Responsible Stewardship of the Great Lakes

3, 4, 5

After learning about the delicate balance and benefits of lakes and rivers, participants raise awareness of the need for responsible citizenship to maintain local water ecosystems.

PrintOne 45-Minute Session

Identify and use the tools of philanthropy, advocacy and stewardship to preserve the welfare of local waterways.

  • small recycled boxes, enough for one for each peer group
  • plain paper to cover the boxes
  • Handout One: Cubing
  • Handout Two: My Experiment
Home Connection 

Ask at home, "How do we know that the water we drink is clean and safe? What would we do if the water in our house became unsafe to drink? 


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Involve learners in the cubing activity: Handout One: Cubing contains the directions and the questions learners answer on each side of the cube. Cubing is a strategy which asks students to look at a single concept or process from several points of view. This forces students to stretch their thinking. Read Handout One: Cubing carefully to become familiar with the activity. You will need the following materials from the materials list: tissue or shoe boxes, one per each peer group. Following are the six questions each group should answer. They should fill out Handout One: Cubing as well as use a caption or drawing to briefly represent their complete group answer on the handout.

  2. Describe it: What are the Great Lakes? Look for place, name, and location as themes of geography.

  3. Compare it: What is it like? Is it like anything else you know of? What is it?

  4. Associate it: What does it remind you of?

  5. Analyze it: What are the Great Lakes made up of besides water? What kinds of pollution exist in our lakes?

  6. Take a stand: How can we help our lakes get better? How are our lakes used and by whom?

  7. Argue for or against it: Take a stand, list reasons why we should or shouldn't try to clean up our Great Lakes Basin.

  8. Form cooperative groups to complete the cubing activity and Handout One: Cubing. Use the cubing technique to help students think more critically about the uses of the Great Lakes and the erosion of the ecosystems that arise from it.

  9. Discuss ways all of society, past and present, have contributed to pollution of the ecosystem. Items to highlight are ground water contamination, sewage systems, fertilizers, insecticides, industrial accidental and illegal dumping such as spent oil and release of PCBs. Ask learners about trash, cans, and plastic can holders' role in pollution, harming wildlife. Talk about acid rain.

  10. Discuss how the concepts involved in stewardship and philanthropy can be connected to the saving of the Great Lakes ecosystems and list at least ten different things that we can do to help. Days Three and Four: Optional Field Trip and Experiment

  11. Students design and conduct an experiment with water to show how easy it is to pollute it and how difficult it is to clean it up. See Handout Two: My Experiment, which is to be completed by each group.

  12. Each group should report their findings to the class.

  13. Days Five and Six

    Discuss with the learners the role of government in protecting the Great Lakes ecosystem.

  14. Have the learners identify for their representatives and senators to their State Government and United States Government. Obtain the addresses, proper title and spelling of names. They should look up voting records to determine the conservation record of the representative or senator. Based on their representatives' voting records, students decide what they would like to communicate: either support for their actions or encouragement to change their views based on research.

  15. Help learners identify nonprofit groups and organizations that work to protect the waterways. Use and their search engine to locate philanthropy organizations in your area involved with water conservation efforts. Use the advanced search, enter Great Lakes, pollution or water.

  16. Students apply the information gathered in Lessons One, Two, and Three to write letters to one Congressman or Senator and a nonprofit organization. The students share their views and research about the importance of preserving the Great Lakes ecosystems and encourage the representative to vote for programs and laws that are friendly to our environment or to continue their work on environmental issues. Each group is to write letters supporting either the legislators' past voting record, or encouragement to pursue more protection. Nonprofits should be encouraged to fund environmental causes and perhaps be asked for suggestions on how the learners can get involved in further service activities. It is recommended that third grade learners write two letters, one to a representative and a second to a nonprofit organization. Fourth grade learners should be able to write three letters and all four should be written at the fifth grade level. See Handout Three for sample letters. Four Options:

    1. To their state Representative or Senator
    2. To the United States Senator from their state
    3. To their own U.S. Representative
    4. To a nonprofit organization involved in protecting the Great Lakes
  17. Use peer group editing techniques in completing the letters.


Evaluation: Each learner writes a letter to next year's class about this activity, informing them about what to do next year to improve the activity and what were the best parts of this unit. Instructor-constructed quiz on content, class participation, and teacher observation. Rubric to evaluate the cubing and Handout One: Cubing. Evaluate the letters written Reflection activities Evaluate scientific experiment observation record Rubic for Handout One Four Points All questions thoroughly answered. Accuracy at 90%. Details and examples given. All members of the peer group participated, shared activities and cooperated with each other. Cube is completed with captions/drawings. Finished in time allotted. Three Points Cube completed, handout is completed with 80 % accuracy. All members of the peer group cooperated. Examples are given. Two Points Cube completed, captions incomplete, handout is completed with 70 % accuracy. Group did not demonstrate sharing of tasks. One Points Cube was not completed, captions not attempted, handout completed less that 60 %. Zero Points Cube and handout not attempted.

Cross Curriculum 

After studying and testing water quality in a nearby water source, learners will compose and send letters to government representatives and nonprofit foundations or agencies supporting efforts to reduce pollution.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.5 Define the terms "profit" and "not-for-profit."
    2. Standard DP 03. Names and Types of Organizations within the Civil Society Sector
      1. Benchmark E.1 Name and recognize the civil society sector as a separate part of the community.
      2. Benchmark E.2 Name an example of a civil society charitable organization.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark E.5 Recognize the wise use of resources as <i>stewardship</i>.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark E.14 Describe the roles of citizens in government.
    3. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark E.3 Participate in acts of democratic citizenship in the classroom or school, such as voting, group problem solving, classroom governance or elections.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.3 Define stewardship and give examples.
      2. Benchmark E.5 Give examples of actions students can take to improve the common good and list or describe responsibilities that go with those actions.
  4. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark E.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities, and research.
    2. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe the task and the student role.
    3. Standard VS 05. Integrating the Service Experience into Learning
      1. Benchmark E.2 Evaluate progress on the service-learning project before, during, and after the project.