Barrels and Buckets: Access to Water
This unit facilitates students' understanding of access to water through reading stories from Peace Corps Volunteers who served in Kenya (East Africa region) and Ghana (West Africa region). As a product of this unit, each student will make a book comparing access to water in the United States, Kenya, and Ghana. An overall goal is to develop students' understanding of the similarities and differences between water use by the people in Kenya and Ghana and their own community.
Two to three weeks, depending on abilities and skills of the students
Language arts: reading, writing
1–2 (can be adapted to 3–5)
Why is water valuable?
How does your access to water influence the way you live?
Student Reading Booklets: “Drip-Drop: Access to Water in Kenya,"(PDF or RTF)
Drip-Drop: Access to Water in Ghana,"(PDF or RTF)
Images from Kenya: KE0102, KE0109, KE0210, KE0224, KE0230, and KE0312
Images from Ghana: GH0202, GH0213, GH0304, GH0308, GH0323, GH0402, GH0419, GH0436, GH0629, GH0718
Photo narratives for Kenya Access to Water (PDF or RTF)
Photo narratives for Ghana Access to Water (PDF or RTF)
Venn diagram (PDF or RTF)
Writing Evaluation Rubric (PDF or RTF)
Reading Evaluation Rubric (PDF or RTF)
Maps and globes
Digital image software (optional)
Writing booklets for students
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—Drafting and revising: Uses strategies to draft and revise written work.
Benchmark—Editing and publishing: Uses strategies to edit and publish written work. Evaluates own and others' writing.
Benchmark—Dictates or writes with a logical sequence of events.
Benchmark—Dictates or writes detailed descriptions of familiar persons, places, objects, or experiences.
National Science Education Standards
Content Standard D: Earth and Space Science
Content Standard E: Science and Technology
Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
- Use maps and globes to locate the continent of Africa, two regions in Africa, and the countries of Ghana and Kenya.
- Use reading skills to learn about Kenya and Ghana from Peace Corps Volunteers who served there.
- Use reading skills to see similarities and differences among daily uses of water resources in Africa and the United States.
- Develop enduring understandings of how water is a valued resource for life.
Please note: You may choose to use images and stories either from both Kenya and Ghana or from just one African country, depending on curricular goals and time available. If the geography units are taught before or in conjunction with this unit, the activities for Day 1will simply be review.
Write "access to water" and ask the students what they think this means. Talk with the students about what they know about access to water in their community and generate a list of their experiences. Write the list on large chart paper and keep it hanging in the classroom as reference for the students. Explain that they will be learning about how some people in the African countries of Kenya and Ghana get their water each day, and will be comparing those ways with access to water in their own community.
1. Take students on a field trip to a local water treatment site. Take pictures of the various steps in water treatment. Have the class view the images as a slide show and put together a photo journal with descriptive text for each image. An option is for students to bring disposable cameras to take their own photographs.
2. Either before or after the field trip, read to the class The Magic School Bus at the Waterworks, by Joanna Cole (Scholastic Inc., 1986). If a field trip is not feasible, this book may be read instead.
3. Another alternative, if the field trip is not possible, is to invite a speaker from your local water treatment facility to come and talk to the class about where the water in your community comes from and how it gets treated.
1. Review what the students learned on the field trip or through the book or speaker. Write students' statements on a chart labeled “What We Learned About Access to Water in Our Community."
2. Have groups of students draw collaborative pictures of what they learned and hang these around the room.
Using the lists the students generated and the pictures they drew, have the students start on the product they will be making—a book about access to water. Have them write or dictate stories and draw pictures about how their community gets water. Help students revise and edit their work. For primary students, you may choose to work with the groups one at a time for 15 minutes each day or have parent volunteers in the classroom so that each group has a mentor. Have students share their work with the class.
Day 5 (Note: If you have already taught the unit “Splish-Splash: Daily Use of Water," there is no need to teach this step. However, you may wish to review the information with the students.)
1. Explain to students that they will be learning about ways people in countries of Africa use water in their communities and homes. Tell them that they will be seeing photos and reading real-life stories from Peace Corps Volunteers in Ghana and Kenya. Write the words “Peace Corps Volunteer" on the board and ask the students what those words mean. Help students define each of the words individually and their meaning together. The goal is that the students understand that the United States has an organization called the Peace Corps, which sends volunteers to countries around the world to help others and learn from them.
