Water Uses and Children's Lives in East Africa
This unit uses students' interactions with water to help them compare their lives with those of children in Kenya and Tanzania. It looks at the ways that access to water helps define children's roles in the family, and how this relates to culture. Students write essays and make pictures to demonstrate their understanding of the concepts.
Four to six 40-minute classes
Language arts, geography, art, mathematics
What is culture?
How does where you live influence your day-to-day existence?
How does access to clean water influence children's lives?
Photos from Kenya and stories from Kenya
Photos from Tanzania and stories from Tanzania
Maps of Kenya and Tanzania
Student Water Log (PDF or RTF)
Research Graphic Organizer (PDF or RTF)
Evaluation of End Products—Essay (PDF or RTF)
Evaluation of End Products—Pictures (PDF or RTF)
Photo Story Reference Chart—Tanzania (PDF or RTF)
Photo Story Reference Chart—Kenya (PDF or RTF)
Lesson plan "Culture Is Like an Iceberg," from Building Bridges
Colored pencils, crayons, art paper, watercolors, tempera paint, markers
Language Arts Standard 1—Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies of the writing process
Benchmark—Prewriting: Uses prewriting strategies to plan written work
Benchmark—Writes expository compositions
Life Skills Thinking and Reasoning Standard 3—Effectively uses mental processes that are based on identifying similarities and differences (compares, classifies)
Benchmark—Compares people in terms of ethnic, religious, and cultural characteristics
Geography Standard 10—Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics
Benchmark—Knows the similarities and differences in characteristics of culture in different regions
Benchmark—Understands how cultures differ in their use of similar environments and resources
Visual Arts Standard 1—Understands and applies media, and techniques and processes related to the visual arts
Benchmark—Knows how different media techniques and processes are used to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories
Math Standard 9—Understands the general nature and uses of mathematics
Benchmark—Understands that numbers and the operations performed on them can be used to describe things in the real world and predict what might occur
National Science Education Standards
Content Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
- Identify how water use is a part of life and culture.
- Record their daily water usage and compare results with classmates.
- Complete the graphic organizer on water and children.
- Compose an essay that compares water's impact on children's daily lives in their region with water's impact on children's daily lives in Kenya and Tanzania.
- Prepare two pictures to accompany the essay.
Note: It's important to treat the data in this lesson in the proper context—as well-focused fragments of life in Kenyan and Tanzanian villages. Caution students to be good social scientists and avoid over-generalizations because of the lack of statistically significant data. "Some Kenyans carry water long distances from fresh water springs" and "Tanzanian students help their teachers grow vegetables as part of their schooling" are conclusions justified by the sources available to students here, but are not generalizations that can be applied to all rural Kenyans or Tanzanians without a much wider, statistically significant sample.
1. To introduce the unit, put a list of activities on the board that are all water-related, such as getting a drink, using the bathroom, washing dishes, taking a shower, watering plants, putting out water for pets, washing hands, cooking spaghetti.
2. Ask the students to look at the list and then decide how the items are the same—and how the items are different. Introduce the term"compare" and then make two lists from their ideas using "Same" and "Different" as the headings. When the lists are complete, talk about what the students have included on them. Explain that the class will be practicing how to compare in this unit of study on water and children's lives.
3. Review the list of water-related activities and ask the students to add others from their lives, such as car washing and chores (for rural students). Include eating, since a lot of food is significantly water-based. Tell the students they are going to study the impact water makes on their lives in terms of time and energy.
4. Distribute the Water Log (PDF or RTF). Read the directions with the students. Go over the sample given on the log. Be sure students understand how to keep track of their water usage by filling in the log, and have them record responses for the day up to the current time. Tell the students that good social scientists need valid data, and that they should keep accurate records for the rest of the day. Have students complete the log for homework and bring it to class the next day.
5. Review the list of water-related activities on the board again. Ask the students if people all over the world would engage in these activities. Explain that some activities, such as eating, drinking, and cleaning, are universally performed by people, but activities such as car washing and cooking spaghetti may be localized for cultural reasons.
