Objective: Students will participate in a small group discussion that will focus on a moral dilemma from which they may learn that what an individual should do in a situation is not always what he/she will do in that same situation. This activity gives participants the opportunity to learn that sometimes decisions have no easy right and wrong answer.

Materials: What's Your Decision dilemma (photocopied), point of view character cards (photocopied)

Background: There are generally two broad categories involved in the study of nonpoint pollution issues. One category deals with facts. What are or will be the effects of a given practice? What will happen to a watershed when pollutants are introduced?

Another category deals with what "ought to be". What should be the appropriate use of a given watershed? What should a group of environmentalist do to prevent a reoccurrence of this type of pollution? What should the developer do to enhance the aesthetic and recreational potential of an area?

Personal priorities often take precedence over environmental concerns. In many instances, decisions over the well-being of a watershed and its inhabitants revolve around issues that may not be evident at the onset of a project. When conflict occurs, participants are often categorized into the "good guy/bad guy" categories - not necessarily a conducive way to problem solve.

Divide students into groups of nine (9).

Make copies of the "What's Your Decision" dilemma and hand out to each student.

Instruct the students in each group that this dilemma will involve each of them. The focus of the dilemma will be on the character who draws the "Environmental Agency Employee".

Have each student in the group draw one "Point Of View" character card.

Have students carefully read the dilemma. Explain to the group that their first decision may not be their final decision. Each should not feel an undue responsibility to defend their first choice. As the discussion continues, they may believe they've made a choice that needs to be re-thought and possibly changed.

Following the group discussion, have each member make a final decision on the action that they, as the Environmental Agency Employee, would take to solve the problem.

Invite an environmental educator form a local nature center, university, city bureau, or wildlife and fisheries agent to come to your school to discuss the issue of water pollutants derived from generally accepted land use practices in your area. Question the educator about the impact of these practices on their area of expertise.

Research nonpoint source pollution concerns in your county. As a class, prioritize each concern based on the detriment to the county community. Choose the top priority and design a flyer or brochure that provides information and educational assistance to the group most affected by the pollution. Distribute throughout the community.

Divide the class into groups. Students will then identify a specific type of nonpoint source pollution. Have each group design a poster or banner that shows their type of nonpoint source pollution and solutions that will prevent or eliminate the problem. Display posters in school hallways.

Vocabulary Glossary:
Nonpoint source pollution: Pollution that cannot be traced to a single point (Ex: outlet or pipe) because it comes from many individual places or a widespread area (typically urban, rural, and agricultural runoff)
Grade Level:
Middle School

Subject Areas:
Social Studies

SD Standards for 4th grade:
Social Studies


Communication, Role-Playing, Prediction, Conflict Resolution

Prior Preparation: Supplement this activity with activities on land use practices in your area that are generally accepted by the environmental agencies in your state. A recommended activity to complete, prior to this activity is "Dragonfly Pond: from Aquatic Project WILD.

nonpoint source pollution
Home | Trunks | Presenter Kits | Class Activities | Teaching Units | Contact Us