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Creating Memorable Experiences Around Water

Whether you come to a River Talk, hear from our staff at a volunteer event, or have the Cumberland River Compact in your classroom, we want you to leave being able to share something new and exciting with someone you know as well as leave with the skills to make positive change.


Explore science lessons designed to connect your students to Tennesse’s environment. Standards-aligned lessons are available for grades K-12 and are free for educators.

View Lesson Plans

Youth & School Programs

Creek Critters

Creek Critters is an interactive, environmental education program for youth, where we bring the creek to you! The goal of our Creek Critters program is to get kids interested in science and in our precious water resources at a young age.

Creek Critters teaches students what lives in their creek and empowers them to take action to protect their environment! The program is aligned to 4th Grade science standards but can be adapted for other grades.

In the Creek Critters program, we arrange to visit a local school (churches or community groups are also welcome to host if interested) and teach 3-4 classes about local waters and aquatic organisms. The program is open to all schools on a first-come, first-served basis.

Virtual Classroom Programs

We offer virtual programs that bring place-based environmental education straight to your classroom! Programs options include Creek Critters, What’s Up with Water Pollution, Get to Know Trees, and Career Chats. Our virtual programs align with Tennessee State Science Standards and are open to schools across Tennessee.

Learn More & Request a Program

Virtual Family Programs

We offer virtual family programs for your school, community organization, or homeschool group. During these programs, we will facilitate a suite of activities designed for virtual learning and explore the natural world through demonstrations. Contact us through the form below to learn more.

In-Person Programs

Bring the Cumberland River Compact to you through an in-person program. Our youth programs create memorable experiences through hands-on activities led by our enthusiastic educators. Programs focus on watersheds, the water cycle, pollution, biodiversity, and more. 

See our current in-person programs or request a program.

Nashville Youth Climate Summit

The Nashville Youth Climate Summit is a participant-driven educational event coordinated by and for youth to create an opportunity for learning, dialogue, and action on climate change. The Cumberland River Compact partners with the Mayor’s Youth Council at the Oasis Center for an annual Youth Climate Summit.

Learn more about our 2020 and 2021 events on our blog.

Life Support

Preferred Grade: 4th-12th

In partnership with the Tennessee Association of Utility Districts, the Cumberland River Compact put together the “Life Support Curriculum” for students in grades 4-12. This free curriculum features easy-to-understand text, illustrations, puzzles, and lab activities to help students explore the water cycle, watersheds, and the work people do to provide clean water. The booklets are great for classroom teachers, non-formal educators, and home school groups.

Download the Curriculum Here: Teacher Edition

Download the Curriculum Here: Student Edition

Cumberland River Curriculum

The Cumberland River Curriculum explores the river through art, science, and historical perspectives. The curriculum is supported by the Henry Laird Smith Family Foundation for the Harpeth Hall Winterim. Through the 3-week course, students learn the value of water, the importance of the Cumberland River through time, the ways art can be used to advocate for environmental changes, and the innovative solutions for water quality that can be applied to their school campus. The experience is specially designed for Harpeth Hall’s Winterim, but aspects can be modified for high school classes. Fill out the form below if you’d like to learn more about hosting a school program.

Our Youth Education programs are supported by the Henry Laird Smith Family Foundation, Ryman Hospitality Properties Foundation, Piedmont Natural Gas, the Nashville Predators Foundation, and Colonial Pipeline.

If you have more questions about our programs, please fill out the form below.

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River Talks

In April of 2014, Cumberland River Compact began hosting River Talks: An Educational Series at the Cumberland River Compact’s River Center. River Talks feature a variety of educational talks and are broken down into five series: History of the Cumberland, Natural World of the Cumberland, Travelers on the Cumberland, Spirits on the Cumberland, and Innovations and Solutions for the Cumberland. These events bring experts, artists, researchers, professionals, and characters of the river together to share their knowledge and experience. All events are free and open to the public. Don’t forget to reserve or bring a lunch!

Stream the Latest Episode

More Talks

Send us your feedback, questions, and future topic suggestions by emailing us at or leaving us a voice message at 615.933.8837

We look forward to being with our River Talks community once again!


Join your fellow local businesses, civic groups, watershed associations, churches, schools, scouts, and others in adopting a local waterway in the Cumberland River Basin!

Learn how to adopt a stream

Nashville Waterways Consortium

Through educational opportunities, outreach events, public awareness, these five Middle Tennessee non-profits work to enhance the overall health of our water.

Learn about Nashville Waterways Consortium

City Nature Challenge

Biodiversity is everywhere, even in thriving urban areas like Nashville. Join us each Spring for the Nashville City Nature Challenge as we compete with cities all around the globe to show our city’s wonderfully diverse urban wildlife! We need YOU to be a citizen scientist and document the wildlife you see in your backyard, schoolyard, or local park. During the Nashville City Nature Challenge, snap a photo and upload your wildlife observations to iNaturalist. You will be helping us understand what plants and animals call Nashville home.

Want to check out observations from previous challenges? Check out the project pages below:

City Nature Challenge 2020

City Nature Challenge 2019 City Nature Challenge 2018 City Nature Challenge 2017


Watersheds, Stormwater, and the Water Cycle

The Incredible Journey

Project WET
PreK-2, 3-5

This is one of our favorite activities to facilitate in the classroom to help students understand the water cycle! You will need some special materials, but they can be reused year after year.

Water Cycle: Moving without Wheels

Teach Engineering
3-5, 6-8

Explore the water cycle and how it impacts pollution around the world with this interactive activity. We like that this activity includes visualizations of the water cycle for your students.

