Hydroelectric dam speed draw | BCHydro Power Smart for Schools

Hydroelectric dam speed drawing

This drawing activity explores hydroelectric dams and how they affect biodiversity in the local environment.

Activity Image
30 mins
Thought starter


Let’s speed draw to explore what hydroelectricity is, how we make hydro dams, how these affect the white sturgeon and learn what BC Hydro is doing to protect and restore habitat for these river dinosaurs.


What you'll need


  1. Start by sharing with your students some information about our river dinosaurs, the white sturgeon. Share facts like they are our largest and oldest freshwater fish in Canada. They live in our rivers here in B.C., and are endangered due to human activity, the loss of safe places to live and breed, food shortages and over-fishing in the past. 
  2. Have the class look up at the lights and ask them what makes our lights work. Share that electricity powers our lights, and that in B.C. electricity is made using water, in hydro dams. Share that we‘re going to do an activity to explore where our electricity comes from, how hydro dams have affected the white sturgeon, and what BC Hydro, who provides our electricity, is doing to protect and restore the homes of these fish.

Speed drawing  

  1. Provide each student with a white board and marker, or letter size piece of paper and pens.
  2. Tell your students we‘ll speed draw pictures to create a drawing of where electricity is made. Explain that you’ll tell them a word and where on the page to draw it, and they have to speedily draw it in 30 seconds. You‘ll then give them the next word and gradually their picture will emerge.
  3. Provide about 30 seconds for your students to draw their picture before moving on to the next word. You may want to walk around the room to ensure 30 seconds is enough. Draw:
    1. 2 mountains on each side of the page. GO
    2. 3 clouds across the top of the page. GO
    3. Rain coming from the clouds. GO
    4. 1 big lake in the middle of the page. GO
    5. 1 river starting at the lake and going to the bottom of the page. GO
    6. A dam or wall. Draw this where the river starts at the lake. GO
    7. A house with a light at the bottom right. GO
    8. A line from the dam to the house. GO
  4. Have students show a partner their drawings. 
  5. Show the “Speed drawing” example picture and facilitate a class discussion to explore how hydro dams are created. We construct a dam or wall across a river in the mountains. The river backs up behind the dam flooding a large area and forming a lake or reservoir. We then control the water ‘falling’ over the dam and using the power from this falling water, we create electricity. The electricity travels from the power plant at the dam to our homes to power our lights and other things in our homes that use electricity.
  6. Show students the video to hear from Joomin, an electrical engineer at BC Hydro. She will take us on a tour to a hydro dam and show us how we make electricity in B.C. 
  7. Share with students that hydro electricity is clean, renewable energy but that creating hydro dams affects our natural environment, one species being the white sturgeon living in our rivers. BC Hydro is monitoring the white sturgeon and doing research and special projects with other people to create new safe places for the white sturgeon to lay their eggs. There are also special hatcheries in B.C. that raise white sturgeon and release them into the rivers each year. 
  8. Finish by sharing that we all can help the white sturgeon too by using less energy in our homes and lives.

Modify or extend this activity


  • Students can participate in these activities in school or at home. 


  • As a class, research a white sturgeon hatchery. Find ways as a class to support the hatchery.

Curriculum Fit

Grade 3 Social Studies

Big Ideas

  • Learning about Indigenous Peoples nurtures multicultural awareness and respect for diversity

Grade 3 Science 


  • Biodiversity in the local environment
  • Energy is needed for life: producers, consumers, food chains
  • Major local landforms
  • Observable changes in the local environment caused by erosion and deposition by wind, water, and ice

Curricular competencies

Questioning and predicting
  • Demonstrate curiosity about the natural world
Processing and analyzing data and information
  • Experience and interpret the local environment
  • Identify some simple environmental implications of their own and others’ actions

Grade 3 Art Education


  • Image development strategies
  • Personal and collective responsibility associated with creating, experiencing, or sharing in a safe learning environment

