Find us at: 570 W. Ave 26 #250 • Los Angeles, CA 90065

Interactive Online Games & Related Curriculum

These linked resources can serve as an extension or application of FoLAR lessons.  We have compiled a list of our favorite online games and outside-curriculum that complement Source to Sea curriculum.

Suggestions welcome! Email


L1 : Lesson 1 Past of the River

L2 : Lesson 2 Present of the River (last 200 years)

L3 : Lesson 3 Future of the River

FT : Field Trip

Think like a scientist: We always study the River as environmentalists, but sometimes specialized skills are needed.



Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 1.50.48 PMSwimming for Home (easy) : As salmon head upstream into rivers, they must pass all the same obstacles they faced as young fish. The chemical pollution and predators are still there, and sometimes the salmon can’t find good places to lay eggs because of erosion. The salmon can swim against the current and jump up small waterfalls. (National Park Service)

  • L1 : Like the salmon that overcome obstacles to swim upstream, the native steelhead trout swam upstream from the ocean to spawn in the River.  Trout are all but extinct to the LA River area due to overfishing and channelization of the River in the 1930s. Trout were essential to the web of life present during the time of the Tongva.  
    • We will know the River is healthy again when the steelhead trout returns.

(Think like a biologist)


The Food Chain (easy) : Every living thing needs energy in order to live. Every time animals do something (run, jump) they use energy to do so.  Animals get energy from the food they eat, and all living things get energy from food. Plants use sunlight, water and nutrients to get energy (in a process called photosynthesis). Energy is necessary for living beings to grow.  (Sheppard Software)

  • L1 : Games and student info pages cover a basic food chain and build to a more complex one. Students sort, find sequences, and practice vocabulary.  Other games on the site cover trophic levels and classification for types of animal diet (further explanation provided in our content background readings).  These concepts are the building blocks of the web of life in Lesson 1.  By grade, students learn first about basic food chains, then food webs, then the web of life.  The games can spark conversation about the effect on a habitat when a part of the system is lost. 

(Think like a biologist)


Project WET – Explore Watersheds : Introduction to the watershed and the human impact on the system.  Students can enter their zip code to find the watershed they live in.  Runoff from businesses and neighborhoods drain into storm drains that reach the River with little filtration and pollution upstream accumulates in the lower River.  Students answer questions and track their learning throughout the lesson on the worksheet.  PWET worksheets

  • L2 : Human impact is a central theme of the FoLAR curriculum as it is key to understanding the past, present, and possible future of the River.  The impact on the River through pollution, introduction of non-native species, and manipulation of the natural structure of the River has warped the web of life. In order to understand what impacts the River, students must understand the parts of the watershed system. Where will runoff from Canoga Park drain to? Order a PWET activity book

In Your Watershed: How do people impact a community’s watershed and its freshwater supplies? People in a watershed are either directly or indirectly connected to bodies of water that connect to land.  Lesson includes images of point source and non-point source pollution that affects the health of the LA River. Students label a watershed on a worksheet and make their own watershed model using modeling clay. National Geographic.

(Think like a hydrologist, geologist)


The Water Cycle : Students manipulate the water cycle to see the effect of parts of the system. (EPA)

  • L2 : The water cycle has been disrupted by the channelization of the River beginning in the 1930s. Water does not seep into the groundwater supply or replenish aquifers.  Polluted surface water that does filter through layers of soil may be polluted and contaminate water supply sources.  The non-porous surfaces, and especially the LA River’s concrete riverbed, prevent surface water from replenishing the groundwater supply and water rushes to the River outlet in Long Beach.  This has contributed to the need for water from other sources and the development of the Los Angeles aqueduct.
  • Water Conservation & The Possibilities – “Learn About The Remarkable Opportunities Available Through Water Conservation.” A wealth of links to information on the water cycle, the effects of a drought or excess of water, water conservation at home, as a business opportunity, and a global concept. Resource suggested by students at The Brenham Community Center, TX. A big thanks for sharing!

