Earth Day 2011:
Our Water Footprint
Marieke van Woerkom
the classroom lesson below (timed to coincide with Earth Month
in April), students will develop what author and psychologist
Daniel Goleman calls their "green intelligence" by considering
their water footprint.
author of Emotional Intelligence and keynote speaker at
Morningside Center's 2010 Courageous Schools conference, believes
that environmental awareness and action are the next frontier
in the field of social and emotional learning. See his article
on the Yale Environment 360 website at: http://e360.yale.edu/content/feature.msp?id=2190.
discuss the kinds of water they come across on a regular basis
the idea of life force
their own water footprint through an interactive read aloud
and Emotional Skills:
agenda on chart paper or on the board
own drawing of a foot on chart paper or the board
Ask students to talk in pairs about water. What kinds of water
do they come across on a regular basis?
in the full group, ask volunteers to share what they discussed.
Chart the kinds of water students mention, making sure to include
drinking water, water for washing and flushing, oceans, lakes
and rivers, and precipitation such as rain, hail, snow or fog.
and objectives (10 minutes)
Tell students that today, as part of Earth Month, we'll be looking
at the use of water. Water is considered a life force.
students what they think the words "life force" mean.
do they think water is considered a life force?
and explain that we all need water to survive. Water not only
covers 70% of the earth's surface, it makes up 70% of the adult
human body. When looking at a globe or map of the world, the blue
parts represent the water. Imagine if we could see water in the
human body, what that might look like. Point out that if we drew
a map of the human body in which water was shown as blue, then
most of the body would be colored blue, just like our planet.
students about the ways we need water. Discuss the importance
of drinking water on a daily basis. By drinking water our bodies
are able to digest food and flush out dirt (waste). Water also
allows our bodies to control our temperature. Each day we must
replace 2.4 liters (over half a gallon) of fluid--either through
drinking liquid and eating foods that have lots of water in them
- like fruits and vegetables.
Water Footprint (15
Ask students to consider and discuss the following question: What
causes us to create a footprint when we walk in the mud or in
about how our actual footprint is caused by putting pressure on
a surface. We are creating an impact by our presence.
footprint we'll be dealing with today is called our water footprint.
It's similar to the kind of footprint we make in the sand--only
it's an impact we're having on the planet and our environment
(not just on the sand) when we use water. Our "water footprint"
describes the impact our water use is having on our planet's water
and elicit that each of us uses lots of water for drinking, cooking
and washing. Often we're taking clean water (to use, say, in washing
dishes), and then flushing it out as dirty or polluted water.
waste and pollute enormous amounts of water every day. The long-term
effects of such behavior are dramatic. In some parts of the US,
rivers are actually running dry. In many countries around the
world, the shortage of clean water is a life or death issue. Around
1 billion people have no access to a clean source of drinking
water and about 2.6 billion people half the developing
world lack basic sanitation (which causes diseases to spread).
Americans contribute to this problem because many of the goods
we buy come from other parts of the world where water is scarce.
And it takes a lot of water to produce almost anything.
that water is used in producing many things we use (or consume)
like paper, cotton clothes, and meat.
are some examples for your students to consider:
takes 1,914 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef
It takes 574 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of pork
It takes 588 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of chicken
It takes 634 gallons of water to produce 1 hamburger
takes 359 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of rice
It takes 162 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of wheat
It takes 108 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of corn
takes 3 gallons of water to produce 1 slice of wheat bread
takes 8 gallons of water to produce 1 cup of tea
It takes 13 gallons of water to produce 1 orange
It takes 19 gallons of water to produce 1 orange
takes 179 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of cane sugar
It takes 158 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of cheese
It takes 1,015 gallons of water to produce 1 gallon of milk
It takes 53 gallons of water to produce 1 egg
takes 713 gallons of water to produce 1 cotton shirt
It takes 3 gallons of water to produce 1 sheet of paper
the water footprint network website at: http://www.waterfootprint.org/
Jen's Water Usage (15
following activity will allow students to see more clearly how
our daily actions and choices affect how big and deep our personal
water footprint is.
that you will be reading a story about a girl called Jen (pick
another name if you have a Jen in your classroom). Jen is a student
around the age of your students. In the story we will follow Jen
for the day. Ask your students to pay attention to what Jen does
that increases her (and her community's) water footprint. Every
time students hear something in the story that increases her or
her community's footprint ask your students to raise their hands.
might visually illustrate this activity by drawing the outline
of a footprint on a sheet of paper. Post the footprint and every
time the students raise their hands, get a volunteer to color
in part of the footprint with a blue marker so that by the end
of the story, the footprint is all blue.
wakes up. She rubs her eyes and rolls out of bed. She goes to
the toilet, which she flushes before going into the bathroom to
brush her teeth. While brushing she leaves the tap running. Next
she hops in the shower, washes herself and continues to enjoy
the flow of the warm water for a while longer till her brother
starts banging on the bathroom door, letting her know it's been
15 minutes. It's time for him to take a shower. She gets out and
dries herself off with a cotton towel, which she throws into the
hamper after having used it only once.
returns to the bedroom where she picks a new outfit to wear to
school today. She walks down the stairs into the kitchen where
she has cereal and milk for breakfast, with her mom and brother.
The family puts their dishes in the sink and mom turns on the
tap as she hurries Jen and her brother to get ready, grabbing
their bookbags and getting their coats on. Jen grabs her lunch
of baloney sandwiches, some bottled water and she and her brother
rush out the door to catch the school bus.
teacher greets her students and gives them a writing assignment.
Jen makes a mistake. So she tears the page out of her notebook,
crumples it and starts again. She does this several times before
finally getting it right. On her way to lunch Jen goes into the
girl's bathroom where she notices a leaking faucet as she washes
her hands. She ignores it and heads to lunch where she hangs out
with her friends. The school lunch today is beef patties and rice
-- not a student favorite. Most of it ends up in the garbage as
students make their way to the playground.
afternoon's science assignment is printed on handouts - one for
every student. Having completed the experiment a student comes
by with the garbage can so everyone can toss the handouts now
that they're done.
returning home, Jen and her brother have a snack and a bottle
of water from the fridge. Mom sends them to play in the yard.
It's hot, so they splash each other with the garden hose until
it's time to go inside and have dinner. They put their wet clothes
in the hamper, put on clean clothes and join mom for dinner--pasta
with a meatball sauce. Afterwards Jen and her brother do the dishes,
keeping the tap running all the while. After doing homework and
watching some TV, Jen goes upstairs. She tosses her clothes in
the hamper, puts on clean pajamas, washes her face and brushes
her teeth (while keeping the tap running) and says goodnight to
mom before crawling into bed and switching the light off to go
you've read the story, ask your students to look at Jen's water
footprint. Consider asking some or all of the following questions:
What are your thoughts about Jen's use of water?
could Jen have saved (or helped others save) water?
- What does Jen's story
make you think about your own water use?
a few volunteers to share one thing they might do differently
as a result of today's lesson.
For homework ask students to keep track of their own water footprint
by keeping a journal detailing their water use. In the next class,
conduct a discussion about what students learned and how they
might reduce their consumption of water..
lesson was written for TeachableMoment by Marieke van Woerkom,
a trainer and global facilitator who works as a staff developer
for Morningside Center. See her website at: http://vanwoerkomprojects.com.
welcome your comments. Please email them to Marieke at: email@example.com,or
to Morningside Center at: firstname.lastname@example.org.