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Smithsonian Science for the Classroom™: How Can We Provide Freshwater to Those in Need? 1-Use Module

(in stock)


Grade 5. In 15 lessons spanning 20 class sessions, students explore the topic of water scarcity and the various ways humans have attempted to get water to where it is needed. In the first focus question, students will collect evidence and experiences on their water footprints and on how little accessible freshwater actually exists. The culminating activity in the first focus question asks students to create a water scarcity-based public service announcement for a region in distress. The second focus question asks students to solve a water pumping challenge, develop models based on the interaction of Earth's four spheres, and then design a solution to a water pollution problem. In focus question three, students use a digital game and a newspaper activity to see how humans have tried to solve the global and regional problems of getting freshwater to where it's needed. The unintended consequences of our solutions are a point of emphasis in this focus question. In the final focus question, students engage in a two-part summative assessment. The written summative assessment complements the performance-based summative assessment, and both focus on how key stakeholder groups must work together to design solutions to the water access, treatment, and allocation issues facing individuals and communities around Earth.

This module includes a teacher guide, 10 Student Activity Guides, 16 Smithsonian Science Stories student readers, and enough materials for 32 students to use 1 time.

Next Generation Science Standards*
Performance Expectations

  • 3-5-ETS1-1: Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
  • 3-5-ETS1-2: Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each solution is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • 3-5-ETS1-3: Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.
  • 5-ESS2-1: Develop a model using an example to describe ways the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and/or atmosphere interact.
  • 5-ESS2-2: Describe and graph the amounts and percentages of water and fresh water in various reservoirs to provide evidence about the distribution of water on Earth.
  • 5-ESS3-1: Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth's resources and environment.

Disciplinary Core Ideas
ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems

  • Possible solutions to a problem are limited by available materials and resources (constraints). The success of a designed solution is determined by considering the desired features of a solution (criteria). Different proposals for solutions can be compared on the basis of how well each one meets the specified criteria for success or how well each takes the constraints into account. (3-5-ETS1-1)

ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions

  • Research on a problem should be carried out before beginning to design a solution. Testing a solution involves investigating how well it performs under a range of likely conditions. (3-5-ETS1-2)
  • At whatever stage, communicating with peers about proposed solutions is an important part of the design process, and shared ideas can lead to improved designs. (3-5-ETS1-2)
  • Tests are often designed to identify failure points or difficulties, which suggest the elements of the design that need to be improved. (3-5-ETS1-3)

ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution

  • Different solutions need to be tested in order to determine which of them best solves the problem, given the criteria and the constraints. (3-5-ETS1-3)

ESS2.A: Earth Materials and Systems

  • Earth's major systems are the geosphere (solid and molten rock, soil, and sediments), the hydrosphere (water and ice), the atmosphere (air), and the biosphere (living things, including humans). These systems interact in multiple ways to affect Earth's surface materials and processes. The ocean supports a variety of ecosystems and organisms, shapes landforms, and influences climate. Winds and clouds in the atmosphere interact with the landforms to determine patterns of weather.

ESS2.C: The Roles of Water in Earth's Surface Processes

  • Nearly all of Earth's available water is in the ocean. Most freshwater is in glaciers or underground; only a tiny fraction is in streams, lakes, wetlands, and the atmosphere.

ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems

  • Human activities in agriculture, industry, and everyday life have major effects on land, vegetation, streams, oceans, air, and even outer space. But individuals and communities are doing things to help protect Earth's resources and environments.

Science and Engineering Practices

  • Defining problems
  • Developing and using models
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Constructing explanations
  • Designing solutions
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information


  • Using mathematics and computational thinking

Crosscutting Concepts

  • Cause and effect
  • Systems and system models
  • Scale, proportion, and quantity


  • Structure and function
  • Stability and change

Common Core State Standards
English Language Arts

Reading informational text

  • RI.5.6. Craft and structure
  • RI.5.10 Range of reading and level of text complexity

Speaking and listening

  • SL.5.1 Comprehension and collaboration
  • SL.5.1.A Comprehension and collaboration
  • SL.5.1.B Comprehension and collaboration
  • SL.5.1.C Comprehension and collaboration
  • SL.5.1.D Comprehension and collaboration
  • SL.5.4 Presentation of knowledge and ideas


  • W.5.2.B Text types and purposes
  • W.5.2.D Text types and purposes
  • W.5.5 Production and distribution of writing

Number and operations—Fractions

  • 5.NFB.6 Apply and extend previous understandings of multiplication and division

Lesson Summaries
Focus Question 1: Where does the water you need come from?
Lesson 1: H2GO

Accessing freshwater is a problem
Students define the problem of freshwater not being available where it is needed. Students design and test a system for moving water a short distance.
Lesson 2: Water Footprint
Human activities require freshwater
Students analyze and interpret data in order to construct explanations about how much water is required to produce different foods. Students learn how the food they eat, activities they participate in, and materials they use all affect their own water footprint.
Lesson 3: Our Water Picture
Freshwater is limited and not easily accessible
Students use a model to create a graph that shows how little freshwater is available compared to the large amount of water on Earth. Students define the problem of humans' need for freshwater and the limited amount of freshwater available.
Lesson 4: Water Scarcity Explored
Water scarcity is a global problem
Students analyze and interpret data showing the scale of the global water scarcity issue and communicate their findings in a public service announcement.
Focus Question 2: How have humans impacted the water we need?
Lesson 5: Water Pump

