Grade 8 Water Systems

This resource page is designed to help students respond to STSE issues relating to ‘Water Systems’ with inquiry-based actions. ‘Water Systems’ is a unit set within the Understanding Earth and Space Systems strand of Ontario’s Grade 8 Science curriculum. The Overall Expectations for teaching and learning in this unit are:
1. Assess the impact of human activities and technologies on the sustainability of water resources
2. Investigate factors that affect local water quality
3. Demonstrate an understanding of the characteristics of the earth’s water systems and the influence of water systems on a specific region
The recommendations below primarily address Expectation #1.

General Overview of Resources Use
The activities of this resource page are organized into three progressive sections as recommended in the Backgrounder.
Click here for a brief description of the sections.

Detailed Suggestions for Resources Use
1. Model Inquiry-based STSE Actions
You could begin by having students share their existing knowledge on issues regarding local and global water systems and think of corresponding actions. Discussion questions might include: Why is water considered to be such a valuable resource? Who has the greatest/least access to clean water? What impact does human activity have on the world's oceans, lakes, rivers and groundwater? You could also explicitly ask students to brainstorm a list of relevant STSE issues. In your follow-up discussion with students, you might use some of the following examples:
Depleting freshwater supply: Over consumption of freshwater has increased significantly over the past twenty years, particularly in first world nations. In order to support a growing global population, freshwater conservation is necessary.
Water pollution: Human activity has led to the pollution of water systems. Some factories dump industrial waste into nearby rivers and lakes. Run-off from pesticides and fertilizers can contaminate and harm aquatic wildlife. Recreation boats and transport lines may release fuel into the water if they have leaky engines or tanks.
Oil spills/leaks: In April 2010, reports were released of an explosion that occurred on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers. SkyTruth, a non-profit organization, estimated that 25 000 barrels of oil were being leaked per day. The spread of oil from ocean bottoms to coastal areas have affected aquatic creatures of all parts of the food chain.
Rising temperature of oceans: The oceans absorb heat from natural and human causes leading to the graduate increase in temperature. Aquatic organisms are forced to adapt and thermal expansion to water results in rising sea levels.
Having sensitized students to a number of issues related to Water Systems, ask students what could be done about them – record their answers. Furthermore, provide examples of actions people have taken through the videos below. After watching each video, allow students to share their reactions.

1) Water consumption diary

Discussion questions:
Why do you think the filmmakers made this video? Potential answer: to help people visualize how often a sink is used over a short period of time. What might they (and viewers) do in response to their finding (i.e. almost 4000 liters of water were consumed by 4 people over 2 days)? Potential answer: they might goals for reducing their water consumption.

2) Tips for reducing water consumption

Discussion questions: What is the purpose of this video? Do you think it's effective in getting people to reduce their consumption of water – why or why not? How can this video be improved? Potential answer: the filmmakers should include information/statistics to convince viewers that over consumption of water is a serious issue.

3) Device for accurately measuring home water consumption

Discussion questions: Do you think the device would help people lower their rate of water consumption? Should it be available for commercial use – why or why not? Potential answer: it would be useful for people to precisely track their habits of water consumption but it would also be very expensive and perhaps impractical. How else can people measure their personal use of water? Potential answer: they could manually record how many times they flush the toilet, turn on the tap and the duration of their showers each day.

4) Dual flush toilet conversion kit

Discussion questions: How does this video mobilize the issue of water consumption? Do you think the video convinces viewers that a dual flush toilet conversion kit is a worthwhile investment? Explain. Potential answer: yes, the video is convincing because it presents a problem (depleting water supply) and provides a feasible solution (conversion kit).

What other actions can people take to minimize water consumption? It may be useful at this point to mention different forms of activism.jpg.

2. Guided Inquiry-based STSE Actions
Before beginning the project, it is important to assess students’ comfort and expertise with conducting primary and secondary research. You might have to take some time to provide students with lessons on developing inquiry skills such as asking cause-result questions, designing experiments and correlational studies, preparing appropriate tables and graphs, analyzing data, reporting findings, etc. Since students will be conducting primary research, it would also be useful to discuss the general features of correlational studies and experiments.

If you feel that students have sufficient expertise with primary research, you should then proceed with a guided inquiry-based project. One suggestion is for students to conduct a primary correlational study on 'water footprints'.

Part 1 - Water footprints of individuals
Have students...
a. Conduct preliminary research on the concept of water footprints
- What is a water footprint?
- How is it similar/different from a carbon footprint?
- How is it relevant to water consumption and conservation?
- What surprised you in your research?
b. Brainstorm individual factors/demographics that may determine the size of one's waterfootprint (e.g. age, gender, household income); they should choose 1 or 2 to study.
c. Calculate their own water footprint using the extended calculator from AND collect footprint calculations and information on the individual factors they are studying from 5-10 people; students could then compile their data to obtain a larger sample size. At this point it would also be useful to discuss the benefits of having a relatively large sample size – observed differences are less likely to be a result of chance.
d. Graph their data and determine if there is a relationship between the cause and result variables. (The findings might help the students decide who to target in their activism.)

Part 2 - Water footprints of nations
Have students use data on national water footprints provided by to graph the relationship between the average waterfootprints of 15 different countries (including Canada) and another variable that may have an association with how much water a country consumes (e.g. GDP, standard of living, literacy rate).

Part 3 - Create and implement a plan of action
Discuss next steps in light of research findings. (Now that we have gathered this information, what should we do?) A couple of suggestions are for students to develop sustainable habits for reducing their water footprint and provide information to the friends, family, and/or the general public on water footprints (see video below). Encourage creativity and collaboration among students!

3. Student-led Inquiry-based STSE Action Project
Students should have the opportunity to conduct their own open-ended, student-led inquiry projects after the guided activity has been completed. The teacher should act as a facilitator, guiding students without telling them what to do.
a. Handout copies of the assignment to the class. Read it over together and ensure everyone understands each part.
b. Provide students with a list of STSE issues relevant to the Water Systems unit, including ones that were brainstormed by students in the first, modeling activism phase.
c. Organize students into small groups of 3-5 students – each will explore and act upon one STSE issue. Encourage students to work collaboratively, making decisions and dividing work appropriately.
d. Provide students with in-class time to use the library and/or computer lab for research and encourage groups to meet outside of class time. It would also be useful to set tentative deadlines for each stage of the project to help groups manage their time.
e. Towards the end of the unit, students should have an opportunity to defend their proposed actions with their research findings in front of the class. This would provide a great opportunity for students to share their learning with the class, reflect upon their growth and next steps, and receive feedback from their teacher and peers.