CareerStart lessons: Grade eight

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Essential question: How can water quality be improved by the actions of various professionals and by the personal choices of community members?

Learning outcomes

Students will investigate the concept of stewardship as it relates to water quality and explore some careers that are involved in maintaining water quality and standards.

Teacher planning

Materials needed

Time required for lesson

One class period (45-50 minutes)

Teacher background

From “Summary of the Clean Water Act” on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website.

The Clean Water Act (CWA) establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters. The basis of the CWA was enacted in 1948 and was called the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, but the Act was significantly reorganized and expanded in 1972. “Clean Water Act” became the Act’s common name with amendments in 1977.

Under the CWA, EPA has implemented pollution control programs such as setting wastewater standards for industry. We have also set water quality standards for all contaminants in surface waters.

The CWA made it unlawful to discharge any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters, unless a permit was obtained.

Career outline

Storm water analyst
Monitors, samples, and analyzes the various types of point source pollutants that flow from city streets into storm water drains.
Researches and develops chemicals and consumer products that are safe for the public and the environment.
Environmental consultant
Provides technical support for federal, state, and local governments, and private industry or not-for-profit organizations for developing solutions to environmental problems.
Elected public officials (E.g. city council members and planning commissioners)
Develop laws and regulations to provide vital services to the community such as transportation, public safety, health care, education, utilities, and courts.


  • Before the lesson, cut apart the activity cards.


  1. Discuss the importance of water quality, the Clean Water Act, and the health of the environment.
  2. Define stewardship for the students and give examples. (Stewardship is the act of good management. In this context, stewardship is the act of protecting and conserving water resources.)
  3. Highlight jobs that control and monitor water quality in the city and county. (Examples include storm water analyst, chemist, environmental consultant, and elected public official.)
  4. Discuss how communities can improve water quality one person at a time.
  5. Put the following chart on the board, under the heading “Whose job is it?”:
    Storm water analystChemistEnvironmental consultantPublic official / WorkerCitizen
  6. Pass out the activity cards provided.
  7. Have students read and classify the job descriptions on the cards.
  8. Have each student come to the board and place his or her card in one of the columns, reflecting where he or she thinks the responsibility lies for keeping water clean.
  9. Lead the class in a discussion about the placement of the cards and the role of each career in maintaining safe water. Share information about the careers from the teacher background section above.
  10. As a follow-up to this activity, ask students to design a pamphlet or poster that encourages community members to be good stewards of water. Students may choose one of the following options or come up with their own ideas:
    • Use a car wash instead of washing cars in the driveway.
    • Recycle used motor oil; never pour motor oil on the ground or throw it in the garbage.
    • Pick up pet waste.
    • Clear debris from storm drains.
    • Use biodegradable products.
    • Recycle.
    • Use trashcans — not roadways — for car trash.
    • Use fertilizers and other lawn care products sparingly (and never on rainy days).


Optional resources for more information on the topics covered in this lesson

EPA: Water Treatment Process
Using this diagram, students can follow a drop of water from the source through the treatment process, obtaining more information at each treatment point along the way.
USGS Water Science for Schools
This government water education website provides information, data, maps, and pictures on water science and has an interactive center where students can give opinions and test their knowledge.
Wastewater: Sewage in Your Face
Students can learn about sewage treatment in a fun, interactive way with games, videos, and audio clips.
Science Careers: Water and Liquid Waste Treatment Plant and System Operator
Students can learn about working in water treatment, including high school courses, degree requirements, an interview with wastewater treatment plant operators, job description, and hiring companies.
Science Careers: Hydrologist
Students can learn about working in hydrology, including high school courses, degree requirements, an interview with Hawaiian hydrologists, job description, and hiring companies.
EEK! Get a Job: Hydrogeology
This website by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources describes the related career of hydrogeology and how hydrogeologists contribute to water safety.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Science (2005)

Grade 8

  • Goal 3: The learner will conduct investigations and utilize appropriate technologies and information systems to build an understanding of the hydrosphere.
    • Objective 3.08: Recognize that the good health of environments and organisms requires:
      • Monitoring of the hydrosphere.
      • Water quality standards.
      • Methods of water treatment.
      • Maintaining safe water quality.
      • Stewardship.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Science (2010)
      • Grade 8

        • 8.E.1 Understand the hydrosphere and the impact of humans on local systems and the effects of the hydrosphere on humans. 8.E.1.1 Explain the structure of the hydrosphere including: Water distribution on earth Local river basins and water availability 8.E.1.2...