cleaning water

water inquiryYou just never know where a child’s questions can lead. Recently, I was demonstrating a watercolour technique for the students. When I asked them what they could do when the water became too dirty, they logically said they should pour it down the drain. I thought that would have been the end of that. It wasn’t. Two burning questions arose:  “But where does the water go?” and “How does the water get clean and come back out of the tap?”

I left them with a piece of chart paper for them to record their brainstorming. A few days later, I presented them with a coffee filter, paper towel, rocks, sand, oil, paper confetti, and containers. It didn’t take long for them to experiment. I gave no direction other than to watch and listen. A couple of students made quite the concoction. Water, sand, confetti, oil and rocks all went into a container and they stirred. Then, in went the coffee filter, paper towel and cotton – and they stirred some more. As tempting as it was to step in, I held back.

water experiment

They agreed that some of the water was cleaned with the materials. They were right. I asked them to bring their discovery to our sharing debrief where we could get some ideas from other classmates. At first, they weren’t sure. Everyone agreed that the cotton and paper towel collected some of the “dirt” from the water, but they needed more time to experiment.

Clean materials were put out for a couple of days for further exploration. Much of the same happened. Since the results were the same, I decided it was time to bring the clean materials and the used “dirty” materials to a sharing meeting for the students to take a closer look. We agreed that putting everything into the container of water did not work, so we needed to look more closely at the materials. “O” suggested, “Put the coffee filter in the top of the bottle and pour in the rest of the water.”

water test

A couple of students went back to experiment further, but decided to test some more of their own theories. “H” suggested putting the water in the coffee filter. They soon discovered that wouldn’t work, so they poured the water back into the container.


filtering water

Eventually they tried “O’s” suggestion and the cry of victory attracted everyone over to their station. “It’s working! It’s working!” Everyone was eager to try it. The water filtration area continues to be quite popular and the students are relating their learning to water treatment and our interrelationship with the environment.