National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
Journey 2050 Lesson 3: Water (Grades 9-12)
9 - 12
Students will discuss the limited amount of fresh water on earth, identify how best management practices can reduce water consumption, discuss the need for water conservation and protection related to population growth and agriculture, and compare and contrast methods of irrigation for water conservation. This lesson is listed on NSTA's website as a Classroom Resource.
- Water PowerPoint
- Interest Approach Supplies
- Option 1: Rain jacket, hat, 5-gallon (18L) bucket of water, tablespoon
- Option 2: One-gallon container, clear bowl, ½-cup measuring cup, eyedropper
- Map of local watershed (optional)
- Journey 2050: Water video
- Sustainability Farm Game: Level 3 Water
- Computer or tablet device for each student
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
conservation tillage: leaving at least 30% of the soils surface covered with crop residues left after harvesting the previous crop; this helps slow water movement, reducing the risk of erosion, and increases soil organic matter, improving the soils ability to hold moisture and grow better crops
crop residue: plant material remaining in a field after harvesting, including leaves, stalks, roots
irrigation: artificial application of water to the land or soil to assist plant growth
riparian area: A space between the land and the waterway ideally filled with native grass, bushes and trees
watershed: the land area that drains into the same body of water (e.g. river, lake or wetland), including areas such as parks, fields, schoolyards and even parking lots; watersheds know no political borders, whether national or international
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
- Over 70% of Earth is covered in water but only a small amount is freshwater.
- Only 5% of all the water on Earth is freshwater
- Only a small drop (3%) of the freshwater on the earth is accessible because the rest is trapped in groundwater, the atmosphere, glaciers and ice caps.10
- Groundwater is the easiest to access, but that still leaves us with over 68% of our water supply that is salt water or un-accessible.
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
Use one of the following demonstrations to help students visualize the amount of freshwater available on earth:
- Prior to class, fill a five-gallon bucket with water.
- Ask for one volunteer. Dress the volunteer in rain gear, including a rain hat, and have the student sit or stand in front of the class.
- Once your volunteer student is in place, bring the bucket of water in front of the class as well. Explain that this bucket represents all the water on the entire earth.
- Ask your class what portion of this water they think is usable. As they offer their ideas, help them understand that to be usable, the water cannot be salt water, it can’t be frozen (glaciers), and it can’t be so deep in the ground that we can’t access it.
- Tell your class that you are going to show them the answer by dumping how much of our earth’s water is freshwater in a usable form on the student’s head. Pick up the bucket of water and pretend to dump…stop…set it down and grab a tablespoon. Proceed to drop three tablespoons of water on the student’s head.1
- Fill a one-gallon container (such as a plastic ice cream bucket) with water. This represents all the water on Earth.
- Pour one half-cup of water out of the one-gallon container and into a clear bowl. The water in the bowl represents all of the freshwater on Earth, which is less than three percent of the total water on Earth. Freshwater is found in lakes, rivers, groundwater, ice and living things. The 15 half-cups that are still in the one-gallon container represent salt water. We cannot use salt water without first removing the salt in a process known as desalination. Though research and technology are improving this process, it is still prohibitively expensive and often impractical.
- With an eyedropper, place one drop of water from the half-cup onto a small plate. This one drop represents the freshwater that is available for our use. This water is found in rivers and lakes. Explain that the rest of the water in the half-cup is deep groundwater, water bound up as soil moisture, water in living things or water in the atmosphere.
Following the demonstration:
- Share the statistics found in the Did You Know? section of the lesson.
- Help students conclude from the demonstration that water is a limited natural resource. Ask, “How are water and agriculture related?” Use further guiding questions until students recognize that farmers must use a portion of our water supply to grow the crops and raise the livestock that provide our food supply. Ask students, “What practices can farmers use to conserve and protect freshwater?” Inform students that they will be learning about how water use in agriculture can be managed to provide food more sustainably for our growing population.
Three Dimensional Learning Proficiency: Disciplinary Core Ideas
Students are able to link key science concepts from the four domains of science: physical science; life science; earth and space science; with problem solving (engineering) and the application of science through technology.
- Earth and Space Science: The sustainability of human societies and the biodiversity that supports them requires responsible management of natural resources.
Preparation: Prior to class, review the Background information, video clip, and PowerPoint slides (including the speaker notes) associated with the lesson. Watch the Getting Started with Journey 2050 video and if needed, refer to the Teacher's Guide: Getting Started document paying particular attention to page 2 where you will find the instructions for downloading the Sustainability Farming Game.
- Open the Water PowerPoint.
