Students learn about the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Minnesota. They watch a video about Itasca State Park and discuss why the park is beneficial.
This lesson is part of "Great States: Minnesota | Unit 1: Minnesota’s Three Geographical Regions" where students will look at what makes Minnesota special. Students will study Minnesota’s unique geographical features and how they have changed over time.
220.127.116.11.1: Explain how geographic factors affect population distribution and the growth of cities in the United States and Canada.
18.104.22.168.1: Locate, identify and describe major physical features in Minnesota; explain how physical features and the location of resources affect settlement patterns and the growth of cities in different parts of Minnesota. For example: Physical features—ecosystems, topographic features, continental divides, river valleys, cities, communities and reservations of Minnesota’s indigenous people.
- Video: Minnesota Mississippi Headwaters: Itasca State Park, MN
- An interactive whiteboard, projector, or another type of screen to show videos to the class
- Map: Minnesota Population Density
- Ask students to name the longest river in the United States [the Mississippi River]. Then ask where the river begins [Minnesota].
- Show the Minnesota Population Density map. Demonstrate how to interpret the map using the key. Ask students if they can locate the Minneapolis and St. Paul area [both located in the red patch on the map].
- Then, point out the location of Itasca State Park [mostly in Hubbard County, west of the cluster of large lakes]. Refer to a map or atlas if needed. Indicate that this park contains the headwaters of the Mississippi. Explain that headwaters are a tributary stream of a river close to or forming part of its source. If needed, define tributary [a river or stream flowing into a larger river or lake] and source [the place where a river begins].
- Explain that Itasca State Park is located in an area of low population density. Ask why it is important to maintain low density near the park [to protect the Mississippi River from pollution caused by human activity; rivers flow downstream, thus polluted headwaters would damage the whole river system].
- Play the video, Minnesota Mississippi Headwaters: Itasca State Park, MN [2:45].
- Then, to conclude the lesson, ask students why it is beneficial to have a state park at the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Answers may include:
- It protects 32,000 acres of land from human settlement
- It allows half a million people from all over the state, country, and world to visit a beautiful natural site