Search for Resources

Solve a Pollution Mystery

Understanding Ground Water Pollution

Elementary, Middle

Description

Groundwater contamination can have devastating consequences on environmental and human health. Non-point source pollutants are difficult to track but point source pollution can often be readily traced to the cause. In this lesson, students become environmental detectives who must work together to identify how a pollution incident occurred in a fictional town. As the class moves through a series of clues to solve this mystery they will:

  • Identify types of human activities that might be causing groundwater contamination with fuel.

  • Hypothesize how pollutants flow through groundwater based on topography.

  • Describe negative impacts of groundwater pollution on sensitive ecosystems like wetlands.

  • Consider the cultural and social impacts of groundwater contamination on First Nations communities.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • Analysis of written materials
  • Map reading

  • Critical thinking

  • Decision making

Strengths

  • Contains detailed curriculum connections
  • Makes strong connections with First Nations culture

  • Encourages a conservation approach where students are able to define strategies to protect groundwater

Weaknesses

  • Contains no assessment strategies.
  • Does not have an experiential component with a hands-on activity to support the learning.

 

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This lesson plan supports science curriculum outcomes related to freshwater systems, ecosystems, habitats and sustainable living. Students also strengthen critical thinking and problem solving skills while they analyze information and explain their theories about how the contamination occurred. As students reflect about impacts on the community they will also consider how individual actions can impact the environment, which will encourage citizenship decisions about protecting groundwater in their own community.

 

An interesting action project arising from this lesson could have a class working with local environmental organizations to host a community hazardous waste disposal day. While homeowners drop off their hazardous waste students could be disseminating information about the importance of conserving groundwater and strategies for preventing contamination at home.

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.

  • Step 1Select a province
  • Alberta
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 5
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Wetland Ecosystems
    • Grade 6
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Evidence and Investigation
  • British Columbia
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 5
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 5: Earth materials change as they move through the rock cycle and can be used as natural resources.
  • Manitoba
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Habitat and Communities
    • Grade 5
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Maintaining a Healthy Body
        • Properties of and Changes in Substances
  • Newfoundland & Labrador
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Health Education
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Health: Environmental Health
    • Grade 5
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Health Education
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Health: Environmental Health
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Properties & Changes in Materials
  • Northwest Territories
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Life Systems: Habitats & Communities
    • Grade 5
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Matter and Materials: Properties of and Changes in Matter
        • Science 5: Earth materials change as they move through the rock cycle and can be used as natural resources.
  • Nova Scotia
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Health Education
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Health Education 4
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 4: Habitats
    • Grade 5
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Health Education
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Health Education 5
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 5: Chemical and Physical Properties
  • Nunavut
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Life Systems: Habitats & Communities
    • Grade 5
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Matter and Materials: Properties of and Changes in Matter
  • Ontario
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science & Technology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Life Systems: Habitats and Communities
    • Grade 5
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science & Technology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Earth and Space Systems: Conservation of Energy & Resources
        • Life Systems: Human Health and Body Systems
  • Prince Edward Island
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Health Education
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Wellness Choices
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Habitats
    • Grade 5
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Properties and Changes in Materials
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Habitats and Communities
    • Grade 5
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Properties and Changes of Materials

Themes Addressed

Human Health & Environment (1)

  • Environmental Contaminants & Health Hazards

Water (1)

  • Water Quality

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good

Students are able to examine evidence and consider research information to formulate opinions and draw conclusions.

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 consequences of groundwater pollution are linked to indigenous social impacts so that students gain a deep awareness of the spiritual connections between First Nations people and water that sustains life.

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 Good

What seems like a small fuel spill is connected to habitat loss and human health.  Thus, students will recognize that short-term, localized pollution can have extensive long term consequences.

Respects Complexity:

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

Acting on Learning Satisfactory

No specific projects are included in this resource but the content does support action opportunities such as personal water conservation goals, peer education about water pollution or community based projects to clean up a local waterway.

 

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

This investigation supports individual goals for reducing energy consumption and encourages a stewardship ethic.

Values Education:

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

Empathy & Respect for Humans Good

The dire consequences of being unable to access clean drinking water has been an enduring struggle for many Canadian First Nations communities. This resource highlights the social consequences of this issue and develops empathy towards indigenous communities. 

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 Satisfactory

Although this lesson does not include an outdoor experience the content can easily be translated into an outside class where students engage in a pollution evaluation of a local green space to build connections to a natural environment.

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 Poor/Not considered
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 Poor/Not considered
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 Good

A set of guided questions leads students through the investigation, but there are many opportunities for pupils to individually and collaboratively problem solve and extend the learning to considering pollution impacts in their own community.

Open-Ended Instruction :

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

Integrated Learning Satisfactory

This activity has been developed as a science lesson that requires extensive use of English Language Arts outcomes such as summarizing, communicating opinions and critical reading. Map reading and learning about contour lines supports geography concepts.

 

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

A worksheet provides a framework for the investigation by using a set of questions to guide the process.  Students are able to formulate their own ideas based on research and evidence.

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 Satisfactory

This is a classroom lesson that focuses on reading, writing and analysis of information. However, the group approach does allow for verbal expression and the map enables students to visualize information that might be difficult to access through reading.

 

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 Satisfactory

A teacher could expand the in-class content of this lesson with a class visit to a local stream or river so students are able to observe flow patterns and gain a deeper understanding of potential pollution impacts.

 

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 Poor/Not considered
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 Satisfactory

The student worksheet could be used as a formative assessment to determine the level of student understanding of key concepts.

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

Students actively participate in group discussions in which they can express ideas.

 

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 Good

The town examined in the activity is fictional but is related to information about Canadian First Nations concerns about pipelines which strengthens the lesson authenticity.

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 Poor/Not considered
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.