|Environmental Education in the Schools (Peace Corps, 1993)|
|Activities, activities and more activities|
"And how did the water get into the pond?" queried the trail guide
"Rain filled up the pond," chorused the class.
Farther down the trail, she asked, "Where will the water in this stream go if we follow it far enough?"
"To the ocean," they responded.
"Where does our drinking water come from-the water you use for brushing your teeth and washing your hands?"
"The underground river?" a brave soul hesitantly replied. Most elementary children have some understanding of the water cycle. They know that rain falls on the mountains and flows through rivers to the ocean, where it evaporates and is blown back to the rain cloud. Rather they know as much as that standard picture tells them. Few students, however, are able to put themselves into the picture. They see tap water appear and disappear, but not, in their minds, as a part of the same cycle.
THIS WATER'S BEEN DRUNK BEFORE
When the children finally learn of the inseparability of the single aquatic system, they wonder in amazement if the water they drink might have been splashed about by a dinosaur. And when they realize that their drinking water might have been drunk before, they squirm in disbelief until someone declares he'll never drink again. Such responses indicate they've misunderstood the very basic notion of cycling water-all water. Although the queasy groans and giggles might be a normal initial response, students should move beyond this reaction toward an understanding of the human part of the water cycle.
To achieve this goal, our standard description of the water cycle should not neglect people and our use of water. Students need that background information to understand the basics of water shortages, water pollution, and water conservation.
A DRAMATIC CYCLE
This skit introduces children to their role in the water cycle. It begins with the action most familiar to children. "I am a person who turns on the faucet and gets a drink." Each child then plays a role proceeding backward through the cycle, from pipes to a pump and a water purification plant (for the city cycle), on to a river or the ground water, and eventually to rain, clouds, and the sun. At this point, children often believe they are finished and need to be reminded that this does not yet form a cycle. Up to the front of the room come three more students to play the roles of toilet, sewer pipe, and waste water treatment plant. As each person is added to the line, the chant (see cards, following pages) begins again, reinforcing the cycle.
The skit physically involves students as well; when the classroom is full of a living water cycle, you can form circles of cycling water with different groups of children. The waste water treatment plant can release water to the river, or evaporate some, with the sun's help, to the clouds.
Communities that have both a municipal water supply and individual wells have the added opportunity to compare both cycles. Ground water becomes the focal point of a water source for a well and a repository for waste water from the septic tank.
"If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in
WHAT'S MY LINE?
To produce the skit, choose the most appropriate sequence of statements for your area and make a card for each one. Most cards will have two statements, the first to be read only once, when the child enters the cycle. The second statement is read for each turn after that. The statements can be written on one side of the card, with the name of the element (pipe, rain, and so on) written in large letters on the other so the students in the audience can see a cycle forming.
The final sequence in the country cycle, for example, would go as follows:
I am the sun that evaporates the water/that hangs in the cloud/till it falls as rain to the ground where it/recharges the ground water and moves slowly toward a well/where it is pumped from the ground and/carried through the house/and I turn on the faucet and get a drink!
Adding on the rest of the cycle, the children will continue:
Then the water is flushed down the toilet...and carried by sewer pipes
...and into a septic tank where micro-organisms decompose many of the waste products and return the water to the ground.
The septic tank person could join hands with the ground water person to make a physical circle in the room. Ask students to ponder exceptions and deviations from this cycle. What happens when you water house plants with well water? What if you fill up a small swimming pool? If you pour a toxic chemical down the drain, where does it go? Where in relation to your septic tank should a well be located? When the ground water becomes polluted, how is it cleaned?
Many of the statements for a typical municipal water cycle are the same as the country cycle. Of course, cards may be added or altered to be more accurate for your own community. Some communities pump drinking water directly from rivers (Ann Arbor, Michigan; Washington D.C.; and Wheeling, West Virginia) or from lakes (Appleton, Wisconsin and Chicago, Illinois) rather than from ground water. The river and lake cards can be substituted into the cycle and the neighboring cards altered slightly to accommodate them.
And the results? Amid the smiles, giggles, grins, and squeals, students remember their water cycle. The repetitive cadence serves as a drill for the message and lays a foundation for an awareness of our water use. Students begin to see themselves in the water cycle, and that is a healthier place to be than outside of it.