2. Use the Peace Corps website to develop students' understanding of Peace Corps Volunteers. Explain that Volunteers share their experiences on the Peace Corps website and that the class will be reading some of their stories about water in communities of Africa.
1. Using a political world map and globe, show the class the location of your own community, country, and continent. Have a few students take turns showing the class the location of your community, country, and continent. This establishes an understanding of the location of where students live in the world. Write the name of your community, country, and continent on the board for students to read.
2. Show the students the location of the continent of Africa. Show them Kenya, in East Africa, and Ghana, in West Africa. Have a few students take turns showing the location of these two countries and naming the regions of Africa in which each is located. Write the names of the two countries and the continent of Africa on the board for students to read.
3. Optional: Set up a classroom globe and map center that includes geography books, which students can use to locate the two African countries in the context of the continent, and their own community.
Prior to Class: Prepare the images from Kenya and Ghana by saving the pages or downloading them to your computer. Use a Web browser or digital image software to show them to the class.
Print the images from Kenya from your browser or print each separately from your saved collection and put them in a three ring binder notebook with the accompanying Access to Water in Kenya narrative (PDF or RTF). Make this available for students to use on their own after the initial introduction on the computer.
1. With the whole class or with small groups gathered around the computer, show the students the set of Kenya images that show access to water KE0102, KE0109, KE0210, KE0224, KE0230, and KE0312.
As each image is shown, ask the students to describe what they see. Then read or have a child read the narrative descriptions for each photo. Take time to have the students ask questions and make comments about the images. Use prompting questions such as:
How are people in these communities in Kenya getting access to water in this picture?
How is their access to water similar to or different from yours?
What are the challenges in accessing water that you see from this picture?
How would people meet those challenges alone or with others?
Are people helping each other gain access to water in this picture? If so, how?
2. Write down and define any words that are not familiar to the students. This can be their vocabulary list for the week. Write the words on chart paper or on the board for students to see throughout the unit.
Review vocabulary from the unit by having students play games such as memory or concentration, matching up definitions with vocabulary words. For informal assessment repeat the sequence of photos and ask the students to reread the captions and then give an accurate description about each of the images. Help them to orally describe the content of the images in their own words with accuracy, using descriptive language.
1. Read aloud the stories of David Frommell, Patrick Campbell, and Barbara Hinsman from “Drip-Drop: Stories about Access to Water in Kenya."(PDF or RTF) Identify unfamiliar words, define them, and add them to the vocabulary list. Give each student copies of the stories. You may choose to edit or revise sentences, vocabulary, and story length to accommodate students' reading skills. Depending on your class reading levels, you may choose to select more stories from those about the sources of water on the Water in Africa website.
2. Provide reading instruction to students. Check their comprehension by having them restate what they have read, relate what they have read to their own experiences, and share their own ideas, reflections, and responses to what they have learned from reading.
3. Record the ways David Frommell 's community in the Rift Valley, Patrick Campbell's community in Mombasa, and Barbara Hinsman's Vigeze Village community have access to water, how often it is available, and how that availbility affects daily life.
1. Review the vocabulary learned to date. Have students take turns reading the charts about access to water that are hanging around the room.
2. Have the “Access to Water stories from Kenya" available in the classroom library for students to independently reread and practice reading with one another beyond instructional reading times.
3. Have students write a narrative and draw pictures about their understanding of water access in the Kenyan communities they learned about. Their narratives will be revised, edited, and published in the book they are making about water access.
4. Have each of the students share their writing with the whole class and then add thier writing to the book about access to water. Provide opportunities for questions and comments from classmates.
1. Review the locations of Kenya and Ghana on a map.
2. Explain that students will begin to study access to water in Ghana. Follow the same procedures that you used previously while learning about the Kenyan communities, but substitute the following images from Ghana GH0202, GH0213, GH0304, GH0308, GH0323, GH0402, GH0419, GH0436, GH0629, GH0718
3. Use the “access to water" stories of Nell Todd, Amy Wiedemann, and Molly Campbell from “Drip-Drop Stories About Access to Water in Ghana."(PDF or RTF)
1. Explain to the students that they will identify similarities and differences of water access in the communities they've studied in Kenya and Ghana, and in their own communities in the United States.
