Young Sprouts: Water Conservation
6/15/2022 | Emily Jaeger
Water is one of our most important basic human needs. In early childhood, water can teach us about weather, habitats, environmental conservation, and more. Fostering an awareness of this natural wonder in children’s surroundings is one of the first steps towards developing their sense of environmental stewardship.
Most likely your childcare doesn’t have access to a natural water source on your property. Even so, it’s still possible to explore water indoors through a variety of fun sensory activities and organization-wide celebrations.
World Water Day
Whether or not individual class curricula include a water unit, celebrate World Water Day as a community. World Water Day falls every year on March 22 and was established by the United Nations in 1993 to recognize the crucial role water plays in all aspects of human life. Each year the UN shares a theme (such as groundwater or Water and Food security) that can inspire some of your celebrations. Since there aren’t any traditional activities, consider some of the ideas below to kick off the day.
One of the first steps to talking about water conservation is gaining an understanding of where water comes from. Learners have probably already observed parts of the water cycle in their daily life. Tie it all together with some fun STEAM water activities.
Water cycle in a bag. In this activity, learners can observe the entire water cycle from the comfort of their classroom. By tapping a Ziploc bag with a little water to a sunny window, over the day (or a couple of days) learners can observe water evaporating, condensing, and raining back down inside the bag. Use a sharpie to draw on clouds, sun, and water sources.
Cloud in a cup. For this experiment, you will need clear cups, water (air), shaving cream (clouds), food dye (water), and pipettes. Learners will love playing with this representation of precipitation.
Fun with Ice. There are lots of fun ways to experiment with how ice melts into water. You can paint with ice by filling an ice tray with different colors of dyed water. Add a craft stick to each (like a popsicle) and allow to freeze overnight. Learners can drag the colored ice along with their paper, leaving behind a trail of watercolor. For under-twos, make sure to use food dye, because most likely learners will try to give the ice a taste. You can also freeze toy animals into ice cubes and have learners try to melt them free. What melts the ice? Does flour work? Sand? Salt? Or warm water?
Water Conservation Activities for Kids
Class discussion. Harness the hive mind to learn as a class about the importance of water to human existence. Some great questions to discuss with your learners include: How do we use water every day? Where do we find water on earth? What happens if our water gets dirty with trash or bad things in it? What happens if we use up all the water? How can we use less water to save some for later? Consider demonstrating the most water-efficient way to brush teeth in your classroom sink--turning off the water while you brush.
Water filtration. Experiment with water filtration to try and clean up or reuse dirty water. There are many variations on this basic activity, but the main idea is to try and filter dirty water using a variety of found objects.
In my favorite version, a drop of soap is added to water (and then frothed so you can see the bubbles). Learners try to filter out the water using an apparatus made from a cut-in-half plastic bottle and any combination of moss, dried rice, beans, leaves, twigs, grass, pebbles, sand etc. Ultimately it is intentionally impossible to fully filter out the soap this way. It is incredibly hard to clean polluted water, which is why it is important to take care of our water sources in the first place!
Rain catchers. Rain catchers can be used in multiple ways to learn about water conservation. A rain meter builds an awareness of changes in the weather, concepts of “more” and “less,” and the precipitation phase of the water cycle. A rain barrel is a sustainable solution to maintaining facility landscaping and watering an outdoor school garden. Water in rain barrels can be measured, similar to rain meters, and used by learners to water. Older learners can include a rain barrel as part of their discussion or plan about how to use less water.
Connect the Dots with Story Time
A storytime is a great tool both to introduce water conservation and examine the broader effects of pollution in a way that is fun and age-appropriate:
The Little Raindrop by Joanna Gray (3+). Gray tells a fun story about one little raindrop traveling through the sky with beautiful illustrations.
We Need Water by Charles Ghingna (2+). A great addition to the discussion of all the ways that humans use water. Perfect for toddlers and young children including early readers.
Emily Jaeger is a professional writer with a background in education (she's taught every age group from preschool to retirement). Her writing has been featured on Parents Magazine, Kveller, Motherfigure and more. You can connect with Emily via her website emilyjaeger.com or on instagram @soulinparaphrase.
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