Pre-Visit Activities

These discussion questions and hands-on and online activities are designed to spark your students' interest in the exhibition and to prepare them for the concepts they'll encounter. You may wish to review the material prepared for other grade levels as well, and adapt them for your class.


To start your students thinking about what they'll encounter in the exhibition, ask one or more of the following questions:

All grades
  • What are some activities, such as sports and games, that are possible because of water?
  • What would your day be like if you lived in a home without running water?
  • Where does the water that we use at school and at home come from? Where does it go after we're done with it?
  • Where on Earth do we find water? What about fresh water?
  • Why is it important not to waste water?

  • How do you use water? Where do you use it?
  • Who or what uses water on our planet?
  • Where does water go when it evaporates? What role does the Sun play in this process? Where does rainwater come from? How do clouds form?
  • Would you drink water out of a puddle? Why or why not?
  • Where do you find dirty water in your home? Clean water?

  • How have you used water this week?
  • In what ways does life depend on water? What are some of the things that would happen if the water supply diminished?
  • How do industry and agriculture depend on water?
  • How does water move? How does it change? How does it affect the land?
  • Is clean water a human right? Who owns our water?

  • How long could you live without water?
  • How does access to water affect your day-to-day existence? How would your life change if water became scarcer, or was not clean?
  • How do humans change the quality of water?
  • What do you know about water as a resource?
  • How does water affect where people settle? How do these patterns of growth affect the environment?
  • Is clean water a human right? Who owns water?



Fresh Water vs. Salt Water

Objective: To demonstrate that fresh water is a limited resource

1. Using a world globe or map, discuss the differences between fresh water and salt water, where each is found, and their uses.
2. Fill a one-gallon container with water. Have students imagine that this container represents all of Earth's water. Ask how much of it would be fresh water.
3. Pour about a half-cup of water into a glass. Explain that this water represents all the fresh water on Earth. About two-thirds of it is locked in icecaps and glaciers, and less than one-third of it (about 2.5 tablespoons) is liquid fresh water available for use. Point out that what remains in the container represents the 97% of the world's water, which is found in the oceans.

Water Cycle

Objective: To review the three phases of water

1. Review the water cycle with students. Hand out ice cubes and cups of water and ask students to make observations of how they differ. Then, to demonstrate the third phase, heat the ice cubes in a pot or electric kettle until the water boils and steam can be observed.
2. Ask students to list where they encounter these different phases of water, both inside and outdoors.

You can visit the US Geological Survey website at to download a colorful water cycle diagram in over 50 languages.


What Does Water Weigh?

Objective: To experience the weight of water and consider its importance in daily life

1. Fill several gallon-sized milk containers with water and pass them around the room. Make sure the tops are sealed tightly.
2. Ask students to guess how much a gallon of water weighs. Then reveal the answer: a gallon of water weighs approximately 8.34 pounds.
3. Brainstorm a list of ways we use water each day with your students.
4. Tell students that in some parts of the world, water needs to be carried home from sources that are often several miles away. People, typically women and girls, may make multiple trips in order to provide enough water for entire families.
5. The average amount of water a New York City resident uses in the home every day is about 60 to 70 gallons. Ask students how their own habits might change if they had to carry home the gallons of water they use every day.

How Much Water Do We Use?

Objective: To visualize daily water consumption

1. Have a student brush, or pretend to brush, his or her teeth for two minutes, first with the water running and then with the tap or keg turned off between rinses.
2. Collect, measure, and compare the water used during the two experiments.

You and your students can visit the H2O Conserve website at to calculate your water use and learn how to conserve this valuable resource.


Water Calculator

Objective: To visualize daily water use

1. Ask students to list all the ways they use water. Have the class share responses and compile them on the board.
2. Break students into teams and ask them to estimate how much water each activity requires.
3. Ask teams to visit the US Geological Survey Water Calculator website at to calculate how many gallons of water each student uses per day.
4. Ask teams to compare their individual results. Have them share ways in which they can conserve water, and recalculate their water use.

Water Footprint

Objective: To understand how much water is required to produce what we consume

1. Visit and select ten or more products from the Product Gallery. Print each product page, which includes an image and its water footprint data. Post them on the board. You may wish to cover up the data.
2. In a class discussion, point out one product image. Ask students to list all the ways in which water is involved in producing that product, and estimate how many gallons of water are used in its production. Reveal the actual total.
3. Have students pick three other products that interest them and make similar lists and estimates.
4. Have students compare their estimates with the actual data, and ask them to write a reflection about any findings that surprise them.


Water: H2O=Life Online Educator's Guide