As an environmental and sustainability educator, talking about water wasn’t something new to me, generally I would be connecting learners to local waterways and discussing the water cycle that we all learn in elementary school (evaporation, condensation, precipitation, etc.). Then I started working at a water utility with the goal of making the constructed water system accessible to young learners. It’s a fascinating world made up of a network of treatment facilities, pipes and pumps, and countless professionals that help these systems run 24/7/365 so that many of us never have to think about water or where it comes from.
On October 21, Americans are asked to “Imagine a Day Without Water” and think about the value of water in their life.
While water falls from the sky and flows to waterways freely, someone has to process it, send it to and from your house, treat it after use and then return it back to waterways so it can continue to move around the environment. Even if your home has a well and septic system you wouldn’t be able to access your water without the help of water professionals.
Tracking daily water use is a great way to help young learners connect with their own water use and start to think about how water gets from the sky to their home. Read below to see how you can easily do this activity at home.
Tracking Daily Water Use
- At the start of the day ask your child to list the ways they use water during the day. Examples of water use may include: going to the bathroom, washing hands, drinking water, watering plants, water for animals, water to cook, washing dishes and clothes, taking a bath or a shower, brushing teeth, etc. Have your child write the list or draw pictures.
- For the rest of the day, have your child track how many times they do each item on the list, make sure to add any new uses of water that weren’t thought of at first. This can also be extended to the entire family with everyone tracking their usage and then combining their information.
- Tracking can be done by creating a tally sheet or using beads or coins and having children place drops (coins, beads, pompoms, etc.) in “water use” cups that are labeled with the name of each use or a picture of each use. You can also make a graph.
- At the end of the day tally up the water use for each category. What activities were done the most often? Ask your child to think about what activities may use the most water every day. Older students may find it interesting to put their water usage into this chart https://water.usgs.gov/edu/activity-percapita.html to see how much water they used in the day.
Extend Your Learning
- Depending on the age of your child, talk about the fact that your family pays a water bill to the company that sends the water to your house and makes sure that the water is safe to drink. They also take care of the stuff sent down the toilet and sink/tub drains. If you have a well and septic system share with your child where the water comes from and where it goes.
- If you have a student that is very interested in science and technology, you can research your local water utility and their treatment processes or learn more about how wells and septic systems work.
- Depending on your home set-up and age of your child, go on a hunt for water moving around your house – think main shut off valve, hot water heater (many children don’t realize that water comes into the house at one temperature and that there’s something in the house that makes it hot), drains under sink, pipes behind toilet, outside spigots, etc.
- Read books about water:
Magic School Bus – At the Waterworks explains the processes and you can listen and watch it being read here- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svz_VQLo_TU
You can buy the book here:
You can find more resources for at-home learners here.
About Nicole – I’ve spent the last 20 years teaching audiences of all ages about the environment and sustainability and how their actions can impact the environment. I got my start in environmental education on a whim working for a zoo in college. I had no idea that a college job would lead to me joining the Peace Corps, leading nature camps for a nature center, developing education programs for an international development agency, working at a university and now leading environmental education programs for a water utility. While the venue may have changed, the message is always the same, “Our actions impact not just ourselves but our community (which includes nature) and the entire world”. I’m a firm believer that experiences in nature help children not only learn critical thinking skills, but also gain confidence. While I have no children of my own I’m the cool aunt to 3 amazing kids that love to explore outside.
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