Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

Are You a River Keeper?
Unit of 4 lessons

Unit Purpose:

Learners will utilize fundamental techniques to determine the health of a local river. They will collect, compile, display and interpret their data. The students will focus on how water speed affects rates of erosion and deposition. They will focus on the history of, reasons for, and possible solutions to excessive deposition in the southern branch of the Muskegon River or waterway in their community. Through the writing and performing of a short theatrical activity, learners will summarize articles they have read to increase environmental awareness. Learners will become aware of global issues of clean water scarcity. Learners will investigate the many causes of river water pollution and relate them to their sources. Students will then identify four sectors of society and how each can be an agent for change. They will locate and write letters to public service, nonprofit organizations in support of water clarity. After presenting their findings to peers, students will distribute a self-designed pledge, requesting households to commit to positive change.

Unit Objectives:

The learners will:

  • identify five characteristics of a healthy river.
  • measure the dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH, and diversity of macroinvertebrates in local rivers.
  • record his/her data on a table and display the findings graphically.
  • demonstrate knowledge of the terms: commons, community capital and stewardship relating to water.
  • write a report, stating a position relative to water quality, defending it with data and making the connection to stewardship.
  • complete lab "Speedy Water and Sediments" with 90% accuracy.
  • collect data from lab and graph.
  • use inference to make conclusions on the relationship between water speed and amount of sediment deposited.
  • define the role of all sectors in contributing to the problem of erosion and identify methods and strategies to solve the problem.
  • list ways the rivers and lakes are common resources and meet community needs.
  • define stewardship as a trust of common resources held by a community for citizens.
  • identify individual rights and community responsibilities as related to water.
  • define "scarcity" and demonstrate through his/her acquired knowledge base, water as a scarce natural resource.
  • identify ways that water meets a basic need in all sectors.
  • identify causes of water pollution, its effects, and how the four sectors (households, government, nonprofits, business/farms) act as agents of change.
  • relate solutions to water pollution.
  • design a presentation which summarizes his/her findings.
  • identify a nonprofit public interest group in his/her community or nearby communities involved in environmental improvement.
  • compose grammatical and structurally correct letter to an individual in government or industry who can act as an agent for change, seeking support for improving water quality.
  • design and participate in a service learning activity demonstrating effective service, reflection and evaluation.

Service Experience:

Although lessons in this unit contain service project examples, decisions about service plans and implementation should be made by students, as age appropriate.

Students will present their findings to a school audience, requesting student pledges toward change. Learners will write letters to individuals in government, business and industry, and nonprofits to encourage supporting clean ways actions.

Reflection Activities:
Pre-service: Draw a picture of what they believe a river looks like before cleaning it up and a picture after it is cleaned up. Write captions for each.
During the service: Write how they chose the group or individual they selected to write a letter of support.
After the service:

  • Tape their feelings about becoming involved in public nonprofit environmental groups. Did they change their attitudes after becoming active participants?

  • Make pledge cards of support to display in school or classroom.

Unit Assessment:

  • Learners will complete a portfolio titled "Healthy Water." It should include notes, data table, summaries, lab report, a Litwis activity, a second lab write-up, the "Sectors" handout, and the computer-generated presentation.

  • The instructor should record objective assessment of the lab sheets, using points for each section in Lesson One: Healthy Water!?… and Lesson Two: Speedy Water and Sediments.

  • Record teacher observations.

  • Evaluate Attachments in Lessons One, Two, Three and Four.

  • Teacher-constructed quizzes and tests, Guided Practice in Lesson Three: LITWIS, What Is It?

  • Use of the scoring Rubrics: Attachment Four: Rubric from Lesson One: Healthy Water!?…, and Lesson Four: Stepping into the River—In Service to Our Rivers under Assessment.

School/Home Connection:

  • Parents are invited to attend the culminating assembly.

  • Interactive Parent / Student Homework:
    Students will discuss water quality questions with parents in Attachment Two: School / Home Interactive Homework from Lesson One: Healthy Water?!…Parents will view the student pledge card which is distributed in the culminating assembly. Pledge cards will also be made available to parents at the assembly.

State Curriculum and Philanthropy Theme Frameworks:

See individual lessons for benchmark detail.

Lessons Developed By:

David Vermeulen
Albion Public Schools
Albion Open School
401 E Michigan Ave
Albion, MI 49224

Lisa Bush
Albion Public Schools
Albion Open School
401 E Michigan Ave
Albion, MI 49224

Peter McWain
Muskegon Public Schools
Steele Junior High School
1150 Amity
Muskegon, MI 49442

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