Selecting the Tap

6, 7, 8

Clean water is a scarce natural resource because pollution and careless action can make it unusable for consumers. Learners research reliable facts about their local water and propose philanthropic acts to contribute to the common good.

PrintOne 45-Minute Session, plus time for research

The learner will:

  • identify local water sources and determine threats to their health.
  • glass of drinkable water with one drop of food coloring stirred into it
  • KWL Worksheet, one copy for each group
  • copies of A Few Historical Facts about Michigan’s Water Problems (see handout below)
  • access to epa or EGLE website about Total Maximum Daily Load to research water quality in your region
  • 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
  • Environmental Protection Agency, water program "Total Maximum Daily Loads" (search for your region and state)


  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 (prior knowledge about water pollution).

  2. 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). You can't always tell from looking whether water is potable. Prompt them to look up the definition of potable and discuss what can make water undrinkable (visible and unvisible, human-created or natural impact). 

  3. Ask the following question: Do you think tap water always safe to drink? 

    Move learners into groups of two or three and ask them to write one or two things they would like to know about clean or polluted water using KWL Technique (see handout below). Allow no more than five minutes for this exchange.

  4. Meet together as a whole group and discuss what they want to know and how they can find out credible answers. 

  5. Explain that water is a natural resource and a necessity for life. It is the responsibility of individuals, businesses, and government to treat this limited resource with care. For that reason, there are laws about observing and maintaining water, especially assuring that all people have access to clean water and pollution is minimized. 

  6. Optional: 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 Bibliography). 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. 

    Define and discuss this act of philanthropy (the giving of one’s time, talent or treasure for the sake of another or for the common good) in the story.

  7. Review the events of the Flint Water Crisis beginning in 2014 when toxins were found in the city water source because of a government decision based on financial concerns. The lead and other pollutants impacted the health of all its citizens, especially children. Note that people all over the country took action to support the people of Flint. The generosity was so great, they had to tell people to stop sending bottled water.

    Tell learners that in most states there are impaired waters for which laws require restoration efforts to make them healthy for consumption. Health is determined by data about Total Maximum Daily Load. Working in teams, learners research local water health and problems today. 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.

  8. In a whole group, 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 things households and businesses (and government and nonprofits) can do to keep water safe.

  9. Reflect on the research and discussions by completing the L section of the KWL.

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.