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Case Study-Walkerton's Tragedy

Middle, Secondary


Students working in groups, are asked to research and briefly report on the events surrounding the Walkerton tragedy of 2000, when an outbreak of E.Coli in the water supply led to the deaths of 7 residents, and left 2300 seriously ill.  A class discussion is encouraged in which each group presents their opinions about accountability, future effects on residents, and steps required to ensure that this does not happen again. Topics emerging from the discussion will include watershed protection, multi barrier approaches and the financial costs associated with ensuring clean water supplies, and government regulation.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • Working cooperatively with team members to develop and carry out a plan
  • Designing a plan for research
  • Evaluating group and individual processes in planning, problem solving, and decision making
  • Responding and reflecting on written and media text
  • Reading and viewing different texts
  • Speaking and communicating thoughts and ideas


  • Group work allows for shared dialogue and peer teaching
  • It has local focus
  • Promotes empathy
  • Students are given opportunities to identify, clarify, and express opinions and values
  • Case study is relevant and meaningful
  • Deals with an important issue


  • Assessment techniques need to be developed
  • Background reading provided needs to be updated
  • No accommodations for struggling learners
  • Resource lacks an action plan and does not promote the skills needed to take action

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

Themes Addressed

  • Human Health & Environment (1)

    • Environmental Justice
  • Waste Management (1)

    • Liquid Waste
  • Water (3)

    • Water Quality
    • Water Treatment and Distribution
    • Watershed Protection

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Satisfactory

The students are exposed to a very brief version of the events that led to the Walkerton tragedy in the readings provided. The resource does not attempt to lay blame but focuses on preventing this type of catastrophe from happening in the future. The lack of government regulations and ineffective checks and balances in the water monitoring system before the E. Coli outbreak are not fully addressed.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good

The environmental issue of water quality is linked to choices, oversights, and mistakes made by society. The decisions made about safe drinking sources in the past, present, and future often have had and will have both a human and financial cost.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Satisfactory

The research, group work and presentation will promote dialogue among students . It respects the complex issue of how environmental problems, which can lead to to unsafe drinking water have far-reaching effects with regards to accountability, health care costs, quality of life, and government regulation.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Poor/Not considered

Poor- there is no action experience provided

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Satisfactory

The discussions which take place "in-group" and those presented to the class allow ample opportunity for students to clarify their own values.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Good

Empathy is fostered for those people who became ill or died due to the Walkerton tragedy. Because the deaths and sickness were quite preventable this analysis would encourage further vigilance in the future.

Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Poor/Not considered

Poor- there is no out-of-doors experience provided

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Good

Ensuring a clean, safe drinking water is a priority in any community, thus any resource which addresses this topic has local focus and relevance.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Good

A quick overview of the past is given, as students focus on what is being done presently and since the Walkerton tragedy. Students evaluate and discuss the merits of the changes which have been implemented. They are also asked to look to the future and are encouraged to work to ensure this type of tragedy does not happen again.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Satisfactory

Case study questions are worded in such a way that multiple/complex answers and dialogue are encouraged.  Students are not steered towards one right answer.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Satisfactory
Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Satisfactory

Students are asked to wrestle with tough questions on the future effects of the Walkerton disaster and reflect on lessons learned. They must develop and express their own ideas based on gathering information in short background readings and internet research.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.


Differentiated Instruction Poor/Not considered

The reading level will be difficult for some students and the internet research will be challenging. There are no modifications suggested for those with learning difficulties. Both cognitive and affective domains are touched upon. Activities would be most appropriate for students with strong literacy skills.  Those with weaker skills will struggle without accommodation.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Poor/Not considered

Poor- there are no simulations/authentic action opportunities in this resource

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory
Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Poor/Not considered

Poor- there are no assessment tools given

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Satisfactory
Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Satisfactory

This is a real relevant case study, but descriptions and details are incomplete.

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Satisfactory

Although the resource is specific with regards to program content and the medium in which they work, the students still have opportunities to go deeper int o a chosen issue in the class presentation and discussion.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.