Celebrating Our Connections Through Water
In this unit, students will reflect on the role of water in ceremonies and celebrations around the world. Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) vignettes will provide the basis for researching and collecting data to be organized into a class celebrations chart. As a culminating activity, students will wet up learning stations and host a celebration of Water Day, leading younger students on a rotation of the stations.
Language arts, social studies, reading, art, foreign language
6–8. Includes partnering with a class in grades 2–4.
How does water play a part in celebrations around the world?
Why are these celebrations significant to the culture?
Why is water significant in celebrations in my culture?
Computer with Internet access
Overhead and printed copies for students of "Water Celebrations Chart"
(PDF or RTF)
"Water Celebrations Chart (Completed)" (for teacher—PDF or RTF)
Overhead and printed copies for students of "Peace Corps Volunteers Write About
Songkran" (PDF or RTF)
Overhead and printed copies for students of "Selected Anecdotes From Peace Corps
Volunteers" (PDF or RTF)
"Evaluation of Product" (PDF or RTF) assessment rubric
Audio tape or CD of ocean sounds or rain showers (optional)
I'm in Charge of Celebrations, by Byrd Baylor (optional)
(top of page)
Language Arts Standard 4—Gathers and uses information for research purposes
Benchmark—Organizes information and ideas from multiple sources in systematic ways (e.g., time lines, outlines, notes, graphic representations)
Language Arts Standard 7—Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies for reading a variety of informational texts
Benchmark—Applies reading skills and strategies to a variety of informational texts
Foreign Language Standard 4—Demonstrates knowledge and understanding of traditional ideas and perspectives, institutions, professions, literary and artistic expressions, and other components of target culture
Benchmark—Knows cultural traditions and celebrations that exist in the target culture and how these traditions and celebrations compare with those of the native culture
Geography Standard 6—Understands that culture and experience influence people's perceptions of places and regions
Benchmark—Knows the ways in which culture influences the perception of places and regions
Geography Standard 10—Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics
Benchmark—Knows ways in which communities reflect the cultural background of their inhabitants
- Thematically synthesize world celebrations involving water into a celebrations chart.
- Research the history of these celebrations using the Internet.
- Reflect and write about a personal celebration involving water.
- Create a learning station to show and share what they have learned.
1. Introduce the lesson by having students brainstorm examples of ceremonies or
festivals in which water plays a role. It may be helpful to read aloud from I'm in
Charge of Celebrations, by Byrd Baylor, to reinforce the idea that a celebration
isn't connected only to holidays or festivals. A celebration can also be a special
memory about a place, event, or experience. Students may give examples such as baptisms, blessings, water balloon fights at Fourth of July or family picnics, pool parties, etc. Record answers from students on the board.
2. After students have generated their own ideas about celebrating with water, tell
them that they are going to be "H2O detectives" and investigate the
ways in which water plays a key role in celebrations around the world. Distribute copies of the "Water Celebrations Chart" (PDF
or RTF), reminding students that, in their search for data, it will be important to keep track of their findings. The celebrations chart will help them do this. Using an overhead of the celebrations chart and an overhead of the handout "Peace Corps Volunteers Write About Songkran" (PDF
or RTF), demonstrate how to alternate between the two to
complete the celebrations chart. Tell students that they will know which anecdotes to
research by matching the country and Peace Corps Volunteer's name from the chart to
the country and Peace Corps Volunteer's name on the selected anecdotes and links.
3. Next, have the students find Thailand using a world map or atlas. Discuss the
location of this area in terms of country, region, continent, and hemisphere. Have
students write down the physical location on their celebrations chart and, using the overhead celebrations chart, point out the other categories that they will be researching. Reinforce that the information for these categories will come from actual firsthand accounts written by Peace Corps Volunteers and related websites.
4. Display the Songkran anecdotes on the overhead. Select either anecdote for the
demonstration, reminding students that they will be researching vignettes similar to this one. Before reading the anecdote aloud, ask students to raise their hands when they hear something that addresses one of the categories on the celebrations chart. As students respond, underline or highlight areas of the text that answer the questions posed on the chart. Model how to transfer these data to the chart. If students will be importing data into the chart on a word document, emphasize the fact that, just as they are alternating between two overhead sheets, they will be alternating between two open files or sets of data. Complete all or some of the categories for this sample anecdote.
5. Explain to students that during the next class period, they will be alternating
between anecdotes from the website and taking notes on their charts.
Days 2 and 3
1. On days 2 and 3, the class will access information from the Peace Corps World Wise Schools document "Selected Anecdotes From Peace Corps Volunteers" (PDF or RTF).
Students can take notes on an 11"x14" copy of the celebrations chart for the "Selected
Anecdotes" document or access the files listed
in the materials section of this plan and use a word processing program to copy and paste pertinent information into the chart directly off of the electronic file of the "Selected Anecdotes."
2. Review the process used on Day 1 to gather research for the celebrations chart
template. Tell students that now they are going to conduct research themselves, using the information found on "Selected Anecdotes from Peace Corps Volunteers." Give them
a copy of the evaluation rubric (PDF or RTF) and explain that this rubric will be used on both the celebrations chart and the final project that they will create as a result of completing their charts.
3. Assign partners to focus on a specific country and have them research the
related anecdotes and websites on this country. Allow partners extended time so that they can research all countries on the celebrations chart as completely as possible.
4. Allow students to work in pairs completing the research charts. Assist as needed. This may take two to three class periods or longer, particularly if students are going to be conducting Internet research.
