The Sacred Ganges River: The Good, the Bad, and the Nasty (pollution issues)

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NEW! POSTED FEB. 2015

My 7th graders were very engaged with this rather bizarre lesson, even though it was truly academic in nature! It was the information about pollution that really got them going. And, of course, that’s what I wanted them to be evaluating – so it’s a win-win!!

Why is the Ganges River so important to Hindus? Do they actually worship the river? Why do Hindus pour ashes of cremated people into the river? These are the question students often know to ask, and they are answered in this lesson.

But what about questions they probably DON’T know to ask: How do so many decomposing bodies of animals and humans end up in the water? Why is the level of coliform bacteria in the river off the charts? And why are there such dangerously high levels of hydrochloric acid, mercury, bleaches and dyes, and pesticides in the river? This lesson will also teach students about the severe pollution issues facing India’s beloved Ganges River.

For centuries, Hindus have claimed that the river water has healing properties. Scientists have in fact found that the river has a remarkably high level of “bacteriophages” – little microorganisms that destroy bacteria – and that the river also has an unusual ability to retain oxygen. But the pollution has become so extreme that even such an amazing river is no longer able to heal itself.

What can be done? What is being done?

WHAT STUDENTS DO:
FIRST: A colorfully-illustrated 20-slide PowerPoint introduces the Ganges to students, giving very brief geographic information and then telling the Hindu story of the river’s origins (from the Hindu scriptures, the Vedas.) While introducing the topic, the PowerPoint does not take away from the article which students will read.
SECOND: After the PowerPoint, students are ready to read the fully illustrated 6 ½ page article which I adapted from two different sources for classroom use. A PDF file of the article is included, if you wish to upload the article onto tablets or computers. The Word file of the article is fully editable. To cut down on copying, you can delete or reduce the pictures. There is a set of 18 questions that go with the article – again, in Word format and fully editable. (The answer key is included, of course.)
THIRD: At the end of the article, students are given an assignment. They are to design a PERSUASIVE billboard to communicate one of the following ideas:
- India needs stronger laws to control industrial pollution.
- India needs to improve sewer systems and water purification.
- People need to protect the river from decaying bodies and from trash.
- People who visit the river need to protect themselves from chemicals and bacteria in the river.
A very simple rubric is included.
FOURTH: In order for you to go over the assignment with them, a second PowerPoint is included. It is only 9 slides long, and includes not only the instructions for the assignment but also includes images of six award-winning billboards actually in India – guaranteed to get their attention
Total Pages
40
Answer Key
Included
Teaching Duration
3 Days

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The Sacred Ganges River: The Good, the Bad, and the Nasty
The Sacred Ganges River: The Good, the Bad, and the Nasty
The Sacred Ganges River: The Good, the Bad, and the Nasty
The Sacred Ganges River: The Good, the Bad, and the Nasty