Teacher-Authored Lessons



Class Periods




Subject Areas

ELA, Science, Social Studies


This lesson allows students to start with an outline map of the NYC Estuary and highlight all of the waterways. Students will generate observations and questions. They will then use a more detailed map to find "water words" they are unfamiliar with, look up the terms, right our definitions in notebook. Lastly, students will use the map to label the 8 major parts of the NYC Estuary.


Students will generate observations and questions about NYC waterways and explore a map in order to learn the words needed to talk about the harbor.

Materials and Resources


  • Class set of blue highlighters

  • Print outs of NYC outline map

  • Analog Dictionaries

  • Internet

  • Map of Estuary

Before you get started

Tips for Teachers

  • Reliable internet/computers would be useful to allow for additional online resources


1. Decide whether you want to create charts to have students fill out or have them complete all notes in NB.  

2. (Optional, but super useful) Create a large NYC Outline Water map to hang on a wall (http://www.blockposters.com/all-done/ or similar sites are useful)
3. Photocopy NYC outline maps for students
4. Have Blue highlighters/markers available for students
5. Decide if you will have students use/share computers for second map analysis and dictionaries (have analog dictionaries on hand if desired)


This is an intro lesson for NYC Estuary studies

Instruction Plan


1. Guide students to highlight all of the waterways on their NYC outline maps (large color poster can also be a model)
2. As you demonstrate the highlighting (don't forget the little rivers and streams), demonstrate some observations and questions..."I notice that some water areas are bigger/smaller than others...or here the coastline looks more like a straight line, and here it looks more jagged. I wonder why..."

Precise attempts to characterize the size/shape/texture of things. Spikey, bumpy, straight, curvy, smooth,  -- compare/contrast - how is this spot similar/different to that spot, enrich observations.

3. Prompt kids to complete their observations/questions T-chart as they complete the highlighting of their maps.
4. Students share out observations/questions (all students should have at least 5 of each recorded in notes.

Examples of Student Generated Questions:

Student generated questions:

How much of NYC is manmade

Whats difference between island/buro

How much of the island is clean?

What about the map of the past?

Why does the water jut into land/land jut into water?

Why is it sometimes smooth/jagged?

How big are these things?

Islands that humans have not built on?

Rivers? - do they have to flow into a sea?

Does a lake have to be moving/can it be stagnant

What is water/land, or are there things that are both?

How do they form, why are they the shapes that they are?

Does water turn from river to ocean?

Why some small/big rivers clear and salt water

Do bodies of water affect the land/;and affect the water?

What lives in the water

Why is there a difference between salt/fresh water

Direction of water?

Why are there different sizes of water

bk/queens one island?

Why is river connected to the sea

Why are there pockets of water?


Give students internet access (phones, tablets, laptops, etc.). Have them look up their word. Then, have them make a list of all the other water words in that definition. Then, have them look up those words as well. They should keep a running list of the definitions of all the words that they have looked up using the worksheet in this folder. By the time they are done, they should have the definitions of at least 10 water words.

5. After completion, direct students to the more detailed "NYC Estuary Map" (either digitally or printed out)
6. Direct students to explore the map and find water related terms that they are unfamiliar with ("bay," "channel," "creek," "estuary," etc)
7. Create a list of 10 terms and definitions in notes.


8. Students should locate the 8 major areas of the NYC Estuaries and label them on their maps using the NYC Estuary Map.

9. ...If/when students struggle to find all of the locations, guide them to using google maps (optional) to locate the rest.

Give students a blank map. (There is one at :  http://www.mapsofworld.com/usa/blank-map-of-new-york-city.html)

Have them label the following waterways by describing them without them using any of the real water words.

  1. Hudson River

  2. East River

  3. Long Island Sound

  4. Newark Bay

  5. Upper New York Bay

  6. Lower New York Bay

  7. Jamaica Bay

  8. Atlantic Ocean


Have a class discussion where you decide which three water words are most important in discussing NY Harbor.  Justify your answer. Student Observations/Questions can fuel subsequent lessons (what is an estuary!)