6. Write the word "culture" on the board and explain that in this unit they will be learning about their own culture (from the water logs) and about cultures in rural Kenya and Tanzania from the photos and stories on the Water in Africa website.
7. List the features of culture on the board (e.g., language, social organization, beliefs and customs, forms of shelter/housing, economic activities, modes of transportation, food, attitudes toward environment and resources, technology, clothing styles, education systems—schooling, role of women in society, role of children in society). Explain that the Kenyan and Tanzanian material will provide examples of these items, and that the students will be looking specifically at water-related activities, especially the role of children in the culture.
8. Optional: To learn more about culture, use the lesson plans in "Building Bridges," which will help students learn more about the elements of culture.
1. Ask students their impressions about completing the water log assignment. Ask if they were surprised by anything while they were recording the data in their logs. Discuss briefly as a large group.
2. Divide the students in groups of four. Explain that each group is responsible for looking at each other's logs in order to compare results, as they practiced the day before. In order to compute class averages, have each group compute a mean, median, and mode (if they know how to do this from math) for each entry. Instruct them to record results from their comparisons for their report to the whole class on the similarities, differences, and exceptions. When small groups have completed their work (10–15 minutes), have them report to the large group. Compute class averages. Discuss notable similarities, differences, and exceptions with the class.
3. Ask the students what their research on water helped them learn about their culture. Refer to the list of cultural components recorded on the board during Day 1. Review the meanings of the terms listed, and copy the sample list below on the board.
|Feature of Culture
||Sample Activity From My Log
||Ate soup for supper, watered vegetable garden
|Modes of transportation
||Put water in car radiator, sailed a boat
||Sold lemonade at a stand, watered fruit trees
|Attitudes toward environment and resources
||Watered flowers in garden
|Beliefs and customs
||Used holy water at church
4. Ask the students for examples of activities in their logs that correspond to one or more features of culture on the list. Write them on the board next to the corresponding feature, so students can see the connections.
5. Once each feature of culture has a matching activity, ask the students what conclusions they can draw about their culture from the list. These conclusions could be based on the components of our culture that are affected by water most directly, such as food and transportation and the relatively small amount of time and energy children spend on water-related activities in the United States. They could consider the impact technology has on water delivery and distribution systems in the United States, and the indirect methods used to obtain water (e.g., turn on a faucet, flush a toilet). They could also consider the importance of water to the culture. For example, one conclusion might be: Water is plentiful, widely used, and easy to obtain at most homes, restaurants, and businesses. Water is available at school by turning on a faucet.
6. Discuss the conclusions. Ask if the students have any additions to these conclusions, based on their own experiences and knowledge of their culture. List all conclusions on a piece of chart paper, to be saved for future use.
7. Ask students to research water-related activities in children's lives in Kenya and Tanzania. Locate Africa on the world map, then find Kenya and Tanzania. Show students the maps of Kenya and Tanzania in detail.
8. Introduce the photos and stories for Kenya and then the photos and stories for Tanzania, explaining these are materials from Peace Corps Volunteers who were serving there. Use the section "About the Project" on the Water in Africa website as the basis for your explanation. Point out instances of water-related activities in the pictures and the texts. Explain that the students will be doing their own research on children and water-related activities in the next class period.
9. Optional: It may be necessary to explain the Peace Corps to your students. The Peace Corps website will be helpful for that purpose.
1. Show the students the material for Kenya and Tanzania on the Water in Africa website. Tell the students they will be using this material to complete an assignment that will assess how well they research, draw conclusions about the research, and use the conclusions to write an essay that compares their home region's culture with the cultures in rural Kenya and Tanzania, as shown on the website.
2. Discuss the essay and pictures that will be the subject of their research. For this essay, they should compose two paragraphs that compare water use by children in villages of Kenya and Tanzania with water use by children in the United States. The essay should contain at least six examples of water use, and should consider three factors: time spent, types of activities, and number of activities. Photos and stories from both Kenya and Tanzania should serve as source material for the essays, and at least two cultural components should be cited. Students should draw a picture to accompany each paragraph in the essay. The pictures should illustrate examples cited in the paragraphs on water use and children's lives, illustrating at least two features of culture. Students should use both Kenya and Tanzania as sources, and be supported by at least two examples of water use from the photos or stories, to prevent focusing on isolated incidents in the source materials.
