Bringing Water to a Lesotho Village:
A Classroom Simulation
Lesotho is a small landlocked country located within the country of South Africa. Two-thirds of the country is filled with steep, treeless mountains. Most of the population lives in the lowlands. Droughts have altered living and health conditions, requiring the women and girls (who do most of the water gathering) to travel farther each day for water during the dry season. In this lesson, students simulate village water committees that plan, design, and build a water-supply system. Village committees are provided with a water-project scenario, maps, and background information. Each committee presents its plan to the village to convince them that their plan will increase the availability of water and the overall health of the village.
Four or five 45-minute class periods
Geography, health, language arts,
How do communities acquire water sources?
Is the health of a community affected by availability of water?
Classroom Internet access to Water in Africa link
"The Village Water Committee" (one copy for each student) (PDF)
"VWC Research and Design Guide" (one copy for each group) (PDF)
"Water Supply Provision Process" (one copy for each student) (PDF)
"Examples of Water Acquisition Systems" (one copy for each student) (PDF)
"Evaluation Rubric" (PDF)
Maps of Lesotho (PDF)
Topographic map of Lesotho (PDF)
Drawing paper, markers (for paper models) or clay, straws, aquarium gravel, poster board (for 3 models)
Rainwater Catchment System (Flash simulation)
Geography Standard 14—Understands how human actions modify the physical environment
Benchmark—Understands the ways in which human-induced changes in the physical environment in one place can cause changes in other places
Geography Standard 15—Understands how physical systems affect human systems Benchmark—Knows the ways in which human systems develop in response to conditions in the physical environment
Health Standard 2—Knows environmental and external factors that affect individual and community
Benchmark—Knows cultural beliefs, socioeconomic considerations, and environmental factors within a community that influence the health of its members
Language Arts Standard 4—Gathers and uses information for research purposes
Benchmark—Uses a variety of resource materials to gather information for research topics
National Science Education Standards
Content Standard E: Science and Technology
Content Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
- Compare rural and urban water-supply systems.
- Assume a cooperative role in the simulation of a Village Water Committee.
- Interpret vignettes, photographs, and descriptions of water-supply systems used in Lesotho and apply them to the simulation.
- Identify and describe how water could be supplied to the simulated community.
- Plan and design a water-supply system for the simulated Lesotho village.
- Give an oral presentation to a peer group about the feasibility of their plan.
1. Begin the lesson by asking students to respond to the first essential question, “How do communities acquire water sources?" Start a class discussion on how the students' own community gets the water they use each day. Have students compose a list of their community's methods of water acquisition. Examples might be a community water tank, surface water from a nearby river, and piped water from a distant source. Ask if this process is identical in all communities.
2. Direct students to make a Venn diagram with two circles partially overlapping. Over one circle, write the word "Rural." Over the other circle, write "Urban." Have the students work with a partner to fill in their diagram with sources of water for each category, including the area in the middle, where the methods of obtaining water could be described as the same. Share responses witht he class.
3. Next, ask the students to cross out the words "Rural" and "Urban" replace them with "Our Community" instead of "Urban" and "Lesotho," instead of "Rural." Would there be any differences in the Venn diagram with these descriptors? Where, how, and why? Read aloud from the Lesotho background Internet site, or download copies of the information and print them in advance for the class to complete this part of the activity. Have students add to or alter the Venn diagram to reflect the new descriptors.
4. Ask the first essential question again, “How do communities acquire water sources?" Mention that there are organizations in developing nations that assist communities in obtaining adequate water supplies. Ask students to brainstorm the process that a village or community in Lesotho would use to build and maintain a water system. Keep track of these ideas for future reference for the students. Announce that for the next few days, the students will be involved in a unit that simulates the process of obtaining water in a village in Lesotho.
5. Ask the class to locate Lesotho on a classroom map of Africa. Distribute the maps of Lesotho and have students use them to fill in the physical features of the country. Have students use a search engine to find a topographical map of Lesotho on the Internet, or provide them with atlases to use for sketching in the physical features on their maps. Remind them that they are completing this task so they can understand the difficulties in supplying water to individual villages and communities.
6. When they have finished their rough topographical maps of Lesotho, conduct a discussion about what they have learned. Point out the geographic regions of Lesotho—its mountains and lowlands, along with other physical features. Ask for comments about the ease of obtaining and transporting water in Lesotho.
7. For homework, have students gather further information on Lesotho. They can use the Internet search engine as they did earlier. Have them focus on environment and health, and the factors that influence both.
1. Discuss the homework assignment, asking students what they have learned about Lesotho. Be sure they understand that many of the men in villages in Lesotho find work in South Africa and therefore are not present in the community much of the time.
