Activities and Lesson Plans

The Rappahannock River is the longest free-flowing river in the state of Virginia and serves as an important resource for both humans and wildlife.  The documentary “Rappahannock” explores the historical importance of this river as well as the value the river has for us today. This feature-length documentary tells the compelling story of one of the nation’s most historic and scenic rivers. The Rappahannock played a key role in the lives of Native Americans, early colonists like Captain John Smith, founding fathers George Washington, James Madison, and James Monroe; as well as the armies of North and South during the Civil War. The film was produced and directed by Academy Award nominee Bayley Silleck for Friends of the Rappahannock, a Virginia-based organization devoted to advocacy, restoration, and education. It features spectacular aerial photography, sweeping views from the river’s source in the Blue Ridge Mountains to its mouth at the Chesapeake Bay and relating how, with the demolition of the big Embrey Dam, the Rappahannock has become the longest free-flowing river in Virginia. As with all rivers, there is good news and bad news: migratory fish now can travel from the Bay to the uppermost reaches of the watershed, yet the Rappahannock suffers from nutrient pollution that produces large “dead zones” in the lower river. This beautifully photographed film showcases the people of the Rappahannock, their love for the river, and their efforts to restore it to health.

Complimenting the documentary is a short film that can be used to spark the interests of students and introduce the Rappahannock River, it’s beauty and issues. The short film introduces Friends of the Rappahannock and the work that is being done to protect and enhance the River’s health. It also provides actions that can be done by individuals and communities to help the river and creating a connection between our everyday actions and the health and productivity of the river.

By watching the videos with your students, you can journey across time to learn about why the Rappahannock River is an important natural resource for humans and animals, the threats that face the Rappahannock, and how humans can positively or negatively impact our ecosystems for future generations.

This SOL-aligned video guide has been designed to help you engage your students with the video and to facilitate thoughtful discussion about its major points.  Please feel free to use this guide to make the videos come to life for your students.


4th & 5th Grade

Middle School

High School


Green Education Foundation. Decision making: A mock town proposal & meeting [PDF]. Retrieved from http://www.greeneducationfoundation.org/institute/lesson-clearinghouse/499-Decision-Making-A-Mock-Town-Proposal-and-Meeting.html

The National Constitution Center. Constitution USA [Teacher Guide]. Retrieved from http://bento.cdn.pbs.org/hostedbento-prod/filer_public/2013/05/20/constitution_usa_episode_onestudentguidefinal_middle2.pdf

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