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Water: To The Last DropWater-To-The-Last-Drop

  • Subject:
  • |
  • Grade(s): 6-8
  • |
  • Duration: Two class periods

Lesson Plan Sections


Students will understand the following:
1. Water has played an essential role in our history.


For this lesson, you will need:
Research materials on water, water pollution and conservation, and bodies of water (rivers, lakes, and oceans)
Computer with Internet access


1. Introduce to your class the notion that water has played an important role in U.S. history. Then ask them to interpret what your statement means.
2. In continued discussion, bring out that water is so important to a nation's success and survival that it can influence a country's history in a wide variety of ways. Invite your students to brainstorm a list of some of these ways. The list might include the following: explorations by early explorers such as de Soto, la Salle, and Balboa; the search for the Northwest Passage; the western movement in U.S. history; the Civil War; floods and droughts; recent controversies concerning desalination and irrigation in southern California and around Las Vegas; and the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound off the coast of Alaska.
3. Select a few of the events on the list and discuss with the class the role played by water or a body of water in each one.
4. Divide your class into groups, and have each group select an event from the list to research.
5. When students have completed their research, have each group create a mock newscast about its event. Encourage students to include important information, answering the questions What? Who? When? Where? Why? and How? They should include statistics, vivid descriptions of scenes, and possibly "live interviews" in their newscasts.
6. Have each group present its newscast to the class.

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Have each group prepare a written report instead of a mock newscast. Reports should be appropriately documented.

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Discussion Questions

1. Within an ecosystem, all living things depend not only on water, but on each other as well. Give examples of this interdependence between water, plants, and animals. Describe the consequences if the water in an ecosystem were either contaminated or in short supply.
2. Imagine you are a mayor in a city where there is a shortage of clean water. Logging is one of the largest local industries, providing resources and jobs for many people in your community. But many residents believe the logging is destroying the area's watershed. How would you solve the problem? You want to provide water for your city, but you also want to get reelected by a constituency dependent on the logging industry.
3. One way humans try to control the Earth's water is to build dams. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of building dams. How do dams help a community? Does a dam help all the surrounding communities? What threats do dams pose to local habitats? Do the benefits outweigh the drawbacks?
4. Water is essential for life. Discuss the different ways that humans depend on water every day. Consider the effects on a community if its water becomes contaminated.
5. In the Middle East, a new greenhouse has been created that allows plants to grow at rapid rates, yet requires only a fraction of the water needed to irrigate open fields. Predict how this technological advance might change life for people in this region.
6. Two thousand years ago, the Chinese sage Lao Tsu wrote: "Water is the highest good. The gentlest thing, it overcomes the hardest. It does not discriminate, but nourishes all things." Defend this statement using what you know about water's influence on people, animals, plants, and the surrounding environment.

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You can evaluate groups on their mock newscasts using the following three-point rubric:
Three points: answers the questions What? Who? When? Where? Why? and How? ; includes statistics and vivid descriptions; very well organized; very well presented
Two points: answers most of the questions What? Who? When? Where? Why? and How? ; includes some statistics and vivid descriptions; fairly well organized; fairly well presented
One point: answers only a few of the questions What? Who? When? Where? Why? and How? ; fails to include statistics; descriptions vague; poorly organized; unsatisfactory presentation
You can ask your students to contribute to the assessment rubric by determining criteria for a rating of "very well presented."

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A Way of Life Changed Forever
Huron, in eastern Turkey, is believed to be the longest continuously inhabited place on the Earth. Over the centuries, life has changed little in this small village. Its residents have always relied on scattered and unpredictable rainfall to survive, but now a massive dam is being constructed to harness the Euphrates River. The dam will send waters to irrigate the plains of Huron, turning a dry region into a fertile farmland. Have your students speculate about what life will be like for the residents of Huron in 50 years. Ask them to write dialogues that take place in 2050 between a young girl and her great grandmother in which the two discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the changes that have taken place in Huron.

Water: Our Number One Concern?
How does water rank with other environmental concerns? Lead a class discussion about various environmental problems—not only water pollution but also endangered species, air pollution, vanishing natural resources, and trash disposal. Discuss the short-term and long-term implications of each problem and the ways the problems affect one another. After the discussion, divide students into groups, and hold a multisided debate about which environmental issue should be America's primary concern as it enters the 21st century. Each group should have equal time to present its case. When the debate is over, lead a class discussion about the various positions taken in the debate, and attempt to reach a class consensus about how America should move forward.

