Canadian Geographic Education


Canada's ocean, freshwater, and us interactive map

Explore the foundational connections between ourselves and the water that surrounds and sustains us.

In 2017, the United Nations declared the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development to encourage the creation and development of ocean science and knowledge in order to reverse the environmental decline happening within our ocean system. This international initiative is meant to inspire and ignite new opportunities for sustainable development of this vital marine ecosystem. In Canada, that same vision is manifested through the goal of safeguarding 30 per cent of our ocean by 2030, to fight biodiversity loss, as well as to protect ecosystems from the challenges of climate change and pollution.

The Ocean, Freshwater, and Us interactive map was designed to help Canadians rediscover the important relationship between ourselves and the water that surrounds and sustains us. The map emphasizes the fundamental connection between people and the ocean through our local lakes, rivers, and wetlands, showcasing how actions in freshwater environments affect distant marine ecosystems. The map also highlights conservation efforts through the creation of protected areas, recognizing the diverse approaches taken to safeguarding the ocean. Made for educators, youth and the general public, this tool is an essential part of any Canadian’s environmental sustainability toolkit.

The science we need for the ocean we want.
Peter Thomson, UN Special Envoy for the Ocean

Fun activities to ignite curiosity

Want to use this interactive map in your classroom, but aren’t sure where to start? Here are a few ideas on how to quickly engage students in exploration through simple activities that will encourage them to think critically and creatively.

  1. Trace the flow of fresh water: Have students find their community on the map (Note: Ensure that the “Populated Places” layer is switched on in the menu at the top). In which direction does the nearest body of water flow? (Note: Ensure that the “Freshwater Flow” layer is switched on.) What bodies of water does the fresh water travel through? Which major basin does the water drain into? Students can look for more information in the “Legend.” Ask them to write a short piece of prose from the perspective of the water, following its progress.
  2. Explore protected areas: Ensuring that the “Protected Areas” layer is switched on in the top menu, divide students up into groups according to the different types of protected areas identified in the “Legend.” Ask students to explore the map and find one or two examples of their protected area type (e.g., a Marine Protected Area). Students can click on a protected area to learn more about it. Once everyone has had a chance to explore, ask students to take turns and present to the rest of the class what they learned.
  3. Learn about Indigenous nations: In groups or individually, have students choose a body of water (e.g., a river, a bay, a lake) and ask them to identify the Indigenous Peoples who live nearby. Whose territory is it (what would you include in a land acknowledgement)? Are there reserves or Indigenous communities nearby? Which languages are spoken in the area? Are there place names that have Indigenous origins and what do they mean? What is included in the local treaty regarding the use of land and water?
  4. Map out a journey over water: Task students with planning a multi-day expedition or camping trip over water. Will they be travelling by canoe and retracing old voyageur river routes? Do they want to sail and explore the inlets along one of Canada’s coastlines? Are they interested in taking a boat tour of the Great Lakes? Have them imagine an itinerary and create a list of things they would need to bring on their voyage. If time allows, ask students to explore the website and research what they might encounter and see on their journey. Students can then share their plans with the class in a format of their choosing (e.g., a PowerPoint presentation, a multimedia online map).

Dive deeper with our 8 x 11 metre Giant Floor Map, which provides a whole new perspective and includes augmented reality!

This physical map has been co-designed by a national team of partners to educate students, teachers, and the broader public on the connection we all have with water, regardless of where in Canada we call home. The map and its accompanying resources will inspire students to better understand and take action to protect local waterways and the global ocean. The teacher’s guide includes five engaging learning activities covering an array of topics such as biodiversity, climate change, the global ocean, marine conservation, and taking action. In addition to these learning activities, there is a unique and exciting opportunity to engage with the map using augmented reality. This type of technology will transform students’ learning and virtually transport them to specific Marine Protected Areas in Canada for deep underwater exploration.

These resources are the result of an ongoing collaboration with numerous partners. Visit their websites and learn more about their work:

  • Canadian Ocean Literacy Coalition — COLC is a nationally and internationally recognized catalyst and centre for ocean literacy collaboration, research, and innovation. Explore their website to learn more about the importance of ocean literacy!
  • Ocean Week Canada — This is an annual national celebration of ocean events, learning, and engagement held during the week of World Ocean Day (June 8). The Ocean Week Canada website has a wealth of ocean-related resources and information to discover!
  • Ocean School — This free environmental education resource for students in grades 5 to 12 features immersive multimedia resources such as 360˚ videos, VR/AR, interactive media, and hands-on projects and activities offered in English and French.
  • Indigenous Leadership Initiative — The Indigenous Leadership Initiative supports Indigenous Nations in honouring our responsibility to care for lands and waters.
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