Understanding Arsenic Contamination Around the World

Cultures and Cycles Major Project

General Description of the Major Project

The major project is designed to provide a forum for students to demonstrate what they have learned throughout the unit of interdiciplinary lessons, which are taught in the context of the environmental health of Arsenic Contamination of the drinking water. There are some lessons that are more pertinent to the major project than others. The chart below highlights lessons central to the major project because they deal specifically with arsenic in drinking water or with useful skills associated with presenting to different populations.

For the final project students develop a persuasive public advisory. This is designed to bring together concepts from science, language arts, social studies, and mathematics over the unit. In the project, students organize and deliver a presentation to an assigned community that is situated in an area where there is a significant amount of arsenic in the ground water.

  • In the science class, students research the geochemical processes that give rise to arsenic in the region’s groundwater.
  • In the language arts class, students research the effects of arsenic contamination and formulate a persuasive advisory to the public warning them of the effects of arsenic in the ground water.
  • In social studies, students will become aware of the health risks and resulting societal implications of arsenic contamination in drinking water. They will also become skilled at map usage and cultural geography which will aid students in locating arsenic deposits and help them become better attuned to the needs of specific communities.
  • In the math class, students explore statistics, charts, tables, etc, which will be presented in the presentation.
  • During the presentation in the Language Arts class, students must keep in mind the cultural background of their target audience and utilize scientific evidence.

The lessons download as word documents and the handouts download as PDFs.



World Geography

Language Arts


Students identify science questions about arsenic and health using a recent newspaper article.


Arsenic and Clarifications to Compliance and New Source Monitoring Rule

Arsenic in Drinking Water


Water-The Indispensable Resource
In this lesson students become aware of how precious water is and build an understanding of the impact it has on the development of societies.

Scientists’ warning to humanity on the freshwater biodiversity crisis

Albert 2021 Article Scientists Warning To Humanity

Will there be enough water in the future?

The Dangers of Illiteracy
Students will gain an appreciation of literacy as they investigate a case study of a population in a region with arsenic contamination. At the end of this lesson students could be introduced to their project*.

Adult Literacy in the United States.

Dangers of Illiteracy handout

Calculating Parts per Million: Do we have a problem here?
Students use unit analysis to calculate parts per million and, in a given scenario, determine whether the concentration of contaminants is sufficiently high to warrant health officials closing a lake.

The Numbers Game

Instructor's Answer Key

Arsenic Globally
Identify how arsenic got into the water (both natural and human-derived reasons); what effect has it had on the people (breadth, depth, scope, etc), what is being done about it, and what are their recommendations for the removal of arsenic deposits.

Public Health Statement on Arsenic

Who am I?
Students explore the major countries that have been affected by arsenic contamination in order to gain an understanding of their physical and cultural traits. This background information will allow students to develop an understanding of how each society must deal with the issue of contaminated drinking water and its impact on their survival.

Who Am I Appendix

The Three Appeals
During this lesson students will look at various persuasive texts and identify the three appeals used.

The Three Appeals of Argument

What Do You Want to Know? - Country Statistics
Students collect data and create graphs that best represent specific types of data about a given country.

Why here?
Students examine the basis of hydrothermal systems using a Flash animation

Postcards from the Rim
Students analyze the impact of arsenic contamination on the water supply of the project countries and how the people deal with this problem based on their culture and physical habitat.

Arsenic round the world a review

Essay Elements Review
Students review thesis statements, topic sentences, supporting details, organization, etc…
Students begin the writing process on the assigned topic and write a
Persuasive Editorial
on the following question: Was it a good decision or not, for UNICEF to dig tube wells in Bangladesh during the 1970’s?

Bar and Histograms
Students explore what types of data are best represented by bar graphs or by histograms.

Not just Gold
Students apply their understanding of hydrothermal systems that lead to lodes of gold to explain the location of arsenic.

Minings Toxic Legacy 2010

Naturally elevated arsenic

Arsenic Contamination: Natural Disaster or Human Induced.
By studying the water supply in different regions students will discern whether the major cause of arsenic contamination is human caused or natural. Students will assume the role of a member of the World Health Organization whose primary concern is to ensure that people have a supply of clean water.

Tricks and Techniques for Speech Delivery
The lesson addresses overcoming fear of public speaking using the POAM method.

What Pie?
Constructing and interpreting pie charts, students better understand the type of data that is best represented by pie charts and determine if a pie chart is the appropriate form of display for a given set of data.


Dirty Water: A Case Study
Students gain an appreciation for the value of having easy access to a supply of clean drinking water and explore the problem of arsenic contamination in ground water.

Evaluating Rhetoric
Students view two mock presentations and evaluate them.



Water Mitigation
Students conclude their study of the impact that arsenic in water has on human health by participating in a case study on Bangladesh. They will play the role of scientists in order to participate in a panel discussion on how to resolve the problem of arsenic contamination.

Preparing to Speak
Students listen to a brief overview of speech preparation tips and work on their projects.


Final ProjectThe final presentation will be presented in the Language Arts class
Students create and deliver a persuasive public advisory to a group of people who live in an area which has significant levels of arsenic in the local bedrock. Their advisories must take into account the cultural and educational levels/needs of their given community.

Creation Date: March 2008
Last Updated: December 1, 2021