Water, Water Everywhere

Teach Engineering

Flooding is a common occurrence, especially in our region. In this lesson, students learn about how natural floods occur and how engineers design processes to control flooding.

Watershed Wisdom

UNC-TV Science
3-5, 6-8

The series of lessons and resources covers many of the key water topics including watersheds, water quality, pollution, and much more. The series includes videos, hands-on lessons, and interactive animations. You can pick and choose as needed for your class. We really like the Ways of Watershed interactive activity!

Stormwater Management Lesson Plans for Grades 3-12

3-5, 6-8, 9-12

We love to see green infrastructure, like rain gardens, featured at schools! These lessons help you connect your students to their local environment and to the impact of stormwater on water quality. Using a rain garden at your school is an easy way to get started in outdoor education with what you already have available and this resource will show you how to use them with your class!

Life Support Curriculum

Cumberland River Compact
3-5, 6-8

Our very own curriculum guide produced with the Tennessee Association of Utility Districts! We like this because it covers the water cycle in both the natural and built environment with easy to follow lessons and activities. There are great career connections as well! Student Edition also available.

Urban Stormwater Management

Teach Engineering

These are a series of lessons and activities. Do them all or pick and choose! Content includes urban and natural water cycles, environmental engineering, and green infrastructure. Lessons are packed-full of hands-on opportunities for your students, which we love!

Model My Watershed

Stroud Water Research Center
6-8, 9-12

We absolutely love Model My Watershed for its connection to real-world data that is brought right into your classroom! Students can analyze, explore, and manipulate data from their watershed to understand how land changes impact water quality.

Watershed Balance

Teach Engineering

These lessons combine science and math to explore principles of watersheds and water cycle for higher grade levels. Students will analyze and interpret real data. We recommend finding some data close to your school rather than the sample data in the lesson to make the lesson place-based.

Pollution and Water Quality

Water and Filtration: Garden Activity Guide

Nature Works Everywhere
3-5, 6-8, 9-12

In this lesson, you will help students connect the role of gardens and green spaces in keeping our water clean. This is great if you already have a rain garden or community garden at your school!

Water Filtration Project: Make your Own Water Filters

Teach Engineering

Students become environmental engineers with this simple activity to create a water filter! This activity is a great hands-on complement to many of the other resources listed here.

Where are the Plastics Near Me?

Teach Engineering
6-8, 9-12

Explore the impact of pollution on your school campus or a nearby park on waterways. Use this lesson to guide an outdoor field exploration of pollution near you.

Ecosystems, Biodiversity, and General Nature

Stream Side Science

Utah State University Extension

Streamside Science offers a suite of activities that explore aquatic ecosystems and macroinvertebrates. Reach out if you want help customizing these lessons to our local biodiversity. These lessons are a great complement to the Cumberland River Compact’s Creek Critters program.

Getting Little Feet Wet

Project WET

Integrating water into early childhood education can help set the stage for more learning later on. We recommend Project WET’s Getting Little Feet Wet curriculum and resources to help you get started integrating water into your PreK-second grade classroom.

Biodiversity Bingo

PLUM Landing
PreK-2, 3-5

We love using a biodiversity bingo card to get kids exploring outside! It’s an easy way to practice observation skills and can be combined with other outdoor learning activities.

Exploring the Systems in Ecosystems


Ecosystems are everywhere! In this lesson, students use observation skills to explore an ecosystem near them (like a school yard!) and identify producers, consumers, abiotic and biotic factors, and more. We recommend personalizing this lesson for an aquatic ecosystem near you to make it a more place-based experience.

Nature Lab

The Nature Conservancy
3-5, 6-8

The Nature Lab Educator Resources include comprehensive guides to topics ranging from climate change to building green cities. These curriculum guides are easy to use and feature a variety of engaging complements like videos and school campus explorations.

Voyage of an Adventure


Looking for an interdisciplinary exploration of our waterways? Check out John Guider’s Voyage of an Adventure that documents a re-creation of John Donelson’s founding of Nashville and his journey along the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. The documentary is available online and great for students to watch.

Climate Change

Our Climate, Our Future

Alliance for Climate Education
6-8, 9-12

Our Climate, Our Future is our go-to for climate change education resources. The lesson plans are NGSS aligned and cover topics ranging from introductory climate science to climate justice. Youth voice is included in all of their resources including videos that you can share with your class. They also offer great professional development trainings if you are new to teaching climate change!

Urban Heat Islands

Science Museum of Virginia
3-5, 6-8, 9-12

Urban heat is a problem in rapidly urbanizing areas like Nashville. This short video explains the connections between trees, rainwater, and changing landscapes on why our cities get so hot.


Journey 2050: Water

National Agriculture in the Classroom
6-8, 9-12

Water is vital to agriculture and agriculture is vital to us! It produces the food and resources we need to survive. In this lesson, students will examine the connections between water and agriculture and compare best practices for water. It’s available in 6-8 or 9-12 formats.


Trees Please!

Cumberland River Compact
PreK-2, 3-5

We put the Trees Please lessons and resources together in coordination with the Root Nashville tree planting campaign! The lessons were curated for K-4 STEAM schools, but can be easily modified across grade bands. You can do activities individually or as a unit.

Teaching with iTree

Project Learning Tree
6-8, 9-12

These lessons allow students to discover and analyze the benefits of trees in their community! You will use the tool iTree to calculate the ecosystem service benefits of trees. We recommend connecting with the Root Nashville campaign to explore the specific benefits of trees planted in Nashville!

Urban Trees

Nature Works Everywhere

We love spreading the joy of urban trees! In this lesson and guided video resources, students will explore how trees impact them. You only need one tree to jump in and start learning about the environment!