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TED-Ed Original lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed original? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Cheri Dobbs, Jennifer Gabrys
  • Director Franz Palomares
  • Composer Carlos Palomares
  • Script Editor Emma Bryce

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Additional Resources for you to Explore
Think about your family members. You are all related, but are you all the same? While the five Great Lakes are physically connected to one another, each has a unique set of characteristics, much like children living within the same family. The five bodies of water that make up the Great Lakes are truly unique in their geology, history, biology, hydrology, impact, and issues. The Great Lakes basin supports upwards of 30 million people, including 10% of the population of the United States and 30% of the population of Canada. The lakes have value for recreation, shipping, transportation, drinking water, agriculture, and industry, to name a few, and have an effect on the local weather and climate. The area has a rich and varied history that includes fur traders, Underground Railroad operators, and seamen. These adventures have been written about in story, song, and prose. You can find several additional resources about the Great Lakes on this project resources page.

The Great Lakes also have much to offer visitors to the region. Beginning in the far north, visitors may be interested in the beauty, solitude, and wilderness of Isle Royale National Park, the third largest island in the contiguous United States. While visiting Lake Superior, visitors may also be interested in stopping by Pictured Rocks, the first officially designated National Lakeshore, to take in the beauty of the shoreline, diving, kayaking, and shipwreck tours. Traveling southwest, visitors will be awed by two additional national lakeshores, Sleeping Bear Dunes or Indiana Dunes. Major cities along the coast include Chicago and Milwaukee. Traveling southeast to Lake Huron, visitors can visit the world’s largest island in a freshwater lake, Manitoulin Island, or the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary to learn about the many shipwrecks of the lake. Lake Erie boasts many islands and resort areas along with the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. Nestled between Lakes Erie and Ontario, and spanning the international border between Canada and the United States, are the impressive Niagara Falls. This natural wonder is known not only for their beauty but for their source of hydroelectric power.

While the Great Lakes are a critical natural resource, the system is not without its share of problems. One of the biggest plaguing the Great Lakes are the number of invasive species that have inadvertently made their way into the lakes. Lake Erie, with its high population density and the extensive farming in the region, has been plagued by pollution from urbanization and fertilization. New concerns have arisen with the increase in wind power in the Great Lakes region. Many are concerned about its effect on migratory birds that share the area. In addition, potential global warming also threatens the health of the lakes. There are 27 current Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes that the Environmental Protection Agency is working to address. These are areas that have been identified as being impaired by human activity.

Partnerships with organizations are in place to protect and manage the lands and waters including the Nature Conservancy, the Great Lakes Protection Fund, and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. In addition, the Center for Great Lakes Literacy has developed a community between scientists, educators, volunteers, and students to promote the stewardship of the Great Lakes, including the Great Lakes Literacy Principles.