2. Divide the class into groups of four. These groups will be called Village Water Committees (VWC). Provide each VWC with the student attachment "Bringing Water to a Lesotho Village." (PDF). Have students read the handout to learn about the roles, the tasks, and background information about Lesotho that they may not already know.
3. Discuss the scenario. Lead students to understand that while this is a fictitious scenario, the reality of Lesotho is that it is a water-wealthy country where villages lack access to adequate clean water supplies.
4. Discuss each of the VWC roles—spokesperson, designer, researcher, engineer—and answer any questions students may have. Make adjustments as necessary to meet the needs of your students, including alternating the roles daily if that is appropriate. Assign or have students choose their roles.
5. Distribute the VWC "Research and Development Guide" (PDF). Review the directions together, pointing out the examples. Let students know that the data collection will assist them in planning and designing their village's water supply system. Have each VWC begin research about Lesotho water sources from the Water in Africa website using the Research and Development Guide (PDF).
6. Monitor the progress of the groups, assisting them as necessary to interpret and analyze the anecdotes on the Water in Africa website, and directing them to use all the resources available on the site, such as the diagrams and fact files.
7. A few minutes before the end of the period, ask students to give an assessment of what they have learned, and where they are in the research process. Answer any questions that may arise.
Days 3 and 4
1. Announce that each VWC should complete all research and data collection in this session and begin to develop a design of the water system they are promoting. Explain that they will be using the second and third pages of the their guide to plan their water supply system.
2. Distribute "Examples of Water Acquisition Systems" (PDF),"Water Supply Provision Process." (PDF) and the link to the Rainwater Catchment System (Flash simulation). Instruct the students that the Water Acquisition Systems are examples of what might be used in African countries. They may or not be appropriate for Lesotho, and the students must judge that for themselves. The other handout will assist them in understanding all their VWC has to do.
3. Remind the students that they should stay within their roles as committee members and should start collaborating on their village water plan using the provided information as necessary, along with their data collection sheets.
4. Circulate among the groups, monitoring the progress and assisting as necessary. Toward the end of the period, assess the groups' progress and cooperation.
1. Make sure that each VWC has completed its drawings or models of the water supply system that the group is promoting. Committees may want to rehearse their presentations.
2. To create an appropriate atmosphere, arrange chairs or committees into a circle as if the presentations were taking place in a Lesotho village schoolroom or in the village center. Have each committee make their presentation.
3. At the conclusion of the presentations, list each VWC name on the board. Ask students to list strengths and weaknesses of each plan. Consider the essential points of the plans as criteria: The water supply system that the committee proposes is more efficient than the present system; the health of the community will improve as a result of constructing this alternative system.
4. Ask the students to discuss the following questions: How well does each plan address the criteria? Can the VWC decide on any one plan that works best? Why or why not? What could a VWC do to make the plan better, or more feasible? Ask students what they would change to develop a better plan.
5. Continue the discussion by relating it to water systems in the United States. Ask students if their plans could be used by communities in the United States. What geographic regions (give examples) of the United States would benefit from anyone of the VWC's water supply plans? What plans would not work in a specific U.S. geographic region? Why?
Assess the Venn diagrams and VWC Research and Design Guides for completion and accuracy. Use the Evaluation Rubric to assess the models that the groups have created.
Have your students give their presentations to members of the local water board or to older students from Africa. Ask these groups of adults to comment on the models and advise students about the accuracy and appropriateness of the systems they have created.
Visit a local water supply and treatment facility. Learn where your own water originates and the process it goes through before arriving in your taps.
Develop an alternative water-supply system for your community. Assume it is 25 years into the future and the present system is inadequate.
Create a model of a water well (or other water system) in a Lesotho village, using research and data collected.
About the Author
Dany M. Ray is a teacher of grades 5–8 at Washington Middle School, Grady County School System, Cairo, Georgia. Dany describes the activities of her class as she piloted this lesson:
“I piloted 'Bringing Water to a Lesotho Village' with my seventh graders. They were really excited about the concept of being members of a village and being responsible for selecting, designing, and building a water supply system for their village. Students used the handouts to organize who would do what. We found the maps helpful throughout the data collection and research process. The kids were able to access them back and forth as they worked. The most exciting part of the lesson was facilitating as the village water groups reviewed data, illustrations, and background reading, and then began discussing the geography of the land, the tools available, and the materials needed. Of course, I had to bring them back to reality when they wanted to just helicopter in the pipe, cement, etc., for the project. I sent them back to the water site to study the infrastructure of Lesotho, and what would be reasonable. The final presentation had each group jockeying for approval of their water supply system."