeles. The Owens Valley was a place where cattle used to graze and crops grew plentifully. Now the Owens Valley is a dry, dusty valley, where little grows, while Los Angeles has become a huge city.

In 1941 the city of Los Angeles needed even more water. They extended the Los Angeles Aqueduct farther north and began taking water from Mono Lake. This caused environmental damage and a great controversy resulted.

In 1989 the city of Los Angeles agreed to take less water from Mono Lake. Another important decision was made to share some of the Owens River water with the people of the Owens Valley.

Lesson sequence:

The unit can be completed in any way which works best for your situation. In general, it is possible to complete one step per lesson. This will depend mostly on the level of Internet access available to your class.

Many classrooms have only one computer station with internet access. In this situation, if you want to give every student a chance to use the World Wide Web, it may take longer to gather all the information before the questions for Step 1-3 can be answered. One option would be to have students in groups of 2-3 take turns throughout the morning researching the web sites. The information would then be available for a lesson in the afternoon. If Internet access is unavailable, it would be possible to print out most of the web pages, and pass them out to the class to be used in the research.

Additional Information:

The reading level of most of the web pages will be too high for the average fourth grader. There are several ways to deal with this. You can have the students research in groups or individually for the information. When useful information is found have the students print the web page(s). This material can be used with the whole class for reading and discussion, or it can be used with smaller reading groups. If you have the students read the material in reading groups, you will need to allow time for each group to share with the rest of the class what they have learned.


Last Revised: Thu, Apr 6, 2006