Curricular competencies

Exploring and creating
  • Create artistic works as an individual, using ideas inspired by imagination and purposeful play
Reasoning and reflecting
  • Reflect on creative processes and make connections to personal experiences

Teaching Notes

Endangered species

The white sturgeon dwell in the Nechako, Fraser, Kootenay and Columbia Rivers of B.C. They are prehistoric fish and have not changed much in 175 million years. Adult white sturgeon can live to 100 years, reach 6 metres in length and weigh over 600 kg. They live deep in the bottom of our rivers and except for humans, adult white sturgeons have no predators. But despite this, today in B.C. they are endangered. The following are some reasons how and why this has happened.

  • The construction of hydro dams has affected the river quality, quantity and speed of flows. As a result, the turbidity of the water decreases, making it clearer. This leads to predators eating the eggs or fry before they can grow to maturity. 
  • Over-fishing of their roe or caviar, and trophy fishing in the late 1800s nearly drove the white sturgeon to extinction. 
  • There is a decline in food sources, both for the juvenile who feed on larval insects, freshwater clams and snails, and for adults who feed on salmon and eulachon. 
  • Industrial and municipal pollution has affected water quality and concentrations of chemical contaminants like copper, zinc and heavy metals have been found in white sturgeons bodies. 

In summary loss of suitable habitat, food, and historical over-fishing has endangered these river dinosaurs. For more information check out Supporting biodiversity and B.C.'s white sturgeon.

How BC Hydro supports wildlife habitats

BC Hydro uses the power of falling water to create clean, reliable and renewable electricity. However the creation of hydro dams has had an impact on our natural environment, one species being the white sturgeon. BC Hydro, partnering with others, is researching and undertaking remedial projects to help improve habitat conditions for the white sturgeon. For example the Columbia River Water Use Plan update April 2020 outlines some of these studies to better understand white sturgeon spawning habitat and development. The white sturgeon conservation aquaculture program has been releasing hatchery-raised sturgeon into the Columbia River annually and with great success since 2002. 

For more information, read the following:

Other interesting facts about white sturgeon

  • White sturgeons do not start reproducing until males reach about 15, and females about 25. However when they spawn they can produce between 700,000 to three million eggs. Ideally the fish spawn in areas where the eggs can fall to murky waters at the bottom of the rivers, so they are naturally protected against predators. 
  • White sturgeons have a very low survival rate in their first year and have many predators. Survival rates increase significantly after the first year.

Indigenous Peoples

Many Indigenous Peoples honoured the white sturgeon and treated the animal as an equal, deserving of respect, not something to own, buy or sell. Teach your class about the importance of inclusion and consultation with Indigenous Peoples when setting policy and addressing issues of conservation and protection of species. For example, many BC Hydro reservoirs are being negatively impacted by off-road vehicles, illegal fishing and hunting, and littering. A program called the Guardian Watch was formed to address these issues and take action. The Guardian Watch program is a partnership between local First Nations communities, BC Hydro, and Provincial government agencies to raise awareness about cultural heritage and ecological values on BC Hydro reservoirs.

For more information, visit the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program website.

Youth can help

Electrical conservation is a key means to preventing the environmental impacts of increasing electricity demand. By using less and getting smart about our energy use, we can help preserve species, foster biodiversity and protect B.C. If we all work together, we can save our river dinosaurs!

Here are some simple tips to save energy:

  1. Turn off unnecessary lights
  2. Take shorter showers, preferably five minutes or less
  3. Unplug unused electronics
  4. Put on a sweater instead of turning up your heat
  5. Hang dry your clothes instead of using the dryer

Read more power smart tips on bchydro.com.


  • Assess students’ ability to take instruction, be creative and have fun during the speed drawing activity.
  • Assess students’ understanding of how water is used to make electricity, which powers our lights in B.C. 
  • Assess students’ participation, and ability to listen to others in the class discussion.

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