Water Pollution : “Is that water safe to drink? In this BrainPOP movie (and lesson) Tim and Moby will tell you all about water pollution! Discover what water pollution even means as well as how water becomes polluted and where the pollution can come from. You’ll also find out why it’s not just bad chemicals that can be pollutants – as well as what happens, exactly, when a body of water gets polluted. Plus, find out why we’re to blame for a good deal of water pollution and what’s being done to help the problem. Go ahead, the water’s fine!” Needs a login to access. L2

(Think like a hydrologist, geologist, engineer)



A River Ran Wild Lesson Plan : Students identify the cause and effects in a story about a town who advocated for water rights to stop the paper mills from dumping chemicals and dyes into the river.  The people also worked to get the first Clean Water Act passed in Massachusetts. Based on book  A River Ran Wild by Lynne Cherry

  • L1 & L2 : Los Angeles storm drains outlet directly to the LA River and effluent contains chemicals from neighborhoods and businesses.  One of FoLAR’s core values is advocacy for the LA River and community involvement in petitioning city leaders for a swimmable, bikeable, boatable River- the Nashua residents fought for similar water laws and won.  The story also profiles the native people of the area and a more natural, clean River – similar to the LA River- before population book.


Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 1.46.20 PMMy Imaginary City : Artists use their imaginations to create scenes and places that are not real and that might never exist.
If you could invent your own imaginary city what would it be like? (Tate Kids) This activity involves thinking like a city planner to deal with neighboring suburbs and businesses,  landscape architect for native plants and porous surfaces.

  • L3 : In the Future lesson students learn more about revitalization plans for the River (first introduced on the River Rover at the design table).  In this lesson, students watch videos and study images of current Army Corps of Engineers’ designs to create their own plans for the River that solve a current problem.  The solution can be realistic or fantastical.  This online game helps students design their habitat allowing for native species and community access that respects the habitat. However, students will need to play with options to make their art look similar to the Los Angeles River habitat/urban habitat. 

(Think like an engineer, landscape architect, city planner)


What Tree is That? An illustrated, step-by-step guide makes it easy to identify a tree simply by its leaves or needles. Excellent practice for the biodiversity survey on the field trip. (Arbor Day)

  • FT : Students will identify native and non-native species on their River field trip.  Biodiversity of the River has drastically changed over the last 200 years with the introduction of non-native invasive species, like the arundo that was planted to control for erosion, and the straightening and encasement of the River in a concrete corset. Students classify trees based on details.

(Think like a botanist)


Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 1.54.41 PMWater Quality (hard)Park rangers can tell how clean rivers and ponds are by studying the creatures that live in the water. They study macroinvertebrates – animals with no backbones – that are large enough to see without a microscope or other tool. Snails, crayfish, and most insects are macroinvertebrates. Other games. (National Park Service)

  • FT : Students will identify and classify macroinvertebrates found in the LA River to determine water quality on their River field trip.  Students will predict the water quality of the River based on prior knowledge, then re-evaluate after they have tested water samples and recorded their evidence.

(Think like a biologist)

nutrient1Nutrients:  Too Much of a Good Thing : Human waste is also a big problem. Some homes use septic systems to handle their sewage. But if the septic tank is not cared for, it can overflow with nutrient-rich sewage. In more populated areas, human waste is treated at sewage treatment plants to produce clean water. Some sewage treatment plants clean the water well before returning it to our rivers, but some do not. Polluted tributaries and treated wastewater (from Tillman and Glendale treatment plants) flow into the LA River. This lab activity is about a similar water body and can be adapted. Suggested for middle school use.

  • FT : Students gain an understanding of what nutrients are- specifically algae in a water body and learn why excessive amounts of nutrients are harmful. Fertilizers and sewage have severely affected the River water quality.  Students evaluate water quality on their field trip to the LA River.

(Think like a biologist)


Related Curriculum

27f65f1a08389006774f5c05d9f54356FoLAR’s Watershed Wonders (2009) highly recommended. For more on the LA River: FoLAR’s older curriculum is available to the public.  Follow a River timeline, a kayak trip down the concrete channel with the Cola Kayak, and find lesson activities and biodiversity surveys to do on the LA River.

BirdSleuth: Investigating Evidence : Now in line with both Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards. From coming up with curious questions to drawing evidence-based conclusions…these lessons will help you guide your students through exciting scientific investigations.

Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI) : California State Board of Education-approved. EEI teaches select California science and history/social science standards and helps support Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards.

Frieriver-20citizennds of the Chicago River :  We are big fans of their K-4th and 5th-8th grade curriculum available for purchase.  Through a series of lessons and a field trip, students take on the role of scientists and conduct investigations. The Chicago River curriculum can be adapted to the LA River.

Project WET : PWET’s mission is to reach children, parents, teachers and community members with water education that promotes awareness of water and empowers community action to solve complex water issues. They publish water resource education materials and hold training workshops.


imagesTrout in the ClassroomWe are partnering with Trout Unlimited to bring trout to more schools. Let us know if you are interested! Email