- Slide 3: Play the Journey 2050: Water video (5:07). Engage students with the video by asking them to discover three things: 1) How is water used in agriculture? 2) What methods do farmers use to irrigate their crops? 3) What best practices can be implemented to use water more efficiently in agriculture? (Background and discussion prompts are outlined in the steps below and in the PowerPoint notes).
- How is water used in agriculture?
- Slide 4: Ask students, “What do farmers need to grow a crop?” Use the click animations on the PowerPoint slide to display open space, fertile soil, sunshine, correct climate and seeds. Once these items have been discussed, explain that there is one more item. Without it, the crop will fail completely. Ask students what this could be. (water)
- What methods do farmers use to irrigate their crops? Describe these common methods:1
- Slide 6: Drip Irrigation—Using the picture, describe drip irrigation. Water is sent through plastic pipes that are laid along the crop rows. Tiny holes allow water to drip at the base of the plants. This method is most effective for fruit and vegetable crops.
- Slide 7: Center-Pivot Irrigation—Using the picture, describe center-pivot irrigation. This is a large sprinkling system on wheels. A line of sprinklers pivots around a center point in a field. This method of irrigation is what creates green crop circles that can be seen from a plane.
- Slide 9: Flood/Furrow Irrigation—Using the picture, describe flood or furrow irrigation. To utilize this method of irrigation, farmers dig furrows between their crop rows. Water is delivered to the top of each row using ditches or siphon hoses. The crop is irrigated as the water flows from the top to the bottom of each row.
- Slide 10: Ask students, “Besides irrigation, what other ways do farmers use water?” Allow students to offer their answers. Guide the discussion, clarifying that irrigation accounts for the majority of water use in agriculture, but water is also needed to raise livestock and to clean and sterilize facilities such as milk barns or food processing plants in order to prevent food-borne illness.
- What best practices can be implemented to use water most efficiently in agriculture?
- Help students recall the definition of best practice. Next, apply the principle to water conservation and ask for ideas of how farmers can conserve water as they grow our food and fiber.
- Slide 12: Refer back to the video clip they viewed at the beginning of the lesson. It described a practice called conservation tillage. Explain that farmers will leave crop residue (materials such as stalks, stems and seeds) in their fields without plowing it under in the fall. In the spring, they use an air seeder (device that precisely plants the seeds at equal distances and proper depth in the soil and then covers them) to plant the next crop, eliminating the need to plow the soil. Conservation tillage improves water-use efficiency in crops.
- Slide 13: Explain that a riparian area is a space between land and a waterway, ideally filled with native grasses, shrubs and trees. Landowners can improve water quality by preserving wetland and riparian areas, which have many benefits. These areas help filter nutrients that are collected as water runs over the land; help control water levels during floods; and provide habitat for animals. If possible, use a local riparian area as an example to help students understand.
- Slide 14: Explain to students that some methods of irrigation are more efficient than others. Best practices in irrigation vary by farm and crop, but they will generally enable farmers to decrease water evaporation, deliver water more directly to plant roots (eliminating water loss to other locations or from runoff), and measure precise soil moisture for exact watering.
- Slide 15: Ask students, “How can we protect and conserve water at home and in our schools and communities?” As students discuss answers, reinforce the concept that our actions affect our natural resources. Water conservation ideas include: turning off the water while brushing your teeth, using low flow toilets, using water bottles and refill stations, decreasing shower times, etc.
Activity 2: Sustainability Farm Game Level 3 Water
- Slide 16: Open Level 3 of the Sustainability Farm Game on each student’s computer or device. Explain that in this level of the game they will be farming in all three countries (Kenya, India and Canada). Prepare students for the game by informing them of the following:
- In this level of the game you will primarily be managing water use. There will be a water meter on the left side of the screen that you will need to pay close attention to.
- The game is simulated for the year 2030.
- Stop when you finish farming in Canada
- Total game time is 15 minutes (5 minutes in each country)
- Slides 17–18: Once students have completed the game, use the following questions to help synthesize what they have learned:
- What were your limiting factors?
- Did you find it difficult to have enough water for your crops? Why is freshwater conservation and preservation important? How did the weather impact your crops?
- What ripple effects did you notice from your investments?
Three Dimensional Learning Proficiency: Crosscutting Concepts
Students link different domains of science fields into a coherent and scientifically-based view of the world.
- Cause and Effect: Systems can be designed to cause a desired effect.
Summarize the following key points (slide 19):
- Water is a natural resource critical to agriculture.
- Although the majority of Earth is made up of water, only a small fraction is actually usable.
- Farmers improve their water efficiency by using water conservation practices and technologies such as irrigation (with moisture sensors), conservation tillage and riparian areas.
