Back in the Classroom


Build on what your students learned at the Museum with these conversation starters.
  • What did you learn about water that surprised you?
  • How do your actions affect how much water you use? What future choices could you make to protect this valuable resource?
  • How would your life change if you didn't have access to water? What would you be willing to give up?
  • Who owns water? Who competes for it? Is water a public or private resource?
  • Is clean water a human right?
  • How can we balance human use of natural resources while still preserving them?


Animal Story (K-8): Have students create a poster, story, or cartoon strip about an animal from the exhibition. Younger students can draw the animal's home and describe how it uses water. They can also include other living things that share the ecosystem. Older students can describe a day in the life of that animal based on its physical traits and its relationship to water. Request further research if needed.

Write a Letter (K-12): Have students write a letter to their families or local policy makers about what they learned in the exhibit and how they think their families or communities could conserve water.

Water Conservation in School (K-12): Ask students to survey how their school uses water and brainstorm conservation strategies (e.g. fixing leaks, using water fountains instead of bottled water). Encourage them to present the report to your principal.

Watersheds (3-12): Ask students to research their local watershed and water supply on the Environment Protection Agency website ( Sample questions: What is a watershed? What is "good" water? How is your water supply tested, cleaned, and treated? How can you protect local resources?

Global Water Issues (5-12): Have students describe and categorize water problems and solutions from around the world. Then quote Einstein: "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." Brainstorm new solutions. For inspiration, visit Cooper-Hewitt Museum's "Designing for the Other 90%" website ( and explore the Water section. As an extension, students can design and build their own water-related inventions.

Bottled Water (5-12): Brainstorm brands of bottled water with students and compile a list on the board. Then conduct a blind taste test that includes tap water and at least three brands of bottled water. Divide the class into teams, assign one brand to each, and ask teams to research how theirs is produced and marketed. Have students include the benefits and disadvantages of using plastic bottles. Ask them to compare the cost to that of orange juice and gasoline.

Who Owns Water? (5-12): Divide the class into two teams, one representing corporations (for which water is a commodity to be bought and sold) and the other the people (for whom water is an inalienable individual and collective right). Have each team research its side of the issue. Ask them to debate "Who Owns Water?"


  • Water for Educators: You'll find an in-depth description of the exhibition, activities, book and web lists, and more
  • Water OLogy: Younger students can explore interactives such as "Living on Ice" and find fun Stuff-to-Do activities.
  • Science Bulletins: Students can examine current research about water through videos and interactives.
  • Your Water On Tap: Students can explore how drinking water is delivered and treated, and how wastewater and stormwater is processed.


Water: H2O=Life Online Educator's Guide