Water Pollution in NYC



Living Environment

Gregg Rappaport




Gym class is over, and boy are you thirsty!  You walk over to the nearest water fountain and press the button and then… Nothing!  You never thought that reading in ELA of 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner', by Samuel Taylor Coleridge would ever apply to you: “Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.”  Why isn’t that water fountain working?  Is it just this one or are they all not working?  They’re all not working! 

Water is essential to life and when you live in New York City, you know that most of the city is surrounded by water.  The waterways around NYC are used for transportation, shipping, boating, fishing and is also the home for countless marine wildlife. 

“It’s important for all New Yorkers to be aware of the water system and for them to not take for granted that the water that is coming from your tap, seemingly so effortlessly” Gerard Koeppel, author, “Water for Gotham: A History.”

In this WebQuest, you work for a public relations organization where you and your account management team has been called upon to provide recommendations about how to best make everyone aware of the importance of maintaining clean waterways and thereby keeping our New York City water the best in the world.



Our task is to first educate students, their families and the community at large about the need for reliably clean drinking water and the effects of water pollution in the NYC area.  Then students will work together to find strategies that will combat the issue of water pollution in the NYC area and its effects on the NYC drinking water supply.  Students will be broken into small groups and will work together to create any one (1) of the various presentation choices about this major issue and how we can work together to improve the health and well-being of the people of New York City through cleaner waterways and better drinking water!



Account Manager and Timer: This person will be in charge of making sure the final presentation has all of the pieces that it needs and will make sure that the presentation is no more than 5 minutes long.

Reporter: This person will be presenting the presentation for the group. Their presentation will be graded using the rubric below.

PPA Technician: This person will ensure that the group makes sure the presentation has all of the parts of the PPA process. It will be their job to teach the rest of the group the PPA process.

Researcher: This person will use the sources below to make sure the research for the group is done from accurate sources.



1.)    Create a Public Awareness Campaign Poster

2.)    Create an Informational Letter

3.)    Write a Trifold Brochure

4.)    Create a PowerPoint presentation



1. Define the problem

2. Gather the Evidence

3. Identify the Causes

4. Evaluate an Existing Policy

5. Develop Solutions

6. Select the Best Solution (feasibility vs. effectiveness)



1.)    Students will be split into groups of 3 – 4 students.

2.)    Students will then work together to complete all of the PPA worksheets below, the information from each worksheet should be transferred to their final presentation.

3.)    Define the problem

4.)    Gather the evidence

5.)    Identify the causes

6.)    Evaluate an existing policy

7.)    Develop solutions

8.)    Select the best solution

9.)    Once students have jointly created their presentation, the reporter, with the assistance of the other group partners, will present their presentation project to the entire class.



·         Water Pollution in New York Harbor: What Can We Do About It?

·         10 Facts You May Not Know About New York City’s Drinking Water

·         Still High Levels of Lead in Drinking Water in NYC Schools

·         Exploring polluted NYC waterways: ‘You have to decide, I’m going to do what I can’

·         U.S.: Toxic Waters: Polluted Harbors | The New York Times

·         A Billion Gallons a Day | Living City | The New York Times

·         Here's where New York City's sewage really goes

·         Can One Billion Oysters Clean NYC's Harbor?

·         Mussels at Work: A Time Lapse Demonstration



Students will be graded using one of the rubrics below based on the type of presentation methods they choose to create.




When students are working on this project they will demonstrate and show evidence of the following scientific connections and applications:

1)   S4a-Big ideas and unifying concepts, such as order and organization; models, form and function; change and constancy; and cause and effect.

2)   S4d-Impact of technology, such as constraints and trade-offs; feedback benefit and risks; and problems and solutions.

3)   S4e-Impact of science, such as historical and contemporary contribution and interactions between science and society.


This project provides students with an opportunity to demonstrate their skills in scientific inquiry, problem solving, critical thinking, and knowledge of science and basic common sense when solving scientific problems within a group setting.


This activity allows students to:


1)    S5c-Use evidence from reliable sources to develop descriptions, explanations and models; and make appropriate adjustments and improvements based on additional data or logical arguments.

2)    S5d-Propose, recognize, analyze, consider, and critique alternative explanations and distinguish between fact and opinion.

3)    S5e-Identify problems; propose and implement solutions; and evaluate the accuracy, design, and outcomes of investigations.

4)    S5f-Work individually and in teams to collect and share information and ideas.



When gathering data, water samples and comparing them to the normal standards for potable water, the student learns about communicating scientific information within a group setting.  The reporting back of this information allows the student to have a deeper understanding in that the student:

S7B-argues from evidence, such as data produced through his or her experimentation or data produced by others.

S7c-Critiques published materials, such as popular magazines and academic journals.

S7d-Explain a scientific concept or procedure to other students.



Students will have learned a lot about pollution in and around the New York City waterways and how it affects the water they drink at home and in their schools. It is my hope that you will take the knowledge and understandings you’ve learned today and help effect change in your city, your school, your home and your community!