Thursday, March 1, 2012

Internalizing “the Worth of Water”: Human Hydration and Water Conservation

If you drive over 800 miles across Texas (west to east) along Interstates 10 and 20 and 30, you can’t help but notice the differences between ecoregions as you move from the Chihuahuan Desert of El Paso to the Piney Woods of Texarkana. Having experienced that continuum of increasing annual precipitation (and being a native Texan), I’d almost bet my brother’s pickup truck that you’d find an almost direct and inverse correlation of location to attitude toward water conservation. I don’t even want to think about the real numbers for actual action at present.

As Benjamin Franklin said way back in 1746, “When the well is dry, we know the worth of water” (Poor Richard's Almanac). Depending on where and how your students live, they may not appreciate the critical importance of fresh drinking water - and I mean critical as in life-support. Most of the water on our planet is contained in two areas that most people can’t readily access or use. And on top of that, all of the water that is on this planet is the same water that we’ve always had! The Water, Water Everywhere! activity shows how very limited the water that we have to use is relative to the total supply.

Used as a diagnostic assessment, this hands-on exploration adds an urgent perspective to protecting and conserving our precious water – and all natural – resources. And since March 11-17 is National Groundwater Awareness Week this year, the EPA’s Learn the Issues page on Water is a terrific place to start all sorts of investigations that ought to have a great deal of personal relevance to your students! With activities for all ages, students can find out how water is stored in an aquifer, how groundwater can become contaminated, and how this contamination may end up in their drinking water!

HippoCampus Connections: You can also incorporate these resources from the HippoCampus site in a variety of ways! The Water Cycle exploration in NOAA: Water Cycle graphically shows where water accumulates in the water cycle – and how it moves through the cycle. The Global Impact video, also in NOAA: Water Cycle explains how water pollution threatens our relatively scarce fresh water supply. Similarly, Water Resources illustrates what happens to fresh water within a watershed. The Water Distillation video shows how pond water, sea water, and tap water can be purified. And the Wastewater Treatment video describes how we are reclaiming reusable water resources.

Instructor Notes: Click here to see how Dr. Fred Fifer helped Texas science teachers learn how to integrate the Water, Water Everywhere! activity into their classroom teaching. He goes on to show how this experiential training activity can lead to discussions on how this experience can help all understand the term 'variable' and the importance of water conservation.

Researchers estimate that half of the world's population is chronically dehydrated. And in America, that level is thought to be even higher at 75 percent of the population. According to WebMD, “Dehydration can occur in anyone of any age, but it is most dangerous for babies, small children, and older adults.” Check out the Hydration Calculator to figure out how much water your body requires to function properly. To see how much your students have internalized, challenge them to create an ‘infographic’ of the benefits of hydration – along with the percentage of water in their own bodies! Here’s an example to help sustain your flow of creativity