When students are asked about dams, most of them recognize that dams form lakes behind them and, therefore, store water. Students may not be clear about why this water is being stored, and other functions of the dams, such as making hydropower or the possibility of reducing the risk of downstream flooding during small or medium-sized rains. Dams play an important role in the American West, especially in states such as California, which has many large urban areas and a vast agricultural industry that depends upon an extensive network of dams and canals. Teaching about dams can help students understand why dams are necessary for our communities, as well as how they affect the natural habitat along the rivers and canyons in which they are built.

Watch this video of 3rd and 6th grade students in inland and coastal communities in California. The purpose of this classroom video is to see how students describe dams in order to help you prepare for instruction on the topic.

For additional classroom context, video analysis, and reflection opportunities, read the Picture of Practice page for "Why Do We Build Dams?" in the Earth's Freshwater Environmental Literacy Teacher Guide, page 59.