Dirty Water

6, 7, 8

This lesson raises the learners’ awareness of water quality, water treatment, and responsible management of water resources around the world. Learners explore the issue of safe water accessibility and discuss responsibilities of a global citizen to assure all people have safe drinking water.

PrintOne 45-Minute Session

The learners will:

  • identify regions or countries around the world where the water is not safe for drinking (potable water).
  • define philanthropy and its relationship to global citizenship.
  • reflect on their individualglobal responsibility.
  • Clear glass of water with a little chocolate syrup stirred in
  • Student copies of Handout One
  • potable water: safe to drink; free from pollution, harmful organisms and impurities
  • philanthropy: giving time, talent and treasure for the sake of another or for the common good. 

Ask students to choose a quotation that best represents their point of view about global citizen responsibility and to write a short paragraph reflecting on the quotation.

  • "A nation is formed by the willingness of each of us to share in the responsibility for upholding the common good." Barbara Jordan, Lawyer and U.S. Congressperson (1936-1996)
  • "Knowledge also imposes responsibility." W.M.L. Jay,  Writer (1833-1909)
  • "A community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm." Henrik Ibsen,  Norwegian playwright (1828-1906)
  • "Responsibility is the price every man must pay for freedom." Edith Hamilton,  German-born American classicist (1867–1963)


  1. Anticipatory Set

    Before the activity, pour a little bit of chocolate syrup in a clear glass of water. This will appear dirty but will be safe to drink. Walk around the room and show the water to the young people. Ask if anyone is interested in drinking the dirty water. After they react to that request, drink it right in front of them and act as if it is delicious. Explain to the class that the water was perfectly safe to drink, it just looked "dirty" because it had chocolate syrup in it.

    Ask: Why did it bother you to think about drinking dirty water?

  2. Explain that this was an illustration to begin class investigation and dialogue about the issue of many people on earth not having potable water available. Ask if they know what the phrase "potable water" means? Allow time for students to volunteer their ideas, then tell them the definition from the dictionary: Water that is safe to drink. Potable water is free from pollution, harmful organisms and impurities.

  3. Share this fact with the students:

    1.1 billion people world-wide don't have access to safe drinking water, many of them are children

  4. Share with the students Handout One: Percent of Population with Access to Safe Drinking Water. On a globe or world map, have students note the locations of these countries. Ask students to draw conclusions about what regions seem to have the least access to safe water and to conjecture about why they think that is.

  5. If internet access is available, show students the first two world maps, World Life ExpectancyMap and Access to Safe Water Mapon the Global Education Project website (http://www.theglobaleducationproject.org/earth/human-conditions.php). Ask students to compare and contrast the two maps.

  6. Tell students that they have now looked at data available on the internet about safe drinking water from two organizations: UNICEF, part of the United Nations, which is an inter-governmental organization and The Global Education Project which is a nonprofit organization. Define nonprofit for the students and ask them to give other examples of philanthropic nonprofit organizations in their own community to check for understanding. Tell the students that these are examples of two of the economic sectors. Ask them to conjecture about what the other two sectors are and help them determine that they are business and individuals (households). Tell the students that all four sectors can act philanthropically - giving their time, talent and treasure for the common good.

  7. Ask: What responsibilities do you think businesses have in assuring that all people in the world have safe drinking water? Why would businesses care? Why should we care that so many people don't have access to safe drinking water? Guide a student discussion around the motivations for corporate responsibility and individual responsibility to be good global citizens.

  8. End the lesson by having the students do the activity from the Reflection section, either as a journal entry, or homework to be handed in for assessment purposes.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define philanthropy as individuals and organizations providing their time, talent, and/or treasures intended for the common good throughout history and around the world. Give examples.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark MS.14 Describe and give an example of needs not usually met by the government sector.
      2. Benchmark MS.9 Recognize problems different communities encounter using a "commons" and possible solutions.
    2. Standard PCS 04. Philanthropy and Geography
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Map the locations of the emerging democracies and identify the relationship of civil society and government.
    3. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark MS.11 Identify and give an example of organizations in the civil society sector that work to protect minority voices around the world.
    4. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify and research public or social issues in the community, nation or the world related to the common good. Form an opinion, and develop and present a persuasive argument using communication tools.
      2. Benchmark MS.2 Discuss a public policy issue affecting the common good and demonstrate respect and courtesy for differing opinions.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.5 Describe the responsibility students have to act in the civil society sector to improve the common good.