Summer Research Program for Science Teacher


Sandra Santillan

Susan E. Wagner High School

Staten Island, NY


August 2004


Is clean drinking water a right or a privilege?





In this lesson, students research water pollution and create a class guide to raise the public's awareness about this issue. They then write papers analyzing the effectiveness of the guide after members of the school community read it.


Students respond to the following prompt (written on the board prior to class): "Discuss the following questions with the person next to you: Do you drink bottled water or tap water? Why? Have you ever traveled to a place where you were advised to drink only bottled water? Why? In some regions of the world, people must drink bottled water, tea, or other alternatives, because local water supplies have become contaminated. Is clean drinking water a right or a privilege?" After a few minutes, ask students to share their ideas and record them on the board. Encourage students to justify their opinions on whether clean drinking water is a right or a privilege.


-pencils and pens
-paper (lined and unlined)
-classroom board
-copies of "Iraq Struggles to Restore Its Endangered Tigris River" (one per student)
-resources for researching water pollution (science textbooks, computer with Internet access)
-materials for creating guides, such as markers, scissors, glue, tape (enough for students to share)



1.  As a class, read and discuss the article "Iraq Struggles to Restore Its Endangered Tigris River," focusing on the following questions:

a. Who is Firas Shihab Ahmed?
b. What is the Wahda discharge point?
c. How does the reporter describe the Tigris River?
d. What, does Mr. Ahmed say, is the purpose of his and the other engineers' work?
e. Who is Anna Bachmann?
f. How did Ms. Bachmann use the money donated by Port Townsend residents?
g. How many and what kind of samples did Mr. Ahmed and Baraa Sharaf al-Deen take?
h. What are the "environmental depredations of the invasion," according to the article?
i. Did Saddam Hussein like to see boats crowding the rivers?
j. Why do they call Ms. Bachmann "City Anna," according Hamid Alsharifi?
k. What historical event was a religious sect re-enacting on the bank of the Tigris?

2. Divide students into four groups. Explain that they will be researching water pollution, prevention, and treatment in preparation for creating a class guide to raise the public's awareness about water safety. Assign each group one of the following research topics: Recreational Water Illnesses, Drinking Water Risks, Polluted Oceans and Rivers, and International Water Diseases. Each group will research one of four related topics, then create one part of the four-part guide. Each part of the guide needs to include two- to three-paragraphs of informational text, five "water quiz" questions, at least two additional research sources for those who would like to read more, and one related graphic. (All groups may want to visit the following water fact sheet, created by the American Water Works Association, when formulating their "water quiz" questions:

Encourage each group to answer the following questions through their research (written on the board or copied into a handout for easier student access:

GROUP 1: Recreational Water Illnesses (RWIs)
--What are common recreational water illnesses?
--Why doesn't chlorine kill RWIs?
--How do they spread?
--Where are they found?
--Who is most likely to become ill?
--How can we prevent them?

Students may want to begin their search by visiting the Center for Disease Control's Web site on Healthy Swimming:

GROUP 2: Drinking Water Risks
--What are water standards?
--Where does drinking water come from?
--When should one buy bottled water?
--How do chemicals get into my water?
--Does "bad" water smell or taste "bad"?
--How many millions of Americans per year become sick from contaminated tap water?

Students may want to begin their search by visiting the American Water Works Association official Web site ( and the National Resources Defense Council's Web site on Drinking Water (

GROUP 3: Polluted Oceans and Rivers
--How do oceans and rivers become polluted?
--What are the different kinds of pollution?
--How can laws and regulations protect oceans and rivers?
--What is the Clean Waters Act?
--How can communities help to protect their local water supplies?
--How much of the earth's water is salt water found in oceans and seas?

Students may want to begin their search by visiting the American Water Works Association's Fact sheet on Water ( and the National Resources Defense Council's Web Site on Water Pollution (

GROUP 4: International Water Diseases
--What are water-borne diseases?
--What are water-based diseases?
--What are water-related vector diseases?
--What are water-scarce diseases?
--How many people do water-related diseases kill every year?
--What is the relationship between contaminated water and infant mortality?
--How can we prevent water-related diseases?

Students may want to begin their search by visiting the 2003 International Year of Freshwater Web site (

Once research is finished, groups should prepare their guides, making sure each of the required parts is completed. The four guides should be compiled into one guide, then photocopied and distributed to each member of the class for future reference.

3. WRAP-UP/HOMEWORK: Individually, students present their class guide to at least two people in the community (friends, family, etc.) and administer the "water quizzes" included in each section. They should then write a one- to two-page response paper in which they comment on their subjects' knowledge prior to reading the guide and taking the quiz and their subjects' reactions to the guide and the information conveyed.

Extension Activities:

1. Create a "Great Rivers of the World" fair in which you discuss three famous rivers, such as the Mississippi, Nile, Amazon or Yangtze. Include its importance to its region, history, speed, area, length, and depth.

2. Create a chart that compares the pH level of different kinds of water, such as tap water, rain water, bottled water, filtered water, standing water, river water, or ocean water, in order to evaluate which kinds of water are most likely to sustain healthy life and rank them. Visit the following Kentucky Water Watch Web site to learn about appropriate pH values:

3. Create a display that shows what process is necessary to convert rainwater into safe drinking water and describes the kind of technology employed. Visit the official Web site of Tank Town ( to learn more about it.

4. Formulate one or more hypotheses and perform experiments to compare the properties of salt and freshwater. Possible questions to ask include: Do they have the same boiling point? Do they have the same freezing point? How long does each take to evaporate?

5. Write a pair of linked short stories that compare the role of water in two distinct religions (for instance, Christianity and Hinduism).

Interdisciplinary Connections:

American History- Research and create an informational poster on the building of the Hoover Dam.

Global History- Write a research paper on Iraq's marsh inhabitants and their special relationship with Iraqi waterways. How has their way of life changed over the last forty years? Why has it changed? How has the destruction of the southern marshlands affected other inhabitants of Iraq? You may want to begin by reading the following article on the Web site of the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs:

Media Studies- Watch one or more of the following films and write an article about the role that water plays in the movie: "The Perfect Storm" (2000), "Water World" (1995), "A River Runs Through It" (1992), and "Jaws" (1975).

Teaching with The Times- Keep an Iraq journal over the next month or two in which you monitor secondary effects (or collateral damage) of the war and its aftermath, such as the looting of museums and monuments and the difficulty of assessing the degree of river pollution.

Academic Content Standards:
Grades 9-12
Science Standard 1- Understands basic features of the Earth. Benchmark: Knows how life is adapted to conditions on the Earth
Science Standard 7- Understands how species depend on one another and on the environment for survival. Benchmark: Knows how the interrelationships and interdependencies among organisms generate stable ecosystems that fluctuate around a state of rough equilibrium for hundreds or thousands of years
Geography Standard 14- Understands how human actions modify the physical environment. Benchmarks: Understands the global impacts of human changes in the physical environment; Knows how people's changing attitudes toward the environment have led to landscape
Geography Standard 15- Understands how physical systems affect human systems. Benchmark: Knows changes in the physical environment that have reduced the capacity of the environment to support human activity
Geography Standard 18- Understands global development and environmental issues. Benchmarks: Understands why policies should be designed to guide the use and management of Earth's resources and to reflect multiple points of view; Understands contemporary issues in terms of Earth's physical and human systems


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