Dirty Water

6, 7, 8

This lesson raises awareness of water quality and responsible management of water resources around the world. We explore the issue of safe water and the responsibilities of a global citizen to assure all people have safe drinking water.

PrintOne 45-Minute Session

The learners will:

  • identify different reasons water may not be safe for drinking.
  • define philanthropy and its relationship to global citizenship.

Clear glass of water with a little chocolate syrup stirred in

  • 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. 

Reflect in writing on a quotation that best represents your point of view about global citizen responsibility.

  • "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
  • "A community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm." Henrik Ibsen,  Norwegian playwright
  • "Responsibility is the price everyone must pay for freedom." Edith Hamilton,  German-born American classicist 
  • "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." Maya Angelou, poet


  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.

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

  2. There is a good reason to be cautious about dirty water. Many people on Earth do not have "potable water" available. That is, water that is safe to drink. Potable water is free from pollution, harmful organisms and impurities. Look up current "global water" facts on the CDC or WHO websites and discuss current facts and statistics.

    • Water that isn't safe for drinking or cleaning causes disease.
    • Some families do not have soap and water at home or toilets. 
    • In some regions, lack of water service unfairly burdens girls and prevents them from going to school. 
  3. Two types of organizations that work for the common good are government agencies and nonprofits. WHO and UNICEF are part of the United Nations, which is an inter-governmental organization. The CDC is a government agency in the U.S. There are many nonprofit organizations with clean water as their mission. Note: businesses and individuals can also take action to help communities get clean water. 

  4. Global Citizenship

    Discuss why these people and organizations take action to assure everyone has access to clean water. Why is it good for all if everyone has clean water?  Why is it everyone's responsibility to make sure all people have clean water for drinking and sanitation?

  5. Reflect in writing on one of the quotations above.

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.