Preparation will require a one-time investment of about 2–3 hours.
This is an interactive role-playing game, in which participants make decisions that affect the Delaware River ecosystem. It focuses on the interplay between water quality, human activities, ecological balance, and aesthetics. A bucket of water represents the river. Participants assume roles and make choices for actions appropriate to that role. The water becomes polluted as the game progresses. Participants make and respond to decisions to pollute or protect the river.
Sixteen sample roles are provided with this lesson. Some roles are more appropriate for adult audiences since they involve more complex choices and greater reading skills. Select appropriate roles based on the age and experience of group members and your geographic region of the state.
1. Place the container of water in the center of the group. Stand the fish on the bottom. Place the containers of colored water and eye droppers near the bucket, but hold onto the other props until that particular role is read.
2. With players sitting where they can see the map of the river, discuss what the players know about the river. What connections do they have with it ? Point out where towns, roads, or other features are. Discuss: What is a watershed? How might the river have changed over time? Who owns the river?
3. Distribute the role cards and have players find a new seat near their “home” along the river map. Describe role playing and encourage participants to act as they think the person described on their card would act. Begin playing at the headwaters and work downstream.
4. As each player’s turn comes, have her/him read out the role and describe what choice s/he has made, if a choice is indicated. Each player should perform some action that will affect the quality of the river water—it might make it worse, improve it, or allow it to remain the same. As they perform their action, ask them to explain their decision.
5. Discuss decisions as you play. Balance economic considerations against idealism. If no one opts to pollute, ask how realistic that situation is. Compare the multi-million dollar decisions participants may not feel they can influence with what they can do as individuals to reduce or prevent pollution. Discuss how they really can have an impact on corporate decisions through letter writing, campaigns, boycotts, etc.
6. Review that the container is a simple model of the river. In reality, water is constantly moving through the system, via precipitation, runoff, evaporation, and human use. Pollution may be diluted, deposited, or eventually flushed into the Delaware Bay between Delaware and New Jersey. The water is used and reused many times on its journey to the sea. Remind players that water in the river is a limited resource an d that everybody lives downstream of someone else.
7. As you finish the activity, discuss how each person in the watershed can make a difference in the quality of the Delaware River ecosystem. Ask what changes the players could make to improve water quality and habitat. What would they be willing to “give up” to protect the river? What did they learn about how to begin protecting the river? Discuss lifestyle changes/choices.
1 = slightly dry year, add 1 cup
2 = normal year, add 2 cups
3 = slightly wet year, add 3 cups
4 = drought year, add no water
5 = second drought year in a row, remove 1 cup
6 = very wet year, add 6 cups
Unit 6, Lesson 1.: The Delaware River game.
Go Back to:
Unit 5, Lesson 1: What is a watershed?