Water/Ways - Educator Resources

These lessons complement the Water/Ways exhibit. Educators are strongly encouraged to bring their students to Water/Ways, however, the activities can be completed without visiting the exhibit. The background information at the beginning of each lesson and within the individual activities will increase educator familiarity with the topics.

The activities are well-suited for upper elementary through middle school students. The majority of activities are also developed for high school students. Some activities can be modified for younger learners. Each of the lessons contains an opportunity for a student-developed project or investigation. Reflection and sharing with the community are also incorporated into the lessons.

One Drop

Water is an essential building block of all life.

Objectives: Students will be able to:
  1. Discuss how water is a limited resource and factors that affect its availability
  2. Role-play and then describe how water is a shared, managed resource
  3. List two types of pollution (point source and non-point source pollution) and discuss how pollution can adversely affect water quality
  4. Develop a pollution investigation using scientific method

Subjects: Science, Language Arts, Reading

Time Required: 45 minutes for individual activities – multiple class periods

Grade Level: Upper elementary through middle school; younger and older with modest modifications

Background: Water is amazing. It covers the planet and can take the form of a solid, liquid, or gas in the same environment! But this resource is shared and finite. The hydrologic cycle, or water cycle, moves water around the planet. Building strong relationships, communication, and planning are all critical components to sustaining water.

The scientific method is a way to ask and answer scientific questions by making observations and doing experiments. Students will learn more about pollution by creating an investigation using the steps of the scientific method: ask a question; do background research; construct a hypothesis; test your hypothesis with an experiment or investigation; analyze your data; draw a conclusion; and communicate results.

Download One Drop Educator Guide (PDF)

Water Journeys

Water moves, and people move with it.

Objectives: Students will be able to:

  1. Gain an appreciation of other cultures’ relationships with water and reflect on those relationships to find personal connections
  2. Interpret a topographic map and locate a watershed
  3. Identify factors of a healthy watershed Apply their understanding of a watershed and create a model of a watershed
  4. Use their knowledge of watersheds and water relationships to inform others

Subjects: Language Arts, Reading, Writing, Science, History

Time Required: 45 minutes for individual activities – multiple class periods

Grade Level: Upper elementary through middle school; younger and older with modest modifications

Background: For centuries people have lived and traveled on rivers. Boats have been constructed from the natural resources available. In Minnesota, it was first the Dakota that lived on and traveled the lakes, rivers, and streams. They were joined by the Ojibwe and then European settlers. Today, Minnesota is still home to the Dakota, the Ojibwe, and people of many different cultures from across the world.

As more people moved into the state, water use changed. People changed how rivers and water flowed, increased how much was used, and land use affected how water flowed across land. People are still changing our watersheds and our waterways today.

"When drinking water, remember its source."
— Chinese proverb

Download Water Journeys Educator Guide (PDF)

We Are Water

Water connects. Our relationship with water helps define us and is part of our water story.

Objectives: Students will be able to:

  1. Identify factors that contribute to point of view and how they affect human stories
  2. Create their own water story
  3. Apply their understanding of point of view and absent narrative to collect and communicate a community water story
  4. Interview another person and write their water story

Subjects: Language Arts, Reading, Writing

Time Required: 45 minutes for individual activities – multiple class periods

Grade Level: Upper elementary through middle school; younger and older with modest modifications

Background: Stories share information, connect events, connect people, and create meaning. They are the context for sharing information. Stories are shared through different methods that include, but are not limited to, books, plays, oral tradition, cartoons, music, and plays. Point of view is critical to storytelling and is affected by cultural backgrounds and personal experiences.

When a collective or community story is told, non-dominant points of view are often left out. The stories that are left out are referred to as absent narratives.

Water is essential for life on our planet. Its abundance and scarcity influences all things. Cultural background and individual experiences are just two of many factors that affect a person’s relationship and responsibilities towards the resource. That relationship contributes to a person’s water story.

Everyone has a water story. It may include a spiritual connection, happy memories of family and sunshine, fear, scarcity, food, or freedom. Our water stories are our past, our present, and our future.

"Thousands have lived without love, not one without water."
— W.H. Auden, Curator, poet

Download We Are Water Educator Guide (PDF)

Community Stewardship Activity

The goals of the Water/Ways project are:
  • Share national, state, and local histories and narratives about water.
  • Reinforce Minnesotans' individual relationships with water.
  • Reinforce Minnesotans' individual responsibilities to water.
  • Build relationships between Minnesotans through community engagement events and activities preceding, during, and after the exhibit.

It is the hope that people visiting the exhibit, participating in community activities, and/or learning through the supplemental lessons will help further the project’s goals. Our Learning in Action is an opportunity to further your students' learning and reinforce their relationships and responsibilities towards water through stewardship projects.

These stewardship projects build upon what students have learned in the lessons and through visiting the Water/Ways exhibit. They are intended to be implemented as service-learning opportunities. Why should teachers add service-learning and stewardship projects to their students' water education? These projects help:

  • Strengthen student understanding of Minnesota's water narratives
  • Develop critical-thinking, problem-solving, leadership, decision-making, communication, and collaboration skills
  • Connect classroom learning on water to real-world applications
  • Develop a sense of place and purpose
  • Build relationships within the community and among each other

Download Community Stewardship Activity Guide (PDF)

Other Humanities Center Resources

The Humanities Center created educator guides to complement several episodes of tpt's Minnesota Originals series. These two episodes share artist perspectives on water. Select “print activity guide” on the page to get the educator guides.
  • Public artist Al Wadzinski explains Red Alert, his environmentally themed sculpture made of junk and debris straight from the Mississippi River
  • Author Wang Ping's Kinship of Rivers project celebrates the universal experience of lives lived along the Mississippi and Yangtze rivers

In the Dakota language "bdote" is a word for the confluence of two bodies of water. To Dakota people, the most important bdote is the joining of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers — a place of genesis for the Dakota people. These two resources share more information from Dakota perspectives about this bdote.

For further resources, check out our Absent Narratives Resource Collection.

Partner Resources - Minnesota Department of Health

Drinking Water Protection division of the Minnesota Department of Health. Get current information about your drinking water, links to videos of water in the news, annual reports, and factsheets.

Water Works! A drinking water institute for educators.

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