Objective: Students will learn the value of conserving water as part of a water history unit.

Materials: Several 1 gallon ice cream buckets, outside spigot, 1 copy per student "Haul It Home" math worksheet, Haul It Home Story

The average American family (3.2 people) uses 200 gallons of water per day. This includes all uses of water, such as bathing, flushing the toilet, washing clothes, etc. It's a fact that using water today is pretty easy. All a person has to do is turn on the faucet. There is little or no work involved. Normally, when a home is hooked up to a municipal or rural water system, the occupants can use as much water as they want provided they are ready and willing to pay the bill for the amount they've used. One exception to this luxury is unlimited water use may occur during times of drought when supplies are low and demand is high. Water system operators will then ask their water users to conserve water.

Hauling water was a lot of work. Water was usually hand-pumped or bailed out of a well, pond, or cistern and hauled in buckets to where it was needed. (Note: A five gallon bucket of water weighs about 45 pounds.) The well was often located near the barn and the livestock to reduce hauling distance. Close proximity to the livestock had advantages and disadvantages for the farmer. For the farmer's wife and family, this often meant that hauling water was a chore to be completed many times a day. Children were given this responsibility once he/she was old enough to carry the weight of the water. Hauling water was a process that everyone did as water was needed for the farm animals, the gardens, and household uses.

Inform your students that the average American family uses 200 gallons of water every day. This includes all uses of water, from bathing to flushing the toilet, drinking, washing clothes, etc. Ask your students if they would use 200 gallons of water a day if they had to haul it.

Have your student guess how much 1 gallon of water weighs (8.34 pounds per gallon).

How much would 200 gallons weigh? 1,668 pounds

Go outside to the spigot with the 1 gallon ice cream buckets.

Have your students haul 200 gallons of water to a tree or several trees. Your students will be amazed at the amount of time and energy it takes to haul the water.

Go back into your classroom. Again question your class about their water usage. Have them brainstorm about what they do at home that could be construed as "wasting" water. Ask for ideas about what the pioneers would have done to save water that is not being done now in their own homes.

Give a copy of the "Haul It Home" math worksheet to each student. After they have completed the worksheet, review the answers. Hold a discussion with the class about the amount of buckets they would be hauling from the well or pond just to get through the day!

Activity source and adapted from: My World, My Water and Me
Grade Level:
Upper Elementary

Subject Areas:
Reading, Math, Social Studies

SD Standards for 4th grade:
4.R.1.1; 4.R.1.2; 4.R.2.1; 4.R.2.3; 4.R.3.3; 4.R.4.1

4.A.1.1; 4.A.3.1; 4.A.1.2; 4.M.1.3

Social Studies

Classroom & Outdoors

Recall, Observation, Calculation

Prior Preparation: This is one of several activities in a "water history" unit. Make copies of the water history stories to hand out to students. Have students read aloud in class each story and hold an in-class discussion of what they do in their lives vs what pioneer children would have done in their lives with their limited water resources. These stories are the "lead-in" to the activities in this unit.


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