Why Teach About the Clean Water Act?

October 15th, 2012 by Sarah

Bringing in the catch on the Chesapeake Bay during the 2011 Youth Fishing Adventure. Image credit: Janet Krenn/VASG

Do you think we should be able to safely fish and swim in our nation’s waters?  It may sound like a pretty basic goal, but these rights have not always been protected with the same vigor as they are today.

Though it was originally enacted in 1948 as the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, the Clean Water Act was totally revised in 1972 to give the Act its current shape.  This federal regulation set a new national goal “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters”, and set an overarching environmental goal that all waters in the United States be “fishable” and “swimmable.”

Why Should YOU Teach About The Clean Water Act?

This October marks the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act!  On October 18, 1972, Congress passed the Clean Water Act, providing a comprehensive strategy for dealing with water pollution.  Whether you are teaching about science, civics, history, or law, the Clean Water Act is a great topic to focus on. The Clean Water Act is especially relevant in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the first estuary in the nation to be targeted by Congress for restoration and protection!

How Can YOU Teach About The Clean Water Act?

With the 40th anniversary of this legislation upon us, some great teaching resources have been coming out.  Here is a list of some great lesson plans and resources you can use to teach about the Clean Water Act in your classroom:

  • Clean Water: It’s The Law – This is a great lesson plan from Discovery Education.  In this activity, 3-5 grade students will describe the serious state of U.S. water systems before the Clean Water Act was passed, summarize the importance of laws protecting the environment and natural resources, and the challenge of creating laws that are fair to all water users, and discuss the concerns surrounding nonpoint sources pollution.  Students will also list ways that people can help minimize water pollution.
  • The Water Sourcebooks – The Water Sourcebooks contain 324 activities for grades K-12 divided into four sections: K-2, 3-5, 5-8, and 9-12. Each section is divided into five chapters: Introduction to Water, Drinking Water and Wastewater Treatment, Surface Water Resources, Ground Water Resources, and Wetlands and Coastal Waters.  This EPA environmental education program explains the water management cycle using a balanced approach showing how it affects all aspects of the environment. All activities contain hands-on investigations, fact sheets, reference materials, and a glossary of terms, and the 3-5, 5-8, and 9-12 grade level editions of the Water Sourcebook all feature lesson plan(s) on the Clean Water Act.
  • You Be the Judge – In this PBS lesson, students in grades 9-12 will research and evaluate a U.S. Supreme Court case that reviewed the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act and assesses environmental and business interests. Students will debate case arguments with classmates using data collected from research activities, analyze case information, and write about the decision they would make if they were members of the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Water Quality Teacher Resources – Are you looking for a specific type of educational resource about water quality?  Check out Bay Backpack’s inventory of water quality teacher resources.  Search for water quality resources by subject, school level, resource type, or alignment to state/national curriculum standards!
  • EPA Water Education Resources – EPA’s Office of Environmental Education offers many educational resources for students, parents and educators.  This collection focuses on water education.
  • Chesapeake Bay Program History –Since the Chesapeake Bay Program’s formation in 1983, several written agreements have guided the partnership’s pollution reduction and ecosystem restoration efforts. Share a “local” example of water policy with your students by learning about the history and policies that guide the Chesapeake Bay Program.
Sarah Brzezinski a Chesapeake Conservancy Intern and serves as the manager of Bay Backpack. She is a former Chesapeake Research Consortium/Chesapeake Bay Program Fostering Stewardship Staffer.

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