Who Is Responsible for Clean Water?

6, 7, 8

The students will write a "Safe Water" pledge and may choose to sign it indicating action they will personally take to assure sustainable, safe water. They will create persuasive products to share their knowledge of issues around safe drinking water.

Photo Credit: Flint River by Sarah Razak is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne 45-Minute Session

The learners will:

  • communicate with others about the environmental cost of polluted water.
  • create a poster or other persuasive product for promoting responsible water use for a sustainable future.
  • environmental stewardship: the careful and responsible management of our environment.
  • sustainability: a method of using resources so they are not damaged permanently (preserved for future generations)

Read: We use the term peer pressure to describe the pressure exerted by a group or individual on another group or individual of approximately the same age. The goal of peer pressure is to change attitudes, behaviors, beliefs, or morals. It can be as simple as conforming to the group's actions. Fashion sense, taste in food, music, and movies, or outlook on life are examples of conformity. Typically, people are influenced by their peers because they want to fit in. They want to be like those they admire, do what others are doing, or have what others have. Fortunately peers can have a profoundly positive influence on us and play important roles in our lives. Unfortunately, they may also attempt to pressure us into doing something we're uncomfortable with or feel that we are not ready for. One area that finds teens likely to conform to their peers in a negative way is the attitude and care they exhibit toward the environment. Surveys show that unless coerced to do otherwise, teenagers are more like to abuse their environment than to take care of it. For example teenagers drop more trash than they pick it up. They are more likely to be wasteful of natural resources than to conserve them.  And, they more often likely to waste or throw away nutritious foods and eat more vitamin- and mineral-deficient foods.

Discuss: Do you agree or disagree in whole or in part with the results of these surveys? How difficult do you think our job will be to have a profoundly positive influence on our peers? Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted as saying, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” How can this quote be of encouragement to those of us who are experiencing negative peer pressure? How can we use this quote to encourage our peers to take care of themselves as well as their environment?




  1. Anticipatory Set

    Discuss the Flint Water Crisis and the factors that led to contamination of the water. This includes a decision to change the water source from Detroit water to the local Flint River, which was not adequately cleaned. The water corroded pipes, which caused the water distributed to homes to have unsafe lead levels. Share with the students the damage caused by drinking and bathing in polluted water, and the steps Michigan (and philanthropists all over the country) took to restore clean water. Ask, "Why is having access to clean water important?" Discuss, "What different actions can or should be taken by the government, business, and nonprofits (including citizens)?"

    Read the following excerpt from UNICEF (https://www.unicef.org/wash/) about clean water: Almost 50 percent of the developing world’s population—2.5 billion people—lack improved sanitation facilities, and over 884 million people still use unsafe drinking water sources... Poor sanitation, water and hygiene have many other serious repercussions. Children—and particularly girls—are denied their right to education because their schools lack private and decent sanitation facilities. Women are forced to spend large parts of their day fetching water. Poor farmers and wage earners are less productive due to illness, health systems are overwhelmed and national economies suffer. Without WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), sustainable development is impossible.

    Define environmental stewardship as the careful and responsible management of our environment.

  2. Define sustainability as a method of using resources so they are not damaged permanently (preserved for future generations). Display this quotation: "There's only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that's your own self. So you have to begin there, not outside, not on other people. That comes afterward, when you've worked on your own corner." Aldous Huxley, Time Must Have a Stop

  3. Ask students to brainstorm what they personally can do to conserve and sustain safe water. Have groups of students research water issues and ideas for conservations and sustainability at these websites:


  5. As a group, create a "Safe Water Pledge" that students may choose to sign as their commitment to assuring and maintaining global safe water for the common good. The pledge may include that brainstormed list for students to check those things they pledge to do. This may include advocating for community resources locally or globally. 

  6. Have the students work in groups to create informational and persuasive posters (or another artistic expression) to display around the school and community. The product should inform and encourage others to get involved in promoting sustainable water-use practices (avoid pouring toxic chemicals in the drains, use environmentally friendly soaps, conserve water, recycle “gray water,” harvest rainwater).

  7. Determine the best places to display their products, share the information, and ask others to sign their class created safe water pledge.

Cross Curriculum 

Students will write and may choose to sign a personal safe water pledge. Students may communicate their advocacy for water sustainability to others through social media, posters, artistic expression, or other method. They may start a campaign to promote the drinking of tap water in reusable bottles rather than drinking from disposable water bottles. Youth may spread the word through posters and other advertisements, or they may try to ban disposable water bottles for sale at their school.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Discuss a public policy issue affecting the common good and demonstrate respect and courtesy for differing opinions.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define and give examples of the motivations for giving and serving.
      2. Benchmark MS.5 Describe the responsibility students have to act in the civil society sector to improve the common good.
  3. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities and research.
    3. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Provide a needed service.