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Suggested Readings

Fresh Water
E.C. Pielou. University of Chicago Press, 1998.
In her thoughtful, readable survey of the science of water, Pielou introduces readers to such basic concepts as the water cycle, in which rainwater becomes groundwater and eventually returns to the sky from whence it came. She also examines the economics of water surpluses and deficits in the natural world and studies the formation and behavior of rivers and lakes.

The Diversity of Life
Edward O. Wilson. W.W. Norton & Company, 1999.
Harvard Professor and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Edward Wilson takes readers on a journey through time, tracing the processes that create new species and the five cataclysmic events that have disrupted evolution over the past 600 million years. He also explains how humans are destroying diversity at a projected rate of 20 percent over the next 30 years. Wilson's book is essential reading for those who care about preserving the world's biological variety and ensuring our planet's health.

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Kids in the Creek
Filled with resources and curriculum ideas,this user friendly site is well organized for teachers and students.

Give Water a Hand
Developed at the University of Wisconsin to educate students on controlling water pollution, the site provides information for guidelines for students and teachers.

Blue Thumb Project
A site maintained by the American Water Works Association that is filled with interesting facts about drinking water.

Water Science for Kids
The U.S. Geological Survey maintains an educational site on water that includes water basics, uses, activities, surveys and questionnaires for teachers and students

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Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    aquifer
Definition: A water-bearing bed of permeable rock, sand, or gravel capable of yielding considerable quantities of water.
Context: Beneath our feet, water permeates rock and gravel, forming aquifers.

speaker    contaminate
Definition: To render unfit for use by the introduction of unwholesome or undesirable elements.
Context: Chemicals in soil can contaminate nearby waters.

speaker    evaporate
Definition: To dissipate as a visible cloud or in particles that are too minute to be visible.
Context: In the water cycle, water evaporates, forms clouds, rains, and evaporates again.

speaker    irrigate
Definition: To supply with water by artificial means.
Context: Water from the river was used to irrigate nearby fields.

speaker    percolate
Definition: To cause a liquid to pass through a permeable substance.
Context: As water percolates through the soil and cracks in rocks, it picks up mineral matter.

speaker    radiation
Definition: Energy emitted in the form of waves or particles.
Context: The greenhouse uses a special dye that shades out heat but allows in the radiation plants need.

speaker    reservoir
Definition: A place where something is kept in store.
Context: To create the reservoirs, precious valley bottoms were flooded, drowning farm and forest.

speaker    toxin
Definition: Any of various poisonous substances that are specific products of the metabolic activities of living organisms.
Context: High levels of toxins present in the eels brought the fishery to a near standstill.

speaker    wetland
Definition: Land containing much soil moisture.
Context: Wetlands sustain life and purify water that moves through them.

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This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: science
Understands basic features of the Earth.
Knows the processes involved in the water cycle (e.g., evaporation, condensation, precipitation, surface runoff, percolation) and their effects on climatic patterns.

Grade level: 6-8, 9-12
Subject area: science
Understands how species depend on one another and on the environment for survival.
Benchmark 6-8:
Knows ways in which species interact and depend on one another in an ecosystem (e.g., producer/consumer, predator/prey, parasite/host, relationships that are mutually beneficial or competitive).

Benchmark 6-8:
Knows factors that affect the number and types of organisms an ecosystem can support (e.g., available resources; abiotic factors such as quantity of light and water, range of temperatures, and soil composition; disease; competition from other organisms within the ecosystem; predation).

Benchmark 9-12:
Knows ways in which humans can modify ecosystems and cause irreversible effects (e.g., human population growth, technology, and consumption; human destruction of habitats through direct harvesting, pollution, and atmospheric changes).

Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: world history
Understands the search for community, stability, and peace in an interdependent world.
Understands the importance or meaning of the natural environment for societies around the world.

Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: economics
Understands that scarcity of productive resources requires choices that generate opportunity costs.
Understands that scarcity of resources necessitates choice at both the personal and the societal levels.

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: behavioral studies
Understands conflict, cooperation, and interdependence among individuals, groups, and institutions.
Benchmark 1:
Understands that conflict between people or groups may arise from competition over ideas, resources, power, or status.

Benchmark 2:
Understands that the decisions of one generation both provide and limit the range of possibilities open to the next generation.

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Joy Brewster, educational writer and consultant for K-12 magazines.

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