What Is Water Pollution?

What Is Water Pollution?

Watch this brief, video picture of practice that captures everyday classroom life and provides real-life examples of how students learn and think about freshwater topics.

Grades

3 - 8

Subjects

Earth Science

When asked what water pollution is, most students can readily explain pollution as trash thrown away by humans that enters our water. Students can readily identify items visible to the naked eye, such as cigarette butts, plastic bottles, and bags. This type of debris is certainly a water-pollution problem. However, when students are asked about other sources of water pollution, they may be lost or not able to identify invisible pollutants. Chemical released by manufacturing, cars, and lawns and farms are large contributors to water pollution but can be hard for students to identify because they may not be visible, or the source of the pollution is not easily connected to the area that is impacted. For example, yard fertilizers and pesticides run into storm drains and simply "disappear" from students' world. Likewise, if students are asked how pollution gets into water, they may point to littering but not identify different types of runoff. It is important that students understand that there are many pollutants that get into the water—in different ways—so they can better understand how to prevent pollution from entering the water systems in the first place.

Watch this video of 6th grade students in San Diego, California—a coastal community. The purpose of this classroom video is to see students share their ideas about water pollution.

For additional classroom context, video analysis, and reflection opportunities, read the Picture of Practice page for "What Is Water Pollution?" in the Earth's Freshwater Environmental Literacy Teacher Guide, page 80.

Media Credits

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Writers
Ari J. Posner, M.S. Urban Planning, Ari J. Posner, M.S. Urban Planning
Beth A. Covitt, Ph.D. Environmental Education and Conservation Psychology, Beth A. Covitt, Ph.D. Environmental Education and Conservation Psychology
Tania T. Hinojosa, M.Ed. Educational Technology, Tania T. Hinojosa, M.Ed. Educational Technology
Jose Marcos-Iga, Ph.D. Natural Resources, Jose Marcos-Iga, Ph.D. Natural Resources
Marcia S. Matz, M.A. Design, Marcia S. Matz, M.A. Design
Tara G. Treiber, B.A. Natural Sciences: Ecology, Tara G. Treiber, B.A. Natural Sciences: Ecology
Sandra Postel, National Geographic Fellow, Sandra Postel, National Geographic Fellow
Abraham Miller-Rushing, Ph.D. Biology, Abraham Miller-Rushing, Ph.D. Biology
Anica Miller-Rushing, M.Ed. Curriculum and Instruction, Anica Miller-Rushing, M.Ed. Curriculum and Instruction
Lindsey Mohan, Ph.D. Educational Psychology and Technology, Lindsey Mohan, Ph.D. Educational Psychology and Technology
Designer
Cindy Olson, Cindy Olson
Editors
Kristen Dell, National Geographic Society,
Lindsey Mohan, Ph.D.,
Chelsea Zillmer,
Educator Reviewers
Catie Boarts, Heal the Bay, Catie Boarts, Heal the Bay
Beth A. Covitt, University of Montana, Beth A. Covitt, University of Montana
Jenny D. Ingber, Jenny D. Ingber
Meghan E. Marrero, New York State Marine Education, Meghan E. Marrero, New York State Marine Education
Marcia S. Matz, Marcia S. Matz
Sandra Postel, National Geographic Fellow, Sandra Postel, National Geographic Fellow
other
Last Updated

May 20, 2022

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