5. Before the class ends, allow students to share their successes and problems with their research. Ask students for tips on what made them most successful as partners, and what behaviors or frustrations got in their way. Offer your observations as to what was working well. Based on your observations, end with a tip for students for the next research session.
Days 4 and 5
1. Set aside time to continue with the research process and sharing of findings. If
time allows, have partners continue to research each country until the majority of
students have completed their celebrations charts.
2. Teacher options for processing research efforts: Have country groups present their findings to the class so that all may complete the chart
from a group research effort, or group partners together to compare and refine results of their research efforts.
3. Process as a class by synthesizing results into a large bulletin board celebrations
1. On the final day of data collection, have students take out their celebrations charts and refer to the class chart. Tell students they will be reviewing what they have learned about the special role water plays in festivities and holidays around the world according to theme. Afterward, they will revisit their earlier notes on the role of water in their own lives.
2. Make a "Role of Water Themes" web on the board and ask students to
consider the role of water in the holidays and festivals they explored. For example:
To Celebrate: "Bless others" with a good dousing (Songkran: Thailand)
To Conserve: As in competition where girls try to balance bottle of water on head without spilling contents (Independence Day: Africa).
To Test One's Willpower to go without water, which may also be viewed as conserving
water (Puasa: Malaysia).
To Cleanse: As in washing away one's troubles (Loi Krathong: Thailand) and carrying away
one's sins (John's Day: Lithuania)
3. Have students reflect on their brainstorming session of celebrations, holidays, or special occasions in which water plays an important ceremonial or festive role. Ask students to bring this event to life in a free writing exercise that includes descriptions of sights, sounds, smells, setting, expressions, and actions of those around them, as the Peace Corps Volunteers did in their vignettes.
4. Ask students to respond to the prompt "I will always remember the special role
water has played inů." Some questions that may help students generate ideas
might include: How is the thematic role of water in my personal anecdote similar to or different from the role of water described in one of the Peace Corps Volunteer anecdotes? What is the background or story behind this experience and how is it significant to my culture, custom, tradition, or life? You may even wish to put on a soothing CD of ocean sounds or rain showers to set the atmosphere.
5. Allow students time to share their ideas with the class if they wish.
(top of page)
Compare the class celebrations chart and individual student celebrations charts with the completed
celebrations chart sample. Assess for accuracy and completeness.
Now that students have gathered a solid base of information on world celebrations of
water and have made personal connections to it, they can celebrate their efforts by
sharing with others. Students will host a Celebrations of Water Day where groups of three
to four students will lead younger students through a rotation of learning stations. The
purpose of these stations is to allow students to creatively teach younger students and to
bring world celebrations of water to life.
Teachers may wish to assign groups to learning stations or allow groups to select the
type of station they would like to create. The learning stations should include evidence
of understanding from each category researched. They should be visually appealing with
attention to detail and they should be carefully drawn, neatly printed, accurately worded,
and correctly spelled as some of these materials will be left with the younger children,
many of whom may be learning to read. Remind students of the evaluation rubric (PDF or RTF) that will be used to
assess their learning. If necessary, provide students with copies and discuss it.
Some suggestions for learning stations:
Make a picture book that includes an illustration of each celebration or festival on
one side with a paragraph summarizing the celebrations chart information and a map showing
the location of the country on the other side. The illustrations should be carefully
colored for the picture book. Text should be in large print for young children to read.
Practice reading the book with expression. Read the book to children and leave with the
class as a gift.
Coloring Book or Pages
Make bold line drawings that capture the main activities in the celebrations
portrayed. Include a title with country name and name of event such as "SongkranFestival in Thailand." Print a neat caption below each picture that describes what is
happening in the picture. Refer to existing coloring books for ideas on how to simplify
drawings for coloring purposes.
Poster or Travel Brochure Station
Visually represent a country's celebration of water in a travel brochure or poster
format. Captions should be included for each picture and category. Practice using the
brochures or posters as teaching tools.
Design a craft that younger students can make as a memento of each of the country's
water celebrations. For example, a wreath for Lithuania's St. John's Day and miniature
rafts to float away worries for Thailand's Loi Krathong.
Develop ways to allow young students to respectfully reenact some of the celebrations
without necessarily getting soaked. For example, have students practice balancing buckets
partially filled of water on their heads for Africa's Independence Day. Have a model of a
Buddha where students splash its feet and sprinkle baby powder or tapioca pudding on it
for Thailand's Songkran Festival.
Older students may wish to join as partners with their younger peers and share their own personal anecdotes on the role of water in one of their life events. Students may then interview their peers and help them write and illustrate a time when water played a special role in their lives.
Of course, it would be great fun on a hot summer day to end this unit in a structured outdoor activity with water play!
Latin America and the Caribbean
Easter Weeks in Mexico—http://www.mexconnect.com/mex_/feature/easterindex.html
Asia and the Pacific Islands
The Songkran Festival—
Central and Eastern Europe
About the Author
Michelle Abernathy-Tabor is a sixth-grade teacher at Fairhaven Middle School in Bellingham, Washington. She reflects on her class's response to this unit:
We had great fun recording our findings in a large bulletin-board-size chart. Students loved being teacher and using markers to record. This seemed to work better than having students fill in a template chart on a word-processing document. I abandoned this idea and went directly to large butcher paper that we just transported back and forth from the lab to the classroom.
Students enjoyed the unit and seemed to catch on well to the idea of the different ways we view and value water in culture. I think that having the celebrations chart continually visible helped students be more reflective—all of our findings were out in the open to ponder. We are looking forward to our own celebratory outdoor water festival when the weather permits.
(top of page)