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

These Lakes Are Great
Lesson 1
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


Learners explore individual and collective responsibility for maintaining the health of the Great Lakes Basin or local water resources.


Three Forty-Five Minute Class Periods


The learner will:

  • analyze content of the reading book by Lynn Cherry, A River Ran Wild.
  • apply learning to the Great Lakes or a local water system.
  • identify citizen responsibility for the Great Lakes Basin or local water system.
  • develop concept of community capital as applied to local water resources.
  • identify reasons for maintaining water quality.
  • demonstrate use of vocabulary associated with water quality.
  • locate the nearest river, pond, lake, reservoir.


  • A read-aloud copy of the book A River Ran Wild (see Bibliographical References)

  • Video- "The Hudson Riverkeepers" http://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/the_hudson_riverkeepers

  • District and/or school science texts appropriate for grade level: sections on water quality, pollution and conservation of water

  • Journals

  • Large map of the Great Lakes or local waterways visible to all learners

  • Poster board or large sheets of paper

  • Markers, colored pencils or crayons

  • Student copies of Attachment One: Guided Practice

  • Student copies of Attachment Two: Fishing for Facts
Handout 1
Guided Practice
Handout 2
Fishing for Facts

Teacher Preparation:

Due to the technical nature of the content on water quality and the Great Lakes Basin or other water system, it is highly recommended that the instructor conduct some research about the water basin to become familiarized with the content to be developed with the learners.

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:

Use a large map that shows the Great Lakes or local water system. Ask the learners why these lakes are so important and make a list of the responses. Ask the learners if they know the definitions or can give examples of pollution and conservation. Ask them to relate these terms to what they already know about our lakes, rivers and streams.

  • Read and discuss Attachment Two: Fishing for Facts, as a class.
  • Show students the cover of the picture book The River Ran Wild. Tell them that the true story you are about to read aloud describes how a once great, clean river became polluted, and how Marion Stoddard and others practicing philanthropy helped save the river. Read aloud the book, The River Ran Wild, and discuss the following questions:
    1. How does a river change over time? Is this good or bad?
    2. What factors did we discover about the Nashua River that we could see happening in the Great Lakes?
    3. Why do you think Marion felt that it was her responsibility to act philanthropically and accept stewardship for the river.
  • Have students work collaboratively to define the following terms: ecosystem, pollution, estuaries conservation, water quality, philanthropy, stewardship, community capital, selfish, selfless.

  • Have the learners complete Guided Practice (Attachment One) to reflect on the content of The River Ran Wild. Have them take home the worksheet to share the information with their parents, and/or so learners may complete it at home. Tell them too return it to school for discussion the next class period.

  • Day Two
  • Discuss the responses learners wrote on the Guided Practice (Attachment One) sheet. Come to consensus with the class on each response.

  • View the video, "The Hudson Riverkeepers," and have the learners compare how the Nashua River was cleaned and how the Hudson River is being cleaned. Make certain that the learners discuss the examples of stewardship and public action for the common good.

  • Day Three
  • Form cooperative groups and discuss how the concepts involved in stewardship and philanthropy can be connected to the saving of our Great Lakes ecosystems (or other local water systems).

  • Each cooperative group creates an advocacy poster to encourage others to get involved in caring for water resources. Each group decides where the poster will be displayed to determine their audience. Then they come up with a catchy slogan about caring for the water, reflecting the message of the famous slogan, "Give a Hoot, Don't Pollute." They create an attractive poster around their slogan and display it in a public place.

  • Reflect on the project. Discuss whether their posters raise awareness of the issues of pollution and conservation. Talk about what other action they can take to protect local water resources or The Great Lakes. Discuss why it is each citizen's responsibility to make good choices about water.


  • Assess Attachment One: Guided Practice for comprehension of story.

  • Evaluate the finished poster with a "call to action" slogan.

  • Instructor observation

  • Class participation

  • Instructor-designed assessment of content

School/Home Connection:

Take-home sheet is included as Attachment One: Guided Practice to be completed at home or shared with parents to spark discussion of the concepts of water pollution and conservation.

Bibliographical References:

Cheery, Lynne. A River Ran Wild. An Environmental History (A Reading Rainbow Book). Harcourt. ISBN: 152005420

National Geographic's Map Machine

National Geographic "Great Lakes Satellite" http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/photo/great-lakes-satellite/?ar_a=1

Kennedy, Robert et al. "The Hudson Riverkeepers." 1998. Available at: Snag Films http://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/the_hudson_riverkeepers.

