Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

What's in Your Water?

Ganges River Pollution

Kristen Sublett, Mariana DeLoera | Published: June 9th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 6th, 7th
  • Subject Subject Social Studies
  • Course Course World Geography
  • Time Frame Time Frame 60 minutes
  • Duration More 1-2 class period(s)


In this lesson on the importance of clean water as a natural resource, students will begin by observing a polluted water source within a United States community. Next, students will explore the significance of the Ganges River and the political and religious issues that impact the ongoing struggle to maintain this important water resource for the people of India. Then, students will watch a video interview to learn how clean water issues relate to state and local communities before extending their learning with a writing activity to connect the importance of clean water to their personal lives. This lesson includes optional modifications for distance learning. Resources for use in Google Classroom are included.

Essential Question(s)

Does clean water impact more than just personal use? 



Students examine a picture of pollution trash surrounding Lake Arcadia in Oklahoma.


Using the It's OPTIC-al and Gallery Walk strategies, students analyze several photos of pollution in and around the Ganges River in India.


Students determine how the Ganges River is used in India and what types of pollution affect the use of the river.


Students write a Two-Minute Paper about their own contributions to water pollution, then watch an interview with the president of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB).


Students formulate ideas about how they can support water conservation and clean-up efforts.


  • It's OPTIC-al Graphic Organizer student handout (attached, one per student)

  • Ganges River Reading (attached, one per student)

  • Highlighters (one per student)

  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Chart tablet or poster paper

  • Six images of Ganges River pollution


Use the attached Lesson Slides to guide the lesson. Display the title slide and introduce the lesson, then continue to slide 3. Read the essential question for the lesson, and tell students they should think about this question as they look at pictures and gather information about specific water sources. Display slide 4, showing the picture of pollution and trash in and near a lake. Ask students to observe all the details of this picture and draw a conclusion about what is going on.

Invite students to share their thoughts with an elbow partner for 1–2 minutes, and then ask partners to share what they are seeing with the whole class. Ask students to determine the photo's location. Share with the students that the picture is of Lake Arcadia, just north of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Then, ask students to think for about 30 seconds about the importance of clean water and how it might impact them. Have them share their thoughts with their partner, allowing 1–2 minutes, and then ask for volunteers to share ideas with the class. Give students about 6–8 minutes for the entire activity.

Transition to the next activity by inviting students to look at water pollution and its impact elsewhere, specifically the Ganges River. You may wish for students to use their textbook atlas to locate the Ganges River in India as a point of reference.


Place the six prepared pictures of pollution of the Ganges River around the room with a large piece of poster paper next to each picture. Number the posters one through six. Number students one through six, or assign them into six working groups. Pass out a copy of the attached It's Optical Graphic Organizer to each student. Introduce the It's OPTIC-AL strategy on slide 5. Have each group report to their corresponding numbered poster. Ask groups to observe the assigned picture in detail as they did previously. Display slide 6, which explains the group assignment in detail.

Allow time for groups to complete their own poster. Then, pass out the attached It's Optical Graphic Organizer. Ask each group to write down their OPTIC notes about the pictures as they view them.

Display slide 7 and introduce the Gallery Walk/Carousel strategy. Invite student groups to rotate clockwise to another picture and fill out the OPTIC notes for the new picture. They can also add notes to the poster board about anything they observe in the picture that was not addressed.

Once all groups have rotated to every picture and completed their notes, have them return to seats, but remain with their group. Allow time for everyone to review their notes and ask questions or clear up confusion about any of the pictures. Each group should discuss the question in the "Painting a Picture" section of their graphic organizer. As a group, have students come to a consensus and draw a conclusion about what these pictures mean for this geographic region (i.e., Northern India), the present-day impact of the water situation there, and the future issues that may arise. Ask a few groups to share out their conclusions with the class.


Display slide 8. Distribute the attached Ganges River Facts Reading about the river and its uses. As students read, have them use a have them use the Categorical Highlighting strategy to analyze the reading, looking for information that could help them respond to the following questions: What is contributing to the pollution of the Ganges River? What efforts have been made to clean up the Ganges River? Once students have finished reading and highlighting, have them share what they highlighted with an elbow partner, and then ask a few pairs to share their answers with the class.

If there is any information you feel the students still need to know, or if you feel that they didn't get the necessary information from the pictures and the reading, inform them about the pollution of the Ganges more in-depth. Tell students that what they see happening with the Ganges River isn't unique to India, but that water pollution is an international and national concern. Water pollution, like they saw at Lake Arcadia in Oklahoma, is also a state and local concern.


Display slide 9. Ask students to think back to the picture of Lake Arcadia and consider the questions: "What role do you play in water conservation and water pollution?" and "What impact does water conservation and water pollution have on more than just our personal use?" Have students answer these two questions with a Two-Minute Paper strategy on notebook paper.

After their two minutes of writing, tell students they will watch an interview with the president of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB), Julie Cunningham. Go to slide 10 to play the video, titled “ICAP - What’s in Your Water?” In the video, Cunningham addresses some of our state's water conservation and pollution issues, and ways the Oklahoma Water Resource Board works to clean up and conserve water.


Display slide 11. After showing the video of the OWRB interview, have students add additional information to their Two-Minute Paper discussing how they can support efforts to clean, protect, and conserve water based upon any information they picked up from the video.

Possible assessments and products of this lesson include the It's OPTIC-al Graphic Organizer and Painting a Picture activity, along with the Two-Minute Paper (or optional Flip assignment).