Teaching in the Exhibition
The Water: H2O = Life
exhibition is designed to engage all learning styles through hands-on and digital interactives, videos, wall panels, models, specimens, and live animals. This guide divides the exhibition
into eight numbered areas, which correspond to the map
and to the text below. Each area is supported by an overview, highlights to explore, and guiding questions.
1. Life in Water
All life needs water. This area showcases some unexpected groupings of animals and plants—such as the wood frog, orchid, tardigrade, kangaroo rat, albatross, diatom, and mudskipper—that gather, store, and use water in unique ways.
- Models and specimens: Students can compare and contrast the way different plants and animals have adapted to extreme environments such as the driest deserts, the hottest water, and the saltiest seas.
Some species never drink! Kangaroo rats get all the water they need from the food they eat.
©AMNH / R. Mickens
2. Blue Planet
- What would you have to do to be able to live in an environment where all the water was hot or salty?
- Many plants and animals can't live in the extreme conditions depicted here. What physical features enable some organisms to survive where others can't?
Water shapes our planet. This area focuses on theextraordinary H2
O molecule, water's dynamic role in Earth processes, and where fresh water is abundant or scarce around the world.
- Touchable water cycle sculpture: Students can use their senses to explore water as a liquid, a vapor, and a solid, and can then describe their experience.
- Science on a Sphere: Students can watch visualizations on this globe suspended in midair, and consider how water is distributed around the world. Ask students to find their homes on the globe and compare their local water availability to that of other places.
3. Water Works
- What are the unique characteristics of water?
- Where is fresh water found?
- What human activities are possible because of the physical properties of water?
Humans put water to work. This area discusses where fresh water is found, how we collect it, who uses how much, and how it contributes to almost everything we produce and consume.
- How We Use the World's Water interactive: With the help of these wall-sized graphs, students can analyze how water is used around the world, who uses more of it, and why.
- Virtual Water quiz show: Students can play the game for surprising information about how we use water—and how much! Ask students to list two facts that surprise them.
- Stories of dams around the world & Removing a Dam interactive: Students can look at these wall panels and lift the lever on the interactive. Ask them to consider the problems that dams solve and create.
- Getting Groundwater interactive: Students can turn the crank to pump water from the well and explore water delivery from an aquifer.
4. Water Everywhere
- What do humans use water for?
- How do we put water to work?
- How does technology help us use water more efficiently?
- Why are some technologies less efficient than others?
Some places or seasons are extremely wet, others very dry. This area explores some of the wettest and iciest places in the world, how species (including humans) have adapted to these extremes, and how climate change is affecting them.
During Cambodia's monsoon season, the Mekong River runs backwards and Tonle Sap Lake expands. Houses on floats move with the lake's edge.
©Maureen K / flickr.com
- Tonle Sap & Arctic ice cap displays: These models of Cambodia's freshwater fishery and the North Pole give students the opportunity to explore how species adapt to these environments, why they might be at risk, and the behaviors that are the cause. Ask students to come up with five questions about the animals and plants.
5. Not a Drop
- In what ways does life depend on water?
- How do Arctic species cope with rising temperatures?
- What are some of the many roles that water plays in cultural beliefs?
Half of the world's fresh water can be found in only six countries. Over a billion people do not have access
to safe drinking water. This area offers stories from some of the driest locations in the world and examples of technologies that collect and carry water.
- Stories of water scarcity: Stories about places such as northern India enable students to explore how gender and age affect access to water. Other panels show technologies that address water shortages in places that include Western Australia, Chile's Atacama Desert, and South Africa. Ask a few student volunteers to talk about times when water really mattered to them. Ask how their stories are different from—or similar to—stories in the exhibition.
6. Healthy Water
- How does access to water influence the way people live?
- How do people use technology to increase access to water?
- How does access to water affect women and children around the world?
Clean water and good health go hand in hand. This area explores where our drinking water comes from, what's involved in making it safe, and why clean water is so important.
- Wetlands diorama & bottled water technology: Students can observe these displays in order to compare natural and industrial ways to purify water.
- Your Water On Tap interactive: Students can explore drinking water sources, delivery methods, and wastewater treatment. Ask where the water goes when they flush a toilet.
- Porous Rocks interactive: Students can drip water through four rocks of varying porosity to explore how water finds its way underground.
- What makes water clean or dirty?
- Where does our drinking water come from? Where does our dirty water go?
- How can we protect and conserve our drinking water?
- How is water stored and how does it move underground?
The marshlands of Mesopotamia, which cleaned the waters of the Tigris and the Euphrates, were drained during the 1991 Gulf War. They have responded well to reflooding by the native Ma'dan people.
7. Restoring Ecosystems
©Curtis J. Richardson/Duke University Wetland Center
More than any other resource, water exemplifies the ecological principle that all living things are connected. This area demonstrates how aquatic ecosystems are both fragile and resilient.
- Mesopotamia, Mississippi Delta, & Mono Lake displays: Students can examine stories from different places to see how local ecosystems have been severely damaged and what programs are now in place to restore them. Ask students to list which parts of the ecosystem are at particular risk, and why.
8. Local Story
- How have societies used water throughout history?
- How does water use in one area affect other regions?
- How do tidal wetlands protect us? How can we protect tidal wetlands?
We are stewards of our water planet. This area features stories of New York residents who are taking action to protect the region's water.
- What Can We Do? interactives: Students can use these multimedia stations to discover how much water they use in daily activities. Have students suggest ways in which they could use less water. Ask students to consider making a specific change that would protect and conserve water in their daily lives.
- What are some surprising ways to be more responsible about water use?
- What could you do to reduce water pollution around your home or school?