Hudson River PCB Contamination and Fishing Safety In NYC



Webquest by Mary Reide for Project Critical

Grade 7 - PS/MS161



You may have seen someone fishing, or maybe you have spent an afternoon fishing along the banks of the Hudson River. Some people fish for sport and release what they catch, but others bring their catch home for dinner. While some fish are perfectly acceptable to eat, some contain a toxin  called PCBs that was put in the river by General Electric Corporation many years ago and this toxin has made its way through the food chain due to  bioaccumulation and ends up in the humans who eat those fish. The EPA has made efforts to inform the public but people still fish from the river, particularly recent immigrants. PCBs are known to cause harm and are especially dangerous to pregnant women and young children. So, how do people know which fish are safe to eat and which ones are not? It is your job to research and use the steps of PPA to try to create ideas to get the word out, exposing the danger, so those who fish can make an informed decision about the safety of eating the fish they catch.



The EPA has asked for your help in coming up with some new ideas, or building on their existing ideas, to get information to those who fish in our neighborhood about PCB bioaccumulation and why it is important to know about the types and quantity of fish that can be eaten from the river.  You will do this by creating a PPT/Public Service Announcement Video, or Pamphlet.



You will work in groups of four (chosen by the teacher) to complete this task using the steps of the PPA . In order to do this you will be coming up with a claim (problem), gather evidence, identify the causes of the problem, evaluate any policies that are currently in place (what is NY State EPA doing already), develop some ideas in your group, of how to best get the message out and come up with the best idea based on the cost and how easy your policy suggestion would be to put into place. You can choose to produce a powerpoint, a video, a public service announcement (video), or a  pamphlet with your findings and solutions as the final product of this task. You must present your work in front of the class. Use the worksheets as the outline for your final project. You can split up the work, but you must all be able to speak to all parts of the presentation. Choose one person to ask questions for your group. This person will be the only one to ask questions of the teacher during this process.


Step 1: Defining The Problem

We will be defining the following problem as Hudson River PCB Contamination and fishing safely in NY. 

Worksheet 1: Defining A Problem


Step 2:  Gather the Evidence

Worksheet 2: Gathering the Evidence

Resources to fill out worksheet 2

     PCB Fact Sheet

     EPA: You won’t regularly be eating fish  out of the Hudson River for another 50+ years


Step 3:  Identify the Causes

Worksheet 3: Identify the Causes

Resources to fill out worksheet 3

     What are PCBs?

     The Hudson River PCB Story (go to edpuzzle)

     Bioaccumulation and Biomagnification of Toxins (go to edpuzzle)

     PCBs in Striped Bass in Albany (go to edpuzzle)


Step 4:  Evaluate the Existing Policy

Worksheet 4: Evaluating the Existing Policies

Resources to fill out worksheet 4

     Hudson River Cleanup

     Hudson River Health Advice on Eating Fish You Catch

     Hudson River Fish Advisory Outreach Program

     Hudson River Advisory Outreach Project Report 2017 (Be sure to look at the graphs at the bottom to see the results of how well the outreach worked)



Raise your hand if you have finished all of the work above.




Time to put on your thinking caps!

 Now is the time to take all of the information that you

 have collected and come up with some ideas on how

 to solve this problem in a new way.


Step 5:  Develop the Solution

Worksheet 5: Develop the Solution

By this section you should all have a good idea what the problem is, why it happened, and how you can improve on what has already been done.  You can use some of the same ideas, but maybe there is a more effective way to get the message across!

Do you think people in your neighborhood know not to eat certain fish out of the Hudson? Why do you think they don’t know? What would you do if you were in charge of getting this information out?  No idea is too crazy. In the next step you will think about how feasible your ideas are and how effective your ideas would really be.


Step 6: Select the Best Solution (feasibility vs. effectiveness)

Worksheet 6: Select the Best Solution (feasibility vs. effectiveness)

Idea/Cost/Effectiveness Table

Use the feasibility vs. effectiveness matrix or the cost vs. effectiveness chart  to decide which of your ideas you should send to the EPA.




·         Writing Rubric

·         Video/Pamphlet/PPT

·         Oral Presentation



By completing this WebQuest, you should:


1.  Understand the reasons why it is important to inform people about the dangers of

      eating fish from the Hudson River due to toxins (PCBs).

2.  Explain verbally and in written form the more efficient solutions to this problem of   .

     Informing people, particularly newcomers to this country, about the dangers of fishing

     In the Hudson River

3.  Have class and group conversations about the problem, its causes, and the solutions.



NGSS (Science):       

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to include constructing explanations and designing solutions supported by multiple sources of evidence consistent with scienti c knowledge, principles, and theories.

Construct a scientific explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from sources (including

the students’ own experiments) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future. (MS-LS1-3)

Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to evaluating the merit and validity of ideas and methods. Gather, read, and synthesize information from multiple appropriate sources and assess the credibility, accuracy, and possible bias of each publication and method used, and describe how they are supported or not supported by evidence. (MS-LS1-8)                                                          


ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems

Human activities have signi cantly altered the biosphere, sometimes damaging or destroying natural habitats and causing the extinction of other species. But changes to Earth’s environments can have different impacts (negative and positive) for different living things. (MS-ESS3-3)


Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data. (MS-ESS3-2)

Cause and Effect

 Relationships can be classified as causal or correlational, and correlation does not necessarily imply causation. (MS-ESS3-3)

Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems. (MS-ESS3-1), (MS-ESS3-4)


Social Studies                                                                                            

Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of the necessity for establishing governments; the governmental system of the U.S. and other nations; the U.S. Constitution; the basic civic values of American constitutional democracy; and the roles, rights, and responsibilities of citizenship, including avenues of participation.                                                                                                                                

      evaluate, take, and defend positions on what the fundamental values and principles of American political

life are and their importance to the maintenance of constitutional democracy (Adapted from The National

Standards for Civics and Government, 1994)

       take, defend, and evaluate positions about attitudes that facilitate thoughtful and effective participation in public affairs

      consider the need to respect the rights of others, to respect others’ points of view (Adapted from The

              National Standards for Civics and Government, 1996)

      participate in school/classroom/community activities that focus on an issue or problem


      prepare a plan of action that defines an issue or problem suggests alternative solutions or courses of action, evaluates the consequences for each alternative solution or course of action, prioritizes the solutions based on established criteria, and proposes an action plan to address the issue or to resolve the problem


Use text features and search tools (e.g., key words, sidebars, hyperlinks) to locate information relevant to a given topic efficiently.

Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur).

Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

With guidance and support from adults, produce writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task and purpose. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1-3 above.)

With guidance and support from adults, use technology to produce and publish writing (using keyboarding skills) as well as to interact and collaborate with others.

Conduct short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

Recall information from experiences or gather information from print and digital sources; take brief notes on sources and sort evidence into provided categories.

Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 3 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

Ask and answer questions about information from a speaker, offering appropriate elaboration and detail.

Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.

Demonstrate command of the conventions of Standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

Demonstrate command of the conventions of Standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.