Lesson Developed By:

Christine Jensen
Grand Rapids Public Schools
Sibley Elementary School Building
Grand Rapids, MI 49504


Handout 1Print Handout 1

Guided Practice

Directions: Put an "X" in front of the best answer.

  1. The Nashua River runs in which two states?

    Michigan and Ohio New Hampshire and Maryland
    Florida and Georgia Massachusetts and New Hampshire

  2. These two states are found in this part of the United States.

  3. This story is:

    A Fiction book A Non-fiction book

  4. Which statement is the most correct?

    The French settled the area 500 years ago.
    Almost 7,000 years ago native people settled the area.
    The Americans settled there before the native people.
    The area is still not used or settled.

  5. What is the most important "take-away" from the story?

    We should find some way to help conserve our resources.
    Our government will always pass laws to stop pollution.
    It is not necessary for us to help stop pollution.
    Industry in the area did not pollute the river.

    Directions: Fill in the chart

    What was the river like when they found it?
    How did they use the river?
    Native Americans

    Settlers to1960s


    Directions: Write your answers with your very best spelling and in sentences.

    What did Marie Stoddard do to help the river?

    Describe Marie with just one of our philanthropy words.

Handout 2Print Handout 2

Fishing for Facts

Water is the most common substance on Earth. It is found as ground water, in oceans, seas, rivers, lakes, ponds and streams. There are two forms of water. The water found in the seas and oceans has salt. Lake, river, stream and pond water has no salt. There is one exception. Estuaries, where ocean meets fresh water have both salt and fresh water. When tides come in, the water is saltier and when tides go out, there is less salt in the water.

Water pollution is one of our greatest environmental problems. Our waterways are not as clean as they should be. Our water worldwide has become polluted because of pesticides and other chemicals running off the land into our water. Sometimes people and industry pollute accidentally but sometimes this dumping is done purposefully. In our area of the United States and the nation of Canada we depend on the Great Lakes and the waterways, rivers, smaller lakes, streams and underground water supply. We need clean water for our homes, schools, recreation, transportation, business and industry. The Great Lakes and all the surrounding land are called the Great Lakes Basin.

Many of us have learned the names of the Great Lakes by using the word HOMES. Each letter stands for a Great Lake: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior.

Today we know that chemicals like PCB hurt the fish and birds. Fish like perch and walleye developed tumors. Salmon and trout had so much of the chemicals in them that people are still warned not to eat too much of these sport fish from the Great Lakes. The bald eagle became an endangered species because they ate fish containing the pesticides.

The shells of their eggs became weak and their young did not hatch. Because of efforts to stop poaching, reducing chemicals in the water and protecting nesting sites, the eagle has been restored and is now protected, not endangered. However, there are new threats. Ships going through the St. Lawrence Seaway brought unwanted species that hurt native species. The lamprey eel, sculpin fish and zebra mussels are three of these unwanted and harmful species.

Because citizens became alarmed and took voluntary action for the common good, many organizations and conservation clubs were formed. Conservation is the way we attempt to manage, use wisely and protect our natural resources. Businesses, industry and governments also saw the need to stop pollution and they also took action. The United States government now has the Environmental Protection Agency. Canada and the United States have a Joint Commission to protect the Great Lakes. Each state that shares one of the Great Lakes has a Department of Environmental Quality. Grassroots service movements have been formed in communities to monitor and protect our Great Lakes Basin. Yearly river cleanups like the Rouge River Project involve youth and community volunteers to restore this once great river. Youth take active roles in letter writing campaigns, water quality testing, and other service projects to insure the health of the water. They are making a difference by preserving this heritage for the future.

Philanthropy Framework:


Peggy, Teacher Norton Shores, MI9/20/2007 8:33:17 AM

Children were exposed to real-life examples and stories of how rivers became polluted by people. They were able to witness how philanthropy was practiced in both cases (story and video), as well as, become philanthropists themselves by making posters.

Peggy, Teacher Norton Shores, MI9/20/2007 8:45:53 AM

(The lesson) Relates to our own Great Lakes and to our "stream study" in 4th grade and our Michigan study in 3rd grade.

Kathy, Teacher Muskegon, MI9/20/2007 8:47:21 AM

The book made a great connection for students. This applied and paralleled our service learning project well.

Evelyn, Teacher Muskegon, MI9/20/2007 8:49:13 AM

The support materials were of good quality and really interesting. They did a great job of showing community groups solving problems. Fit in very well with our study of Michigan in 4th grade.

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