Lesson 8: Are THEY Responsible??

Grade 5-8 (Integrated social, science, health and math)
Grade 9-12 (Integrated social, science, and health)

Topic: Public or government responsibility for water health.

Time: 60 min or 90 min, if letters are written in class

Space Requirement: Classroom (arranged like press conference) or theatre

Methodology: Simulation press conference, simulation vote, letter writing campaign

Materials: Fact sheet for students prior to the activity, questions for students, envelopes for letters (1 per student)

Background Information: The teacher must read and become familiar with the information on the fact sheets prior to the press conference.

Objectives: Through their participation in the press conference, students will question the “THEY” in terms of who is responsible for healthy drinking water (provincial or federal governments). Furthermore, the students will formulate an opinion and come to a consensus regarding who is responsible for drinking water. Students will take an active role in the issue surrounding healthy drinking water by writing to the Mayor, civil engineer who designed their water treatment plant, local newspaper, Premier, MLA or Prime Minister, regarding the need for healthy drinking water and their wish for all to have access to it.

For Teachers: This simulation requires that the teacher play the role of the guest speaker. This role requires that the fact sheet be read thoroughly and some answers prepared for the student’s questions. It is advisable to watch some footage of press conferences (see http://www.youtube.com, search for political press conferences) in order to become familiar with how language is used and how questions are addressed. The “costume” or attire should be professional, such as a dark suit and white shirt.

When the students write their letters, they must decide who the letters will be written to (see the objectives section for a list of possible destinations). If sending 30 letters to the same person is not possible, send smaller groups of letters to all the people listed. That way, the students can reach a larger audience and make an impact across the country. If the any students have their letters published in a newspaper, please send a copy of the letter, date of publication and the name of the paper it was published in to the Safe Drinking Water Foundation, and it will be posted on the website.


  1. Students MUST be given the “Human Rights” fact sheet at least two days (in lesson 6) prior to the conference so they can read the material and develop questions to ask the guest speaker. 
  2. The day before the presentation (lesson 7), students should have at least one question prepared to ask the guest speaker. All questions are to be submitted to the teacher the day before the presentation. The teacher will then rewrite the questions (for legibility purposes) on separate pieces of paper to be handed out to students the day of the presentation.
  3. The day of the presentation, have the classroom arranged with desks grouped in lines (5 across) and a podium or chair at the centre front of the classroom. The goal is for the room to look like a press conference. If using the theatre, have a podium on stage and microphone (if possible).
  4. When students enter the room, give each student one question to ask and have them sit down.
  5. Announce that you will go get the guest and leave the room. The teacher will then adjust his/her attire and become the politician guest speaker (see the For the Teacher section for more information). If possible, have another teacher or educational assistant present for this simulation, so that they can facilitate questions and act as a moderator. (5 min)
  6. Have the guest speaker make an opening statement regarding who is responsible for healthy drinking water, and then open the floor to questions. The question period should take 30 minutes. Students should make notes of important questions asked, how the guest responded, and if the response was satisfactory. (30 min)
  7. After the question period, the guest is free to leave and the class can begin to deliberate who is responsible. (10 min)
  8. After the deliberation, the class must vote on who is responsible. In order to vote, the students must all agree on a responsible party: either provincial or federal governments. The vote will be conducted on a for/against method, where the moderator will ask those for and against the provincial government responsibility to raise their hands. The question will be restated for the federal government. The majority rules. (5 min)
  9. Have the students make a list as to why healthy drinking water is important. The students should write the list in their water journals. Each student can then sign the Water Conservation Contract (see below). The contracts go into the water journals and the journals are handed in at the end of the lesson. (10 min)

Evaluation: For elementary classes, the remaining time is used to (as a class) construct a letter to address the result of water health. The teacher will then make a typed version of the letter and give each student a copy to sign and mail. For high school classes, hand out the information on how to write a letter, what to include, and when to hand it in (found below). The teacher will check each letter for appropriateness and hand back to students so the students can mail their letters. Students should hand in their water journals at the end of the lesson along with the water contracts.

Resources: The Water Contract is found below. A Sample Political Letter is also found below.

Extension Activity: A week later, discuss the water contracts with the class. Are they still using less water? Have they found other ways to conserve water?

The Safe Drinking Water Foundation has other educational programs that can be taught with this set of lessons. Operation Water Drop examines the chemical contaminants that can be found in water; this program is designed for a science class. Operation Water Flow explores the use of water and where it comes from; this program is designed for a Social studies and Math collaboration. Operation Water Spirit presents a First Nations perspective of water and water issues and is designed for a Native Studies or Social Studies class. Operation Water Health explores common health issues surrounding drinking water in Canada and around the world and is designed for a Health, Science and Social Studies collaboration. To access more information on these and other educational activities visit the Safe Drinking Water Foundation website at www.safewater.org.

Sources and Related Links:
- Water Consumption – a SDWF fact sheet
- Federal Government. Water. http://www.ec.gc.ca/eau-water/ 
- Federal-Provincial-Territorial Committee on Drinking Water (CDW)
- From Source to Tap: The multi-barrier approach to safe drinking water

Water Conservation Contract

Please Note: No postage is required to write a letter to the Prime Minister or to any Member of Parliament at the House of Commons. You can also reach the office of Justin Trudeau at justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca

Sample Political Letter:

Your Name/Your School's Name
Street Address
City, Province Postal Code


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

My grade X class has spent the last few days learning about healthy drinking water. Based on what we have learned, I believe that healthy drinking water is a very important issue that the government should be focusing on.

I know there is a world-wide need to improve drinking water quality and treatment. I want there to be healthy drinking water for me when I am older.

Please keep drinking water an important part of all government discussions and policies. Do not settle for the easy path in terms of policies and standards for healthy drinking water. The more the government makes drinking water a focus, the more support they will have from the general public.

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter. I look forward to your response.


(Name typed below the signature)