3. Distribute the Graphic Organizer for Research (PDF or RTF) and the Photo-and-Story Reference Charts for Kenya (PDF or RTF) and Tanzania (PDF or RTF). This Graphic Organizer for Research and the students' water logs will be the resources the students use for their essays and pictures. The organizer will help record what students learn about villages in rural Kenya and Tanzania, and how children use water there. Have students look at the sample entry. Show the photo KE0210 and go over the sample entries on the graphic organizer. Discuss how the entries match the information in the photo and how the information fits into the categories on the chart. Use one or two photos and stories from Kenya to provide further samples for the students.
4. Barbara Hinsman's Daily Usage Story is a good example to model note-taking. Demonstrate how to skim through the paragraphs to locate the information on Water and Children (paragraph 5). Fill in the graphic organizer with the students using the information in the table below.
||Feature of Culture
|Hinsman's Daily Usage
||A girl, 7 years old, is carrying water on her head
||Very steep path—about 2 to 3 hours
5. Have students complete the graphic organizer during the remainder of the class. Circulate and assist them in this procedure. Ten to twelve notes from photos and stories from both Kenya and Tanzania would be sufficient to complete the assignment. Students can work in small groups to ensure that they cover as many sources as possible from the photo-story reference chart lists.
1. This day should be used to finish the research using the Water in Africa website and begin writing the essays and preparing the pictures.
2. Once students have completed the research, have them discuss their results in pairs or in small groups. Ask each group member to share his/her list of similarities and differences from the Graphic Organizer for Research.
3. Have the group record their conclusions about characteristics of the cultures. Ask how the students would describe the Kenyan and Tanzanian villages from what they know now about the culture. Have each group record their results and share them with the large group when all groups are finished.
4. Let the whole group discuss the conclusions, and record them on a piece of chart paper. Have the students use this material, and the material from Day 2 (cultural component list, lists of water-related activities and times, and the list of conclusions about the region's culture) to prepare the essays and pictures. Establish a due date and an audience for the pictures and essays so students can share them with others. Follow these steps in the writing process—drafting, revising, editing, and publishing.
Evaluations of the Essay (PDF or RTF) and Evaluations of the Pictures (PDF or RTF) should be used to evaluate student learning.
Investigate a particular ethnic group from Kenya or Tanzania to see how water is viewed in their culture. The books If I Were Masai and The Orphan Boy cited below are good introductions to one ethnic group, as are Kendall Rondeau and Bryce Sitter's stories at Water and Culture.
The book Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain introduces the land of the Nandi.
Learn Swahili, a predominant language in Tanzania (and other countries in East Africa).
Use the photos and stories from other countries on the Water in Africa website, especially Ghana and Guinea, to see how children's lives there are impacted by water.
Find a pen-pal class in Africa, possibly through a Peace Corps Volunteer and World Wise schools, and survey them using the water log in this unit.
Africa Online. http://www.africaonline.co.ke
Aardema, Verna Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain, 1992. New York: Dial Books.
David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, 1999. "Culturgram—Republic of Kenya,
Culturgram—Republic of Tanzania" Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University
Drinking-water activities for teachers and students. http://www.epa.gov/kids/water.htm
Feelings, Muriel L. Jambo Means Hello: Swahili Alphabet Book, 1992. New York: Dial Books.
Feelings, Muriel L. Moja Means One: Swahili Counting Book, 1992. New York: Dial Books.
Mollel, Tolowa M. The Orphan Boy: A Maasai Story, 1995. New York: Clarion Books.
Tanzania's official website. http://www.tanzania.org
About the Author
Robert Maher has been an elementary-school teacher in southeast Ohio for 23 years. He has corresponded with Peace Corps Volunteers in Africa through World Wise Schools for many years. Bob participated in a seminar, "Teaching About Africa," offered by Ohio University and Ohio State University in 1995, and gave a workshop on teaching about the Maasai as a follow-up at the Ohio Council for the Social Studies meeting in 1996.