Postcard from the Rim
Author: Sylvia Kniest

Time: 2-3 class periods
Copy the articles for the introductory activity
Schedule lab time
Select and assign websites to the students to research
Materials: Introductory articles and a copy of the recommended websites for the students to begin their research.


In this apply lesson, students will analyze the impact of arsenic contamination in the water supplies of the project countries and how the people deal with this problem based on their culture and physical habitat.

Students will be able to:
1. Identify the areas of the world that are affected by arsenic contamination of the water supply.
2. Describe the ways in which various societies deal with the problem of arsenic contamination.
3. Discuss how societies adapt to their physical environment.

National Geography Standard

  • Understand how human actions modify the physical environment.
  • Understand how physical systems affect human systems.
  • Understand the changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution, and importance of resources.


  • Understand the physical processes that shape the patterns of Earth's surface.
  • Understand the characteristics and spatial distributions of ecosystems on Earth's surface.

Teacher Background
Students will analyze the issue of arsenic contamination of water by further researching the country they were assigned to in the previous lesson. The suggested websites will give the students a start at looking at how their country’s water supply has been affected by arsenic. The activity begins with the students reading an overview of arsenic contamination on a global scale. The earth science lesson also provides background information on arsenic and how the chemical gets into the water supply. If the teacher is unable to integrate with an earth science class it is recommended that the teacher look at the corresponding earth science lessons in order to obtain background information.

Related and Resource Websites
1. Introduction- Day one articles:
http://www.thewaterpage.com/arsenic.htm “Arsenic in Drinking Water”
http://www.acdis.uiuc.edu/Research/OPs/Moinuddin/contents/part4.html “Arsenic Contamination Global Chart”
http://yubanet.com/artman/publish/printer_21518.shtml “Arsenic: In Search of an Antidote to a Global Poison"

2. Internet Research of country- Day Two:
http://calvin.linfield.edu/~cmccull/regionalgeography.html general info on country studies & ecology
http://plasma.nationalgeographic.com/mapmachine/countryprofiles.html for country study
http://www.sos-arsenic.net/ arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/07/010706081137.htm arsenic poisoning in Vietnam
http://www.rdic.org/waterarsenic.htm arsenic poisoning in Cambodia
http://www.asia-arsenic.net/aannews/MTAPO.HTM arsenic poisoning in Philippines
http://www.dchtrust.org/arsenic%20country%20to%20country.htm “Arsenic: Country to Country”




Introduction- Day 1:
1. Introduce the activity by assigning half of the students the article “Arsenic in Drinking Water” and the other half the article, “Arsenic: In Search of an Antidote to a Global Poison”. Have them read the articles and prepare to answer the discussion questions with a partner (a student who read the other article). “Arsenic Contamination Global Chart”

2. After students have read their assigned article they will discuss the following questions with a partner: How does arsenic contaminate drinking water”? What are the health effects of high exposure to arsenic? What parts of the world have arsenic in their water?

3. Hand out “Arsenic Contamination Global Chart” to every student and discuss with students:
How is water contamination a significant global issue? What do you feel should be the role of the global community in dealing with this issue? What effect might culture and geographic location have on dealing with this problem?

4. Conclude the lesson by telling the students that they will be looking at this issue from the perspective of the country that they were assigned in the previous lesson.

Activity- Day 2: Give students the following scenario:
As a Peace Corps volunteer, you are to research your assigned country to find out if there is enough safe drinking water for the community. Your research will analyze any problems that the residents of your country must deal with in order to ensure that there is safe, contaminant-free water for everyone. To begin the project you must answer the following questions in order to develop an understanding of the impact of water in your community.

  • Go to the website directed by your teacher to locate information about the source of clean water in your community.

    1. What is the primary source of drinking water? (wells, rivers, surface water etc.).
    2. Is the supply of water a concern for the residents of your country? Explain.
    3. How significant is climate to the demand for water in your country? Explain.
    4. How significant is water to the economic development in your country?
    5. In a paragraph describe how arsenic contaminated the water supply and its impact on the lives of the people.
    6. How is this problem being resolved? Is there a solution that has been discovered?

  • From the information you have gathered you will create a postcard about your country.

    1. The front of the card should have one or more illustrations that represent some aspect of your country: culture, physical features, wildlife, festivals, customs, etc.
    2. On the back of your postcard you will write a note home, from the point of view of a Peace Corps volunteer, highlighting the issue of arsenic contamination of the water supply in the country you have been assigned. You must include at least three pieces of information addressed in the research questions.

  • Note to teacher: It is recommended that postcards be at least _ page in order to allow enough room for the information. Students may want to design their postcards on the computer to allow them to cut and paste images from their country.

Students will “send” postcards to students from other countries: Have a “card exchange” where students must exchange cards with students from at least six different countries. Students can verify that they have read other postcards by initialing the cards that they read. After the “card exchange” students will turn in their post cards for the assessment.

Embedded Assessment
Student postcards will be assessed for content, originality and creativity. The teacher may also want to assign points for the “card exchange”

PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

1996-2007, The University of Arizona
Last update: November 10, 2009
  Page Content: Rachel Hughes
Web Master: Travis Biazo