Place—Human Impact Survey

Summary: The field-based “Human Impact Survey” lesson plan from Alaska Sea Grant is one part of a larger curriculum unit that focuses on the relationship between humans and the ocean. In this lesson, students construct knowledge about aquatic pollution through firsthand exploration of the local environment..

Concepts to teach: Pollution, marine debris, biodegradable, decomposition

Goals: Students develop a common definition of the term ‘pollution’, and identify some sources of pollution. Students increase their awareness of pollution in their local environment (school, neighborhood) and feel empowered to devise and carry out solutions.

S3.3S.1, S3.3S.2
S4.3S.1, S4.3S.2

Specific Objectives:

  1. Define what makes something a pollutant, and identify several common types and sources of pollution at a local field site.
  2. Describe how local pollutants make their way into aquatic and marine environments.
  3. Determine what actions or changes are needed to reduce pollution at the local field site.

Activity Links and Resources:

  • Human Impact Survey—This lesson plan is from the Alaska Sea Grant’s K-8 Alaska Seas and Rivers Curriculum. Includes survey data sheets. This activity can be conducted on a beach or riverbank, or it may be adapted to apply to a park or schoolyard.
  • Consider combining the survey with a SOLVE (or similar) beach or river cleanup effort.
  • If you don’t have access to a marine beach, explore the following Beach Debris topic guide for classroom activities.
  • Map pollutants and their pathways. Use local maps from the Land and Water Use focus area to identify areas where pollution is found, pollutant pathways, and storm drains. Relate these findings to land use and natural features.


  • Use pre- and post- activity concept maps to explore learner’s understanding of the term “pollution” and local types and sources of pollution.
  • Worksheet included in the Human Impact Survey curriculum