Who Will Care for the Water? (7th Grade)

6, 7, 8

Students explore the concept of stewardship of natural resources. They examine the effects of human intervention on ecosystems that include water resources.

Focus Question: What is each person's responsibility for environmental stewardship?


Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Sixty-Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • define common resources, civic responsibility and stewardship.
  • use case studies to determine the effects dams have on the ecosystem of a region.
  • use knowledge gained from case studies to take a position on the construction of dams in a region.
  • identify the role governments and industry play in the construction of dams.
  • handout: Definitions
  • Student copies of handout: Case Studies
  • National Geographic Society.  “Water Matters: Every Day, Everywhere, Every Way.”  National Geography Awareness Week Publication (1993).
  • Population Reference Bureau.  “Connections,” (1992).


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    As students enter the room, have a picture or overhead image of a dam projected on the overhead. Ask students to think about the purpose of a dam and to share their ideas with the class. How do business, agriculture, and industry benefit from the building of dams?

  2. Use Handout One: Definitions to define “common resources,” “civic responsibility” and “stewardship.” Ask students to describe how our water resources are common resources. In what ways are we stewards of these resources?

  3. Ask the students to name the water resources of the local area. Ask: Do you think good stewardship is being practiced by the citizens of the area in relationship to these common resources? Why or why not?

  4. Distribute Handout Two: Case Studies with half the class receiving the Aswan Dam and the other half the Colorado River Basin. Have students read their cases. After reading the short case studies, ask students to pair up with another student with the same reading. Ask the students to construct a T-graph to compare the positive and negative effects damming has had on their region.

  5. Students will then form a “square” with the pairs of students joining other pairs that have the other case study results. During this time, students will be comparing their T-graphs.

  6. As a whole group, list comparisons between the Nile River and the Colorado River based on their T-graphs, creating one master T-graph of all the student ideas.

  7. Discuss with students whether or not creating these dams was an act of good stewardship and to defend their opinions with facts from the readings during the discussion. Reflect and brainstorm with the students some of the challenges involved in being good stewards of common resources (conflict with business/industry, individual priorities and beliefs, funding, etc.).

  8. Look back at the list of local water resources created at the beginning of the lesson. Brainstorm a list of actions the students could take to ensure good stewardship of these resources.


Student T-graphs will be evaluated. Students will also be assessed on their position paper.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark MS.5 Define <i>stewardship</i> as a trust of common resources held by a community for citizens.
      2. Benchmark MS.7 Give examples of common resources in the community.
      3. Benchmark MS.9 Recognize problems different communities encounter using a "commons" and possible solutions.