- Some regions of the world face greater threats to their water supply than others.
We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!
Using slide 22 of the attached PowerPoint, break students into small groups. Have each group brainstorm ways we can conserve and protect water. Assign each group one of the specific areas below:
- Home – Outside (manage lawn and landscape sprinklers)
- Home – Inside (5-minute showers, don’t dump medicine in toilets as treatment plants might not be able to filter them, turn off water while brushing teeth)
- School (rain gardens, sensor bathroom taps, water fountains vs water bottles, low flow toilets]
- Community [Provide garbage bins and hang posters on impact of dog feces running into river, native tree planting day to stabilize river bank and collect runoff)
- Optional – Local Industry such as Oil & Gas, Forestry, Manufacturing (re-use water in processing, clean water used before returning it to the rivers)
- Optional – Farm (wetlands, drip irrigation, cell phones that turn irrigation on and off depending on weather)
Display a map of your local watershed so students can see where water flows from and to in your area. Every action you take impacts our community and our neighbors downstream. Point out to students that in some countries they can’t drink water from the tap because it is contaminated. Every day we must protect and conserve water.
Using slide 21 of the attached PowerPoint, consider using the following supplementary videos:
Using slide 23 of the attached PowerPoint, display a map of the world and ask students, “Which countries have the least available freshwater?” Allow students to offer their guesses and proceed to ask, “Which countries have the most available freshwater?” Discuss reasons why. Through class discussion, help students more fully recognize that across the globe not everyone has access to a reliable freshwater source. Discuss factors that impact water availability and daily water use per person (estimate liters or gallons by country). Access data from FAO website.
Suggested Companion Resources
- Journey 2050 Program Summary (Activity)
- Agronomy - Grow with It! (Book)
- Planet Zorcon (Kit)
- Agriculture and the Sustainable Development Goals (Multimedia)
- How Reducing Food Waste Could Ease Climate Change (Multimedia)
- The Story of Bottled Water video (Multimedia)
- World Population History (Multimedia)
- Wiki Watershed (Teacher Reference)
- Food Matters (Website)
- Irrigation Museum (Website)
- Project WET (Website)
- Responsible Acre (Website)
- The USGS Water Science School (Website)
- Using Technology to Save Water (Website)
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Agriculture and the Environment
- Describe resource and conservation management practices used in agricultural systems (e.g., riparian management, rotational grazing, no till farming, crop and variety selection, wildlife management, timber harvesting techniques) (T1.9-12.b)
- Evaluate the various definitions of “sustainable agriculture,” considering population growth, carbon footprint, environmental systems, land and water resources, and economics (T1.9-12.f)
Culture, Society, Economy & Geography
- Communicate how the global agricultural economy and population influences the sustainability of communities and societies (T5.9-12.a)
- Compare and contrast the economic challenges facing developed and under-developed countries (poverty, population, and hunger) (T5.9-12.c)
- Discuss how agricultural practices have increased agricultural productivity and have impacted (pro and con) the development of the global economy, population, and sustainability (T5.9-12.e)
Education Content Standards
Natural Resource Systems Career Pathway
NRS.01.02Classify different types of natural resources in order to enable protection, conservation, enhancement and management in a particular geographical region.
NRS.02.02Assess the impact of human activities on the availability of natural resources.
Economics Standard 1: Scarcity
ObjectiveIdentify what they gain and what they give up when they make choices.
Economics Standard 2: Decision Making
ObjectiveMake effective decisions as consumers, producers, savers, investors, and citizens.
APHG Topic 5C: Agriculture, Food Production, and Rural Land Use: Settlement patterns and rural land use are reflected in the cultural landscape.
Learning Objective 4
Learning Objective 4Evaluate the environmental consequences of agricultural practices.
NCSS 3: People, Places, and Environments
Objective 3Consequences of changes in regional and global physical systems, such as seasons, climate, and weather, and the water cycle.
NCSS 8: Science, Technology, and Society
Objective 2Science and technology have had both positive and negative impacts upon individuals, societies, and the environment in the past and present.
Objective 9Science, technology, and their consequences are unevenly available across the globe.
Objective 10Science and technology have contributed to making the world increasingly interdependent.
Objective 11That achievements in science and technology are increasing at a rapid pace and can have both planned and unanticipated consequences.
Objective 12Developments in science and technology may help to address global issues.
NCSS 9: Global Connections
Objective 4The actions of people, communities, and nations have both short-and long-term effects on the biosphere and its ability to sustain life.
HS-ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
HS-ESS3-4Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.
HS-LS2 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
HS-LS2-7Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.
Common Core Connections
Reading: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.8Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.5Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.