How Dangerous is DHMO?

Presented by: Cheryl Lederle-Ensign

Subject Area(s):

Grade Level(s):


First, students evaluate a very real-looking website on the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide as part of an assignment to take a position on whether or not dihydrogen monoxide should be banned as a dangerous substance. Subsequent comparison to other sources reveals dihydrogen monoxide as an obscure name for water. After a brief teacher-led discussion about what they’ve learned about evaluating websites, students assess additional websites to determine whether they’re legitimate or a hoax and present their findings to the class. The lesson takes 90-120 minutes of class time, depending on presentation options chosen. It may be completed in one block or divided as necessary.

Goals & Objectives:



American Association of School Librarians. Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning. Chicago: American Library Association, 1998.

Schrock, Kathy. “Guide for Educators.” Available: Accessed June 7, 2006.

Small, R.V. Designing Digital Literacy Programs with IM-PACT. New York: Neal-Schuman, 2005.

Small, R. V. and Marilyn P. Arnone. Turning Kids on to Research. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 2000.


Introduction (30 minutes)


(up to 60 minutes)

  1. (3 minutes) Tell students that there are ways to look for “clues” that a website is not offering factual information, and you’d like to use their experiences with to identify some of them, and that then they’re going to look at a new set of sites and try to determine which ones deliver genuine, if unusual, information, and which are a hoax.

  2. (20 minutes) Show PowerPoint presentation:  DHMOwebsitethoughts; if desired, after discussion of the slides, distribute a “slides” view handout to help them remember ways to avoid being “DUPED.”

  3. (10-30 minutes, depending on teacher options selected) Tell students that they are to prepare a brief evaluation of the credibility of a set of websites.  Direct students to the following, and allow time for them to evaluate the websites to determine their credibility.  (Teacher option:  if time is short, direct different pairs of students to only one of the sites, rather than all of them.)  Remind them to check for all the factors in the DUPED acronym presented in the PowerPoint as well as consider the evaluation questions used in the DHMO activity in determining the accuracy of the information presented.

For additional hoax sites, see Kathy Schrock’s excellent “Guide for Educators” ; for additional bizarre but accurate sites, review “Eccentric America” , particularly the Event Calendar  (Note that this is not an educators-reviewed site, and preview choices carefully; some will not be appropriate for school use.)

Conclusion (0-30 minutes):

Students may present their evaluation either orally (recommended) or in writing, or both. The time required will depend on options selected.  Written presentations prepared as homework will take very little class time, but oral presentations will generate valuable discussion.  Students may work individually or with others.  One option would be to have all students review all websites with a partner, and then “jigsaw” students together to compare notes and prepare an oral presentation evaluating one website.  Students as well as the teacher may assess the quality and thoroughness of the oral presentations.  



Tina Laramie

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