Selecting the Tap

6, 7, 8

Learners will describe water as a scarce natural resource that is often polluted and made unusable for consumers. They will describe philanthropic acts related to water which contribute to the common good and will research their local water sources, describing impairments that pollute water.

Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo Forty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • define potable water as water that is suitable for drinking and explain that it is a limited natural resource.
  • describe how pollution increases water’s scarcity and limits its uses for consumers.
  • use literary and historic examples to describe acts of philanthropy related to water.
  • identify local water sources and determine if they are impaired waters.
  • Glass of water with one drop of food coloring stirred into it
  • KWL Worksheet (see Handout One), one worksheet for each group
  • Projected copy of KWL Worksheet (see Handout One)
  • Excerpt from The Well, p.9
  • Learner copies of Caroline Bartlett Crane (see Handout Two)
  • Learner copies of A Few Historical Facts about Michigan’s Water Problems (Handout Three)
  • Learner copies and a projected copy of Total Maximum Daily Load (see Handout Four)
  • Overhead projector
  • Colored pencils
  • Chart paper and markers
  • Fugate, Sandy. For the Benefit of All: A History of Philanthropy in America. Michigan: W. K. Kellogg Foundation, 1997. pp. 23,45,52,57
  • Taylor, Mildred D. The Well. New York: Puffin Books, 1995. ISBN 0-14-038642-4
  • Web site of the Environmental Protection Agency, water program "Total Maximum Daily Loads".


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Hold up a glass of water that contains a tiny drop of yellow, green or brown food coloring, making the water appear to be slightly colored. Ask the learners if they would be willing to drink the water. List their concerns on the board.

  2. Day One: Take a sip of the water and explain that the glass contains tap water with a tiny bit of food coloring. In other words, it is potable water (suitable for drinking).

  3. Ask the following questions:

    • What makes potable water different from much of the water found in the natural environment?
    • Does it matter how water is used by consumers?
    • Does the way water is polluted by industries, consumers, farmers, governments and others have any affect on the supply of and demand for water needed for everyday use?
    • What about the effects of pollution on water? Would you be concerned about drinking water that was formerly polluted? Would you drink it? Why or why not?
    • Is tap water always safe to drink? (How do governments purify water to make it safe to drink?)Allow learners to make their own conclusions. Ask for volunteers to share their thoughts. This exchange should take no more than ten minutes. Write the answers/ conclusions on chart paper in a different color so that they make an impact.
  4. Divide learners into groups of two or three and ask them to write one or two things they would like to know about water using KWL Technique (Handout One). Allow no more than five minutes for this exchange.

  5. Reconvene the whole group. Ask one member of each group to provide the group’s list. Record the questions underneath "What I Want to Know" on the transparency. Ask each group to select a member to record the new information on their form as well. If some groups report duplicate/similar answers, make a check mark or underline the number, stating that this seems to be a common concern for more than one group. Tell learners that they will investigate what has happened in the past, what is being done now, and what effect each will have on future needs.

  6. Explain that water is a natural resource, but it is not limitless. Water scarcity is a reality. Discuss the following concerns:

    • How many ways do we use water?
    • Is it a limited or unlimited resource?
    • What would you do if there were little or no water available?
    • Introduce the term scarcity (not enough of a product to meet the demand). How would your life be different with limited water?
  7. Read aloud from page nine of The Well beginning with the word "Charlie Simms was always mean" and ending with the words "the same thing" (see Bibliographical References). Summary: During a drought in the early twentieth century, one family finds themselves in a situation where they are the only people with a well that has not run dry. Instead of being selfish, the family shares its well water with its neighbors. Ask learners to explain what act of philanthropy (the giving of one’s time, talent or treasure for the sake of another or for the common good) took place in the story.

  8. Emphasize that many people have contributed of their time and talent, to assure that our water is safe for consumption. Distribute Caroline Bartlett Crane (Handout Three) for homework. Read over the story together. Assign the questions to be completed for homework. Tell learners that Day Two will consist of investigations.

  9. Day Two: Go over the answers from the homework, Caroline Bartlett Crane (Handout Two). Have the learners describe how Crane’s work was a form of philanthropy for communities affected by her concern.

  10. Display a picture of a basin. Ask what it has to do with a watershed (area of land from which water and sediment drain into streams and rivers). Distribute copies of A Few Historical Facts about Michigan’s Water Problems (Handout Three). Have learners complete the sheet which looks at water problems in the past.

  11. Tell learners that in most states there are impaired waters, that is, water that merits some restoration effort to make it usable for consumption. Distribute Total Maximum Daily Load (Handout Four). Working in teams, have learners go online at to obtain information about water problems today. Go over the directions on the sheet to get groups off to a good start. It is the responsibility of each group to gather information to determine what is an area of concern for the body of water they select. Allow twenty five minutes for this activity.

  12. In a whole group format, let learners summarize what they have researched by naming the types of impairments they found for the bodies of water they researched. Let the learners describe ordinary things households and businesses can do to keep water safe.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark MS.7 Identify women and minorities who are or have been leaders in the civil society sector.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Identify and describe the actions of how citizens act for the common good.