Water, Water Everywhere

By Susan Malone, December 1, 2009

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • City of Neighborhoods

Subject Area

  • Language Arts
  • Science

Lesson Time

200 minutes for classroom activities


Many of our teachers have classroom plants, and we also have a culinary garden at St. Paul’s. Keeping plants well-watered over holidays and the summer break has always been difficult. The students, divided into teams, will survey classroom teachers and the outdoor education director to determine the various needs. Each team will choose an area of need and design a watering system or product. Each product or system will be tested on site. Students will then analyze the effectiveness of each system/product and conduct a post-project interview with the classroom teachers and outdoor education director.

National Standards


Students will:

  • gain a working knowledge of the vascular system of plants, the water requirements of specific families of plants, and understand the need for water in the photosynthesis process
  • demonstrate competent use of research skills
  • demonstrate an understanding of cause and effect relationships
  • demonstrate effective use of design process skills
  • apply problem-solving techniques relevant to the situation
  • apply decision-making techniques relevant to the situation
  • use reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts
  • use viewing skills to understand and interpret visual media
  • demonstrate an ability to present their findings and solutions concisely and effectively
  • demonstrate their ability to work effectively as a team


basic horticulture books computer with internet access for biome/plant adaptation research science text copies of student-created surveys/interviews for distribution


  • paper
  • scissors
  • markers
  • cardboard
  • tape
  • construction paper
  • pieces of old garden hose
  • aquarium hose
  • PVC pipe
  • plastic containers
  • diapers
  • fabric for wicking
  • rulers


  • data: information obtained from observation, experiments, interviews, or surveys
  • dehydration: lack of water in an organism resulting from inadequate intake of fluid
  • horticulture: the science of cultivation of plants
  • interview: a meeting in which someone is asked formal questions
  • irrigation: to bring a supply of water to a dry area
  • photosynthesis : in photosynthesis, plants use energy from the sun to change carbon dioxide (CO2 - carbon and oxygen) and water (H2O- hydrogen and oxygen) into starches and sugars; these starches and sugars are the plant's food
  • survey: to do a study of a population by asking questions


(Note: Students will have been previously introduced to the basics of photosynthesis and the vascular system of plants.)

Session 1:

1. Basic review of concept of photosynthesis and vascular system of plants.

2. Based on this information, conduct a five-minute brainstorm session with the whole class as to why consistent, appropriate water levels are needed by plants. Leave the brainstorming web on the board. Do not go into detail, because the students need to discover and identify the more specific problems as a team.

3. Then conduct a second five-minute session about what happens to house/garden plants when they are ignored for a period of time or when there is a period of no rain, again leaving the information on the board.

4. Tell the students that teachers have had difficulty keeping their plants healthy during school vacations, and that their team will be designing a system or a product that addresses the problem of vacation plant care.

5. Divide class into teams of three students each. Have them choose a recorder, a research coordinator, and a project manager. Have the teams write any information from the board that they think they will need later.

Session 2:

1. Students will meet in their teams to discuss the problem of plant vacation care further. They will work together to create an interview and/or survey form (each form should include four to eight specific questions). The teacher will work with each team to help them focus on and understand what makes a good interview/survey question.

Session 3:

1. The student teams will distribute their surveys and make appointments and/or conduct personal interviews.

2. Student teams who finish early may begin brainstorming possible ways to water plants over a period of at least two weeks, making sure that they record their thought processes.

Session 4:

1. Students should have received surveys and completed personal interviews. If students need more time to receive/complete these, the teams can research information about plants, such as adaptation to various biomes. (Note: At this point I don’t let them research watering solution products—each team needs to come up with something unique!)

Sessions 5:

1. Student teams will review the information they ha ve gathered and analyze the data. Each team needs to document their findings (spreadsheet, T-diagram, Venn diagram, flow chart, or web) and discuss possible solutions (a system or a product).

2. Display the materials that are available to them in the classroom.

3. Give the students the rest of the allotted time to continue to brainstorm solutions and choose one.

4. Each team will write a rough draft of a one-page description of their solution with details that support their decision.

5. Once teams have chosen a solution, they will choose a “company name” that represents their team’s efforts.

Session 6:

1. Student teams will proofread/edit their written descriptions and create prototypes of their solution product, or a poster representing their solution system.

2. The teams will practice their presentation (five minute limit), with each member having an integral part in the presentation. The students will also plan to share their expected outcome as part of presentation.

Session 7:

1. Student teams will make their presentations of five minutes each. The class will then spend five minutes in discussion of the solution.

2. At the end of the period of time, each team will fill out a “Water, Water Everywhere” Scoring Rubric (Appendix A). The teacher will also fill out a rubric for each team.

3. The teacher will meet with each team to compare assessments for final scoring.

Long-term Assessment:

Students will put their product or system into practice either directly in the classrooms or each team will be applied to plants purchased specifically (a flat of bedding plants divided up among the teams would be great). Students can periodically take assessment and, after a period of time, be allowed to “tweak” their product or system.

After long-term application, the “Water, Water Everywhere” Scoring Rubric can be used again for assessment.



The students will assess their own experiences and the teacher will do the same, using the Scoring Rubric. The presentation and the team conference with the teacher allow for determining the success of the lesson.

Differentiation: Based on student ability, the level of research and written product can be adjusted.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Students and/or teams can expand the objectives by researching irrigation solutions for home gardens, small farms, and large agricultural applications. They can then make an effort to apply their particular solution to a larger area. Students can also research their costs and use Excel to create a budget for the larger application of their product or system.

Teacher Reflection

We are planning to begin this lesson just after December break as part of a middle school botany unit.

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