This lists the logos of programs or partners of NG Education which have provided or contributed the content on this page.

Program Strange Days on Planet Earth

  • 1. Display the photo gallery and brainstorm.
    Show students the photo gallery to familiarize them with striped bass. Tell students that striped bass are the Chesapeake Bay's most popular sport fish. Ask students to brainstorm possible reasons why some striped bass are severely diseased and disfigured with external lesions. Write their ideas on the board.

    2. Distribute and discuss the handout.
    Distribute the handout Changes in Population in the Chesapeake Bay. Have students study the graph and the two maps showing population growth over time in the Chesapeake Bay watershed region. Discuss the questions on the handout as a class. Then ask: How might increased population growth impact the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay?

    3. Introduce the concept of dead zones.
    Discuss the growing problem of “dead zones”—large areas of declining oxygen—occurring in the Chesapeake Bay. Ask: What might have caused these dead zones to triple in size over recent decades? Explain to students that the Bay has experienced an increase in nutrient pollution, principally nitrogen, stemming from sources such as sewage treatment plant effluent, and agricultural and livestock runoff. The expanding amount of nutrients may contribute to the sudden blooming of small marine organisms, known as phytoplankton or algae. Dead zones are the result of the death of this marine life and settlement to the bottom of the Bay.

    4. Watch the video.
    If possible, show students Act 2 of “Dirty Secrets” from Strange Days. Or, find information on the provided Strange Days website. Ask students to consider how increasing human population of the Bay area contributes to the diseased striped bass.

    5. Have a whole-class discussion.
    Ask: What contributes to the declining water quality of the Chesapeake Bay? Discuss how population pressures have taken vital resources from the Bay, including oysters, sponges, clams, and menhaden. Tell students that these organisms used to be able to filter all the water in the Bay every three to four days. Without an intact natural filtration system, all runoff can now inflict even greater damage.

    Extending the Learning

    Go to the PBS website to find out where you can get the Strange Days episode “Dirty Secrets.”

  • Subjects & Disciplines

    Learning Objectives

    Students will:

    • describe how striped bass are affected by declining water quality in the Chesapeake Bay
    • explain how increased population growth impacts the water quality in the Bay

    Teaching Approach

    • Learning-for-use

    Teaching Methods

    • Discussions
    • Visual instruction

    Skills Summary

    This activity targets the following skills:

    • Critical Thinking Skills
      • Analyzing
      • Understanding

    National Standards, Principles, and Practices

    National Geography Standards

    • Standard 14:  How human actions modify the physical environment

    National Science Education Standards

  • What You’ll Need

    Required Technology

    • Internet Access: Required
    • Tech Setup: 1 computer per classroom, Projector, Speakers
    • Plug-Ins: Flash

    Physical Space

    • Classroom


    • Large-group instruction
  • Background Information

    The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States. The land that drains into the Chesapeake Bay covers 64,000 square miles. The Chesapeake Bay watershed extends across the District of Columbia and six states—New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.

    Prior Knowledge

    • None

    Recommended Prior Activities

    • None


    Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    dead zone Noun

    area of low oxygen in a body of water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: dead zone
    population growth Noun

    increase in the number of organisms in a specific area.

    water quality Noun

    chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of water for a specific purpose such as drinking.

    watershed Noun

    entire river system or an area drained by a river and its tributaries.

    Encyclopedic Entry: watershed

    For Further Exploration



Sea Studios Foundation


ITT Corporation

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation

National Science Foundation