2. Draw a three-ring Venn diagram on the chalkboard with each circle labeled for a country. Explain how to use it by beginning a discussion of the water access that the students have read and written about in the past two weeks. When the students mention an activity from one country, ask them whether it is similar to or different from what is done in the other two countries. Write the activity in the correct section of the diagram. Demonstrate one or two activities in this manner.
Break the class into groups of two or three students each and distribute copies of the Venn diagram. Give them 15–20 minutes to record as many similarities and differences in water access as possible. Rotate around to mentor the students in their work. For primary students, an option is to have parent volunteers or have older, intermediate students assist each group. Provide copies of “Drip-Drop Stories About Access to Water in Kenya"(PDF or RTF) and of “Drip-Drop Stories About Access to Water in Ghana"(PDF or RTF) for each group as a reference. Have printed copies of the country images and their narratives available for reference also.
4. When the groups have finished, bring the whole class together in front of a classroom writing board. Have each group share their answers while you record them onto a large Venn diagram on the board.
5. Collect the Venn diagrams for assessment purposes and to be used by the groups when they complete their writing assignment. Assess their Venn diagrams for number of ideas and accuracy of content.
1. Distribute the Venn diagrams the students completed the previous day. Ask the students what they can tell about access to water in these communities by looking at their diagrams.
2. Elicit statements and write them down as samples for the students. For example: Some people in our community, in Kenya, and in Ghana get their water from wells. People in some communities in Kenya and Ghana do not have water from a faucet.
3. Have students work with a partner to write more about similarities and differences. If possible, have parent volunteers or intermediate grades students assist the pairs of students. This will be the last part of the book on access to water.
4. Tell each student to draw a picture to illustrate his or her comparison page.
1. Give the students all the pages they have written about access to water. Help them put them in order. Tell them to think of a title for their books, and then help them make a cover that includes the title, and themselves as the authors.
2. Help each of the children bind their book.
3. Have students read their books aloud to each other. Arrange for them to read them to other audiences in the school, home, and community.
Use the reading rubric (PDF or RTF) that is provided to assess your students' ability, or, alternatively, use the methods that are recommended by your school or district.
Use the writing rubric (PDF or RTF) that is provided to assess your students' ability, or, alternatively, use the methods that are recommended by your school or district.
Presentations: Have the class present their books, or parts from them, to other classes in the school. Students can choose to show images from the website that they think is relevant to their books.
Student literature for world geography
Where Do We Live? by Neil Chesanow. Illustrated by Ann Iosa. Barron's . N.Y. 1995.
Student literature for regions of West Africa and East Africa
Kente Colors (Ghana) By Debbi Chocolate. Illustrations by John Ward. Walker and Company, New York. 1996.
1999 A.S.A. Student's Book Awards: Master Weaver from Ghana by
Gilbert Ahiagble, Louise Meyer, and Nestor Hernandez (Open Hand
Countries of the World: Kenya and Ghana. By Michael Dahl. Bridgestone Books, Mankato, MN. 1997.
Ntombi's Song (South Africa) By Jenny Seed. Illustrations by Anno Berry. Beacon Press, Boston. 1987.
About the Author
Kristi Rennebohm Franz is a primary teacher of a multiage class at Sunnyside Elementary School in Pullman, Washington. She has also taught in Nairobi, Kenya, and has traveled to West and South Africa. She wrote the unit "Ways With Water Reading," combining her interests in Africa and environmental and community issues of water resources education. She says this about her unit:
The "Ways with Water" unit was piloted in my primary classroom but is also applicable to intermediate classrooms. My class especially liked the images! These are such powerful conveyors of information and experiences to children. The students had lots of comments. I downloaded the images into a folder on my computer desktop so it was easy to view them in graphic converter software. I also liked having the narratives in a document so we didn't have to read the captions from the computer screen--the children could take turns reading them because they were in a larger font than on the screen. The class also liked having the reading booklets for learning to read and for rereading with classmates who were reading partners.
Nicole Manning, a former primary school teacher and returned Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Thailand, and Maureen Wilson-Jarrard contributed to the creation, revision, and editing of this plan.
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