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Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

"Mock Muck" Mini-Unit

Lesson Description:
  • The “Mock Muck” activity will simulate the water treatment and purification process. The purpose of the activity is to purify a sample of foul water, producing as much “clean” water as possible. The three major techniques used should be oil-water separation, sand filtration and charcoal absorption/filtration. Students will compete in groups to produce the cleanest sample of water at the end of a pre-determined time period such as 30-45 minutes.

  • Students will develop strategies to create the most effective filtration/treatment system with materials provided. The winning group will produce both the greatest amount of water (retained water from the original sample) as well as the cleanest sample of treated water. Students will write a detailed procedure of how each group plans to purify their water sample. Students will complete the “Mock Muck” data worksheet. 

Lesson Type:
  • Experiment
  • Project

Sustainability Topic:
  • Water

GEF Program Category:
  • Sustainable Water Challenge

Standards Addressed:
English/Language Arts National Standards:

  • Reading for perspective: students read a wide range of print and non-print documents to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the united states and the world.

  • Evaluation strategies: students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts.

  • Communication skills: students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.

  • Communication strategies: students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

  • Applying knowledge: students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions, media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and non-print texts.

  • Evaluating data: students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.

  • Developing research skills: students use a variety of technological and information resources to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

  • Applying language skills: students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Science National Standards:

  • Science as Inquiry: Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry/ understanding about scientific inquiry

  • Life Science: Populations and ecosystems/ diversity and adaptations of organisms/ interdependence of organisms

  • Science and Technology: Abilities of technological design/ understandings about science and technology

  • Science in Personal and Social Perspectives: Personal health/populations, resources, and environments/risks and benefits

Geography National Standards:

  • The world in spatial terms: understand how to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information from a spatial perspective.

  • Places and regions: understand the physical and human characteristics of places/ understand that people create regions to interpret earth’s complexity/ understand how culture and experience influence people’s perceptions of places and regions.

  • Physical systems: understand the physical processes that shape the patterns of earth’s surface/understand the characteristics and spatial distribution of ecosystems on earth’s surface.

  • Human systems: understand the characteristics, distribution, and migration of human populations on earth’s surface/ understand the characteristics, distribution, and complexity of earth’s cultural mosaics/ understand the patterns and networks of economic interdependence on earth’s surface/ understand the processes, patterns, and functions of human settlement/ understand how the forces of cooperation and conflict among people influence the division and control of earth’s surface.

  • Environment and Society: 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.

  • Uses of geography: understand how to apply geography to interpret the present and plan for the future.

Civics National Standards:
  • Civic Life, Politics, and Government: What is government? Why are government and politics necessary? What purposes should government serve?

  • Other Nations and World Affairs: What is the relationship of the united states to other nations and to world affairs?/ How is the world organized politically?/ How has the united states influenced other nations and how have other nations influenced american politics and society?

  • Roles of the Citizen: What are the responsibilities of citizens?/ How can citizens take part in civic life?

  • Era 1: The beginnings of human society

  • Era 2: Early civilizations and the emergence of pastoral people

Technology National Standards:

  • Basic Technology Operations and Concepts: Students demonstrate a sound understanding of the nature and operation of technology systems/ students are proficient in the use of technology.

  • Social, Ethical, and Human Issues: Students understand the ethical, cultural, and societal issues related to technology/ Students practice responsible use of technology systems, information, and software/Students develop positive attitudes toward technology uses that support lifelong learning, collaboration, personal pursuits, and productivity

  • Technology Productivity Tools: Students use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity/ Students use productivity tools to collaborate in constructing technology-enhanced models, prepare publications, and produce other creative works.

  • Technology Communications Tools: Students use telecommunications to collaborate, publish, and interact with peers, experts, and other audiences/ students use a variety of media and formats to communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences.

  • Technology Research Tools: Students use technology to locate, evaluate and collect information from a variety of sources/ Students use technology tools to process data and report results/ students evaluate and select new information resources and technological innovations based on the appropriateness for specific tasks.

Economics National Standards:


  • Productive Resources: Scarcity


  • Allocating goods and services: comparing the benefits and costs of different allocation methods in order to choose the method that is most appropriate for some specific problem can result in more effective allocations and a more effective overall allocation system.


  • Positive and Negative Incentives: Acting as consumers, producers, workers, savers, investors, and citizens, people respond to incentives in order to allocate their scarce resources in ways that provide the highest possible returns to them. Responses to incentives are predictable because people usually pursue their self-interest/ changes in incentives cause people to change their behavior in predictable ways/ incentives can be monetary or non-monetary.


  • Gain from Trade: A nation pays for its imports with is exports/when imports are restricted by public policies, Consumers pay higher prices and job opportunities and profits in exporting firms decrease.

Materials Needed:
Students will collect a mock sample of polluted/untreated/waste water from the instructor. Instructors will mix a large enough sample to provide each student group with 3 cups of the “mock muck” sample.

Suggested Items Include:
Cooking oil
Tuna fish water
Chocolate milk (preferably sour)
Coffee grounds
Soy sauce
Tomato sauce, etc.


School or Group:
Contact Email:
Located in: Language Arts

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