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Don't Use it All Up! - An Educator's Reference Desk Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan #: AELP- ENV0039

Don't Use it All Up!

An Educator's Reference Desk Lesson Plan

Submitted by: Leia Schneider & Sara Taes
School/University/Affiliation: University of Montana
Endorsed by: Lisa Blank, University of Montana

Date: November 8, 1999

Grade Level(s): 3, 4, 5, 6


  • Science/Environmental Education
Duration: One 45 minute session

Description: How can water be conserved? Using sponges as an example, students need and use water daily in many ways, and often in unrealized amounts. Water is used directly for drinking (1/2 gallon a day). The sponges used will represent humans demands on the water supply on earth.

Goals: NSES: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives; Environmental Science: Science Content Standard 5 of Montana Standards for Science.

Objectives: Student will:

1. Demonstrate an understanding of the fact that individuals place demands on natural resources.
2. Demonstrate an understanding of the visual demonstration of sponges and water represents
    human resource consumption.
3. Construct examples of how they can conserve natural resources.

Materials: A big clear container with a wide mouth opening, four sponges cut into eight pieces each, water, a bowl, marker or masking tape, paper towels, drawing paper, and materials.


Focus Phase:
1. Put about four cups of water in the container. Ask the students to pretend that the container represents the earth and the water represents all the available water.
2. Discuss with the students the ways we use water (drinking, irrigation, recreation, cleaning, processing, bathing, transportation, etc.). These can be written on the chalkboard for student reference.

Challenge Phase:
1. With a marker or masking tape, mark the water level on the outside of the container. Drop a piece of sponge into the container as you share one personal demand you made on water today. Remove the wet sponge from the water level. It probably shows very little change.
2. Ask students, one at a time, to name a personal demand they made on water today while dropping a piece of sponge in the container. The students may begin to notice a change in the water level. After all the sponges have been dropped in the container, soaking up as much water as possible, remove all of them (don't squeeze them out) and set them aside in a bowl. Draw attention to the dramatic change in the water level. Help students understand that the demands of a lot of people have more effect than the demands of a few people on natural resources. Ask:
-What happens to the water level as we put in more sponges?

-What will happen if we keep using water at this rate?

-What can we do about this situation?

-How can we give water back to the environment?

Concept Introduction:
1. Once the students have mentioned reducing, reusing, or recycling take one wet sponge, naming a way you can reduce or recycle, and squeeze the water out of the sponge back into the container. There is a change in the water level, but not much. One person reducing or recycling does make a difference. The impact, however, will be greater when many individuals reduce, reuse, and recycle.
-In what ways can you reduce, reuse, and recycle, or be more careful about the demands you make on water?

2. When students have an idea about how they can give back to the environment, have them squeeze the water out of a wet sponge back into the container sharing their idea with the class. The water level will go up. It won't go back to the original mark, however. Ask:
-Why doesn't the water level return to the original mark even after all the sponges are squeezed out? (Even by recycling resources, some of them will be used up.)

-Why is it important to you to reduce, reuse, and recycle, and/or make careful demands on water?

-What one thing have you learned about conserving water through the sponge demonstration? (Answers will vary, but should reflect an appreciation for the finiteness of many natural resources, the renewability of some, and the desirability of using natural resources wisely.)


Concept Application: Have students draw "Waste/No Waste" pictures showing themselves "wasting" and "not wasting." Have students fold pieces of white paper in half and on one side draw a picture showing how they might use water. On the other half, students can draw a picture of how they can save that resource.

The students will demonstrate an understanding of water conservation by 1) Drawing an accurate picture of using and conserving water; 2) Writing a poem about one or more ways water can be reused, reduced, and recycled.


Lesson adapted from Corsentino, P. (1995). Ecosystem matters. Washington, DC: United States Department of Agriculture.