Learning from the Flint Water Crisis

How can citizens hold government accountable for maintaining a safe water Time Cover Flint Jan 2016supply?

It’s not only a compelling question for students, it’s a compelling question for the residents of Flint, Michigan, who have been in the national spotlight as a result of unsafe drinking water. The story even made it on the cover of Time Magazine’s February 1, 2016, issue.

Although the high levels of lead in the water are scientifically explainable, why it actually happened may be more difficult to determine. This unfortunate event provides multiple ways for educators to make Social Studies come alive in the classroom by engaging students in discovering authentic solutions to a problem that could someday impact their own lives.

Ask students the compelling question above and facilitate a discussion that generates several supporting questions. Students could be placed in teams, and small groups within each team can investigate various aspects of the issue.

  • Role of government in providing safe drinking water
  • Geography of safe drinking water
  • History of urban water sources
  • Economics of the water industry

Want something more concrete? Michigan Center for Civic Education Executive Director Linda Start brought to my attention Susie & Tyler’s Current Events resources for January 26, 2016, via Classroom Law Project out of Oregon State. They have done a great job locating resources, generating scaffolded questions, and identifying specific lesson plans to save educators time.

Investigating the Flint water crisis provides an excellent opportunity to teach and assess students’ ability to consider the credibility of sources of information; triangulate statements of fact; and when making a claim, use valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

Here are some other resources you might find helpful.



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