Identifying failure points informs how to improve a design
Students consider the structure and function of various tools in order to design a solution for pumping groundwater to the surface. Students communicate possible solutions to failure points encountered during system testing.
Lesson 6: The Global Water Connection
Humans impact Earth's four spheres
Students evaluate informational text in order to communicate information with peers about a particular sphere of the Earth. Students explain how one component of the Earth system is affected by or affects humans.
Lesson 7: Water Web
Earth's four spheres interact
Students develop a model by connecting the components of Earth's four spheres. Students use that model to make predictions about the effects of possible future events.
Lesson 8: Clean the Water—Design It
Human activities impact groundwater
Students develop a model to show how human activities interact with components of the earth system to cause groundwater pollution. Students design a solution to a water pollution problem.
Lesson 9: Clean the Water—Test It
Design solutions should be compared based on how well they meet the criteria
After testing water treatment systems, students analyze and interpret quantitative data in order to compare different design solutions. Students use evidence to construct an explanation about which solution best meets different criteria.
Focus Question 3: How have humans tried to solve the problem of getting freshwater to where it's needed?
Lesson 10: Aquation

Human activities impact water availability and distribution
Groups of students use a model simulation to define the problem and design a solution to the water scarcity and water equity problem using existing technologies.
Lesson 11: Unintended Consequences—Read All About It!
Human activities can have unintended consequences
Students obtain and evaluate information from two different perspectives on the cause and effects of the Aral Sea environmental crisis.
Lesson 12: Unintended Consequences—Write All About It!
Human activities can have unintended consequences
Groups of students evaluate and communicate information on the cause and effects of the Aral Sea environmental crisis by writing a newspaper article.
Focus Question 4: How can we provide freshwater to agriculture, industry, the environment, and housing in your town?
Lesson 13: Water Ready?

Earth's four spheres interact
Students prepare for a design challenge by developing and using models to show the interactions of groundwater with other components of the earth system. Students communicate a strategy to preserve water to a specific stakeholder.
Design Challenge
Lesson 14: Get It, Treat It, Share It Part 1

Communication with peers is an important part of the design process
Groups of students evaluate information about a specific town in order to design a solution for accessing and treating water that meets specified criteria and constraints. Students analyze and interpret data to figure out effects of design choices in previous testing.
Lesson 15: Get It, Treat It, Share It Part 2
Identifying failure point informs how to improve a design
Groups of students carry out a live system test and analyze and interpret their findings. Groups communicate failure points that affected the overall system and a possible solution to that failure point.

*Next Generation Science Standards® is a registered trademark of WestEd. Neither WestEd nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of this product, and do not endorse it.


What’s Included:
  • How Can We Provide Freshwater to Those in Need? Teacher Guide
  • 10 How Can We Provide Freshwater to Those in Need? Student Activity Guide
  • 16 Smithsonian Science Stories Literacy Series™: Water Works
  • 1 Digital Access to Teacher Guide and Student Literacy (for 32 students)
  • 3 Air Line Tubing, 25 ft
  • 16 Beaker, Graduated, Polypropylene, with Handle, 1,000 mL
  • 3 Card Sets, Design Challenge Town
  • 16 Card Sets, Water Footprint
  • 8 Card Sets, Water Web
  • 4 Card Sets, World Aquifer
  • 8 Cards, Nitrate Scale
  • 3 Cards, Water Contamination Station
  • 2 Charcoal, Activated Carbon, 500 g
  • 40 Coffee Filter, No. 1, Natural
  • 80 Coffee Filter, No. 4, White
  • 40 Connector, 4 to 6 mm
  • 120 Cup, Paper, 3 oz
  • 50 Cup, Plastic, 10 oz
  • 12 Cylinder, Graduated, Plastic, 100 mL
  • 18 Dice, Standard, 16 mm
  • 1 Fertilizer, All-Purpose, Water Soluble, 20-20-20, 8 oz
  • 1 Food Coloring, Assorted Colors, Set of 4
  • 1 Group Role Poster, 24 x 36"
  • 50 Nitrate and Nitrite Nitrogen Water Test Strip
  • 200 Nitrile Disposable Gloves, Small
  • 16 Pipette, Plastic
  • 1 Potting Mix, 1-L Bag
  • 1 Rubber Band, #8, 1/4 oz (about 24)
  • 60 Rubber Band, #16
  • 1 Safety Goggles, Large
  • 32 Safety Goggles, Vented
  • 5 Scoop, Plastic, Small
  • 15 Spoon, Measuring
  • 12 Stirring Rod, Plastic, 7 x 250 mm
  • 10 Stopcock, Nylon 3-Way
  • 8 Syringe, Hypodermic, Disposable, 60 cc
  • 1 Syringe, Titration, 1 cc
  • 10 Tape, Measuring, 150 cm/60"
Return Policy:

If for any reason you are not satisfied with this item, it is eligible for a return, exchange, refund, or credit up to 180 days from date of purchase. Restrictions may apply. Returns & Exchanges Policy.