L.A. River

The Los Angeles River: a Third Grade Integrated Unit


Day 1: Social Studies

Essential Question: How do humans impact their environment? How do /’ can the people of Los Angeles make a difference to their environment (i.e. L.A. River)?

History Inquiry Essential Questions: How have people living in Los Angeles interacted with the Los Angeles Riuver over time?

Summary: Students will build their conceptual understanding of how a river changed over time and the costs and benefits of the interactions by reading A River Ran Wild: An Environmental History by Lynne Cherry. This text tells the story of the Nashua River in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The students will look at five time periods (Native Americans, Settlers, Industrial Revolution, start of clean up, and today) and create a timeline / storyboard with words and images to illustrate those changes. The Nashua River story will set up the historical inquiry into the Los Angeles River.

History Social-Science Analysis Skills: Students explain how the present is connected to the past, identifying both similarities and differences between the two, and how some things change over time and some things stay the same.

ELA / Literacy Common Core State Standards (ELA CCSS)

  • RL & RI.3.1: Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text referring explicitly to the text as the bases for the answers.
  • RI.3.2: Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.
  • RI.3.7: Use information gained from illustrations (e.g. maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text..
  • W.3.8: Recall information from experiences or gather information from print and digital sources; take brief notes on sources, and sort evidence into provided categories.
  • SL3.1.: Engage effectively in a rangne of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 3 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • L.3.6: Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate conversational, general academic, and domain-specific words and phrases, including those that signal spatial and temporal relationships

Focus Questions:

  • What was happening in or around the river?
  • How did the people use the Nashua River?
  • Did people change the river? How?
  • Was the change positive or negative? Why?

Objectives: Students will identify how people interacted with the Nashua river over time and familiarize themselves with the focus questions before conducting their own investigation of the Los Angeles River.




Day 2: Science

Unit Essential Question: How do humans impact their environment? How do the people of Los Angeles make a difference in their environment?

Focus Question: How does the Los Angeles River look today?

This part of the unit is a science investigation in which students will collect data, analyze data, and explain their reasoning through claims and evidence that answers the focus question and possibly leads to more questions. Students will see the different types of habitats found along the L.A. River. This lesson prepares them to use Google Maps for a variety of activities.


  • Sepulveda Dam
    • Latitude: 34.1671
    • Longitude: -118.47320000000002
  • Canoga Park
    • Latitude: 34.1957363
    • Longitude: -118.6017855
  •  Griffith Park
    • Latitude: 34.146521
    • Longitude: -118.278144
  • Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve
    • Latitude: 34.17679
    • Longitude: -118.47280799999999
  • Long Beach
    • Latitude: 33.803655
    • Longitude: -118.20551799999998
  •  Glendale
    • Latitude: 34.156655
    • Longitude: -118.29423300000002


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