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Kelsey Leonard


6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Social Studies, Earth and Space Sciences, Civics, Justice, Health

Regional Focus

Global, North America, United States


Downloadable MP4/M4V

Why Lakes and Rivers Should Have the Same Rights as Humans

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  • In this video, a member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation makes the argument that water should have legal personhood to ensure its health and the health of all people for years to come. 
  • Dr. Leonard explains that some bodies of water have been granted legal personhood, protecting them from pollution, contaminants, and other human-caused problems. 
Teaching Tips


  • The speaker uses photographs and infographics to illustrate her points.
  • This video is engaging, and the argument is well-planned and executed.
  • Dr. Leonard gives many solutions and explains many actionable ways to help. The resource also includes links to more information.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should have a basic understanding of climate change and water scarcity.
  • It would be beneficial for students to know the history of oppression that Indigenous people have faced in the United States and globally.


  • This video touches on aspects of climate change, civics, law, history, and science, making it a great resource to use in any of these classes.
  • History classes could use this video when learning about the history of Indigenous People in the United States, and students could compare and contrast their treatment by the government in the past and present.
  • Science classes could use this video when discussing climate change and possible solutions.
Scientist Notes
In the United States, a corporation can be granted the rights of a person under the law. Not unrelated, Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color are most likely to be affected by polluted water. In this TED Talk, Kelsey Leonard makes the case for granting legal personhood to water. This resource is recommended for teaching.

This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

  • Social Studies
    • U.S. History: America in the World - Geography, People, and the Environment
      • 6.1.12.GeoHE.13.a: Construct an argument on the effectiveness of environmental movements, their influence on public attitudes, and the efficacy of the government’s environmental protection agencies and laws.
      • 6.1.12.GeoHE.16.a: Explain why natural resources (i.e., fossil fuels, food, and water) continue to be a source of conflict and analyze how the United States and other nations have addressed issues concerning the distribution and sustainability of natural resources and climate change.
  • Science
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-4. Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.
      • HS-ESS3-3. Create a computational simulation to illustrate the relationships among the management of natural resources, the sustainability of human populations, and biodiversity.
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