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

Materials: 1 bucket suitable for drinking from, 1 ladle, compass, 1 piece of heavy (card stock-type) paper per student, 1 copy per student of the "Drinking Cup" instructions, 1 copy per student of the "Drink Token" page

Water is only as far away as the faucet. All of South Dakota's towns and all but a handful of rural people have running water. Most state residents have water delivered directly to their homes, business, and farms and ranches from a municipal or a rural water distribution system. In South Dakota we have 25 regional rural water systems, multiple municipalities and small systems that furnish water to citizens. All types of water systems function in relatively the same manner. Water is pumped from a source, treated, and delivered to the water users through underground pipelines called water mains. If a person living in rural South Dakota doesn't get his/her water from one of the above systems, he/she usually gets it from a well.

Most households in South Dakota got their water from a well or from a nearby stream or pond. Households had a bucket specifically designated for drinking water. When a person was thirsty, he/she would get a dipper full of water from the water bucket and take a drink. When the bucket was empty, someone would have to haul another bucket of water to the house. To keep the water cool during the warm months, the bucket was usually located in the unheated entry way or next to the sink in the kitchen.

Make copies of the "Drink Tokens" page. Each student receives 1 page.

Have each student write their first and last name on each drink token and then cut out. They are responsible for their own tokens.

Next, have students make their own drinking cup from the instructions provided and using the heavy cardstock-type paper.

Have 2 students carry an empty bucket to the kitchen, fill it with water, and carry it back to the room where it should be placed near the teacher's desk. Make sure the bucket has a lid.

Hang the ladle on the bucket. This will be your student's only supply of water for the day or for the week. This means no drinking from the water fountain.

Each student must have a glass/cup. (8 oz. for his/her personal use. Each student can drink up to 8 glasses of water per day. This is the recommended amount of water a person should drink per day.)

Each day, every student should be given 8 drink tokens which can be exchanged for 8 cups of water. When the bucket is empty, have a new pair of volunteers haul in another bucket of water.

Do this process for 1 week. Have your students keep track of the days that they used all their drink tokens and the days they did not. Have each student journal his/her thoughts on water usage each day. Have them do comparative thinking/writing - how many times they would have had to go to the well, or how many times they would have had to dip the bucket in the cistern if they were drinking the same amount in the 1890's as they have this past week.

NOTE: DO NOT ALLOW YOUR STUDENTS TO DRINK DIRECTLY FROM THE LADLE OR THE BUCKET. Explain that many disease-causing organisms live in and can be spread by water. Public health specialists call diseases spread in such a manner "waterborne diseases".

Activity source and adapted from: North Dakota Project WET
Grade Level:
Upper Elementary

Subject Areas:
Science, Math, Social Studies, Reading

SD Standards for 4th grade:
Nature of Science, Indicator 2, 4.S.1.1; 4.S.1.2

4.M.1.1; 4.N.3.1; 4.S.2.1

Social Studies
4.US.1.2; 4.G.2.1

4.R.1.1; 4.R.1.2; 4.R.2.1; 4.R.2.3; 4.R.3.3; 4.R.4.1


Recall, Observation

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 stores are the "lead-in" to the activities in this unit.

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