These Lakes Are Great

3, 4, 5

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

Lesson Rating 
PrintThree 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"
  • 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 Handout One: Guided Practice
  • Student copies of Handout Two: 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.

Home Connection 

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


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" [no longer available] 

Kennedy, Robert et al. "The Hudson Riverkeepers." 1998. Available at: Snag Films


  1. 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.

  2. Read and discuss Handout Two: Fishing for Facts, as a class.

  3. 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.
  4. Have students work collaboratively to define the following terms: ecosystem, pollution, estuaries conservation, water quality, philanthropy, stewardship, community capital, selfish, selfless.

  5. Have the learners complete Guided Practice (Handout 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 to return it to school for discussion the next class period.

  6. Discuss the responses learners wrote on the Guided Practice (Handout One) sheet. Come to consensus with the class on each response.

  7. 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.

  8. 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).

  9. 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.

  10. 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 Handout 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

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Define and give examples of selfishness and selflessness.
  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. Benchmark E.7 Define and describe private property and common resources.
  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.