Global Learning London

Water – Teacher Ideas

Activities: lesson plans, schemes of work and projects

Using Water Aid Case Studies
In groups or as a class, record answers to the following questions (you could make this more active by having flip chart sheets around the room that pupils can go and write their answers on):

  • What have you done so far today – before you got to school?
  • What things did you do that used water?
  • Where did that water come from?
  • Was the water clean and safe?  How did you know?
  • What else do you do that uses water?
  • What else do we use water for in this country?

There are case studies on the WaterAid website, which look at different global water-related issues (lack of clean water, sanitation, drainage, distance to water, drought, irrigation, etc) from different ages of pupils. Choose the age range that the pupils will most closely relate to – see

Either choose one picture of a child for the whole class to work on or split into groups, giving each group a different picture.  Discuss the following questions and then feedback together.

You could print the pictures and write questions and answers around the edge, or project onto a whiteboard and write up on there instead.

  • What is the picture of?
  • What are the people in the picture doing?
  • Where in the world do you think they are?
  • If you met the person in the picture, what would you ask them?

What – no watering? 

Ask learners to work in small teams to design a drought-resistant garden.  They will need to research in the library or on-line to find out which plants do not need to be watered in order to survive and plants that are drought-resistant.  Additionally, they could arrange to interview a good gardener they know, increasing inter-generational learning opportunities. The resulting gardens could be judged by a member of your school community (eg allotment keeper, Council Parks department).

Feedback their ideas to the group.

Either allow the pupils to read the ‘real story’ of the person in their picture on-line or provide them with a printed copy of their case study.

Discuss how their lives are different and similar (in a different colour, they could re-annotate their photograph with the ‘real facts’).

Encourage the pupils to think about:

  • How important water is to all of us.
  • Any similarities between lifestyles.
  • How they would feel if they were the child in the picture.
  • Is the distribution of clean water ‘fair’?
  • Water-wise, what health impacts are there for us (eg if we don’t drink enough, if our water is ‘cut off’, if we have a hose-pipe ban, if our toilet breaks)?
  • What health impacts are there for people in some of the countries studied (eg drought, crop failure, diseases in the water, lack of sanitation, etc)?

Filtering dirty water
Ask learners if they think muddy water can be turned back into clean water. Explain that filtration is a vital step in the treatment of the water to make it safe to drink. Drinking dirty water can make us very ill. Some people in the world do not have access to clean drinking water.

For the experiment you will need: a sample of muddy water in a jug (note: children should be told not to drink the water sample); a funnel or large clear plastic bottle with the top cut off to make a funnel, a beaker, fine sand, clean gravel and clean small stones or wire mesh. Firstly, put a large stone or a piece of wire mesh over the hole of the funnel/bottle. This will hold the filter materials in place while still allowing water to drip through. Next add a layer of fine sand, then a layer of gravel and finally layer of small stones. This forms the filter. Place the funnel over a beaker and slowly pour some of the muddy water in to it. Ask the class to observe the muddy water passing through the filter you have created from of the stones, gravel and sand.

Compare the water which has run through the filter and collected in the beaker with the muddy water that is still left in the jug. How well does this filter work? How clean was this water? What do you think has happened to the mud in the water? Explain to the learners that this experiment replicates, in a very simple form, one of the stages of water treatment.

Inform learners that, although the water that has been filtered may be cleaner than the muddy water in the jug, it is still not yet fit to drink: there are a number of other processes that it would need to go through first. This could be demonstrated by filling a third beaker with water from the tap and by placing the muddy water, filtered water and tap water side by side. Which water does the class think is the safest to drink?

The children could draw a diagram of the experiment and write about what they saw happening to the dirty water as it passed through the filter. Why do children think it is important for us to drink clean water? What could happen if we drink dirty water?

Water themed performance poetry

Children can get quite excited about performing raps and poetry.  Provide some stimulus material such as photos, cartoons, artefacts, listening to the sounds of water or water machinery, or rain.  If you have been using a Water themed photo pack, video clip or similar, encourage the pupils to do a ‘sensory tour’ first – jot down ideas relating to the place they have been studying, in terms of what they could:

  • Smell
  • Touch
  • Taste
  • Hear
  • See

Encourage them to incorporate their feelings – which things do they like, dislike, agree or disagree with, etc.  Start to put together simple lines, rhymes and words.  A good basis may be a comparison between two countries.  Performance poetry could include a percussion accompaniment using hose pipes, buckets and other water accessories as well as using their own voices to make water noises, repeat words in different styles, etc.  It’s quite nice if you get them to shout out words and jot them down on a flipchart for them to refer to.  Sometimes it’s best if you don’t allow them to write down and remind them the important aspect is the ‘performance’, this keeps it accessible for all.

Drama – ‘Freeze framing’

Ask learners to work together to set up a group as if for a photograph (in groups of around 5 or 6).  The children can discuss roles, situation, expression, action, etc and, at the required point, are asked to hold their freeze frame for 5 seconds.  Suggested ‘frames’ for demonstrating water:

  • At the swimming baths
  • In the kitchen
  • At the waterhole/ river/ well
  • Paying to use someone else’s tap water.

This can be supplemented for extra detail and understanding with stimuli, such as artefacts, written records, photographs from a pack, video clips, pictures, etc.  Each group can demonstrate their freeze frame to the others and develop the complexity as they continue.  As a final stage, ask learners to talk in their group about what is fair and unfair about the situation depicted in their freeze-frame.