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Clean Water

Water and "How We Organize Ourselves"

For the last few weeks our fifth grade students have learned about the challenges people face all over the world as they build viable communities as part of their “How We Organize Ourselves “ IB unit. One of the most crucial elements to a successful community is access to clean water. 

Our 5th grade students had a visit from a representative from Water 1st International, an organization that supports communities in securing access to clean water.  Read on to see how their IB unit was structured and what the 5th graders investigated and learned in small groups, as a class, and with the Water 1st International representative.

Researching Cities  and Infrastructure

To kick off their IB Unit, students researched mega-cities and built their own societies demonstrating an understanding for how local resources and human needs shape the structure of a city. They even applied some of their mathematical skills about how to scale and create an accurate map in the process.


After creating these ideal cities, students examined examples of mega-cities and took a closer look at the problems these fast growing communities face today. One of the problems addressed was water: in several mega-cities, not every person has access to clean water and often the sewage is not treated.

But access to clean water is not only a problem for people in sprawling urban areas: Students learned about community structures in countries like Ethiopia and Honduras where water is a scarce resource and forces women and children to spend their days fetching water; therefore limiting opportunities to go to school. They also learned about the risks of dirty water to these communities and how easily this problem can be resolved with the right support.

Water Support

A representative from Water 1st International came to visit our 5th graders to share how their organization offers that much needed support to help communities secure access to clean water. Students learned that this is a fairly simple process, but that of course funding is needed, as well as educating the local people and helping them take care of the water system after it has been installed. Providing easily accessible water sources for these communities also leads to social change, as now girls and women have more time on their hands because they can go to school or earn money for their families.


At the end of the presentation from the Water 1st International representative, the students tried on the carrying system used by children and women to carry the heavy water jugs. None of the students could imagine carrying that container full of water for a mile each day. Students concluded this IB Unit with a greater appreciation for their access to clean water and will strive  to advocate for the needs of others less fortunate.

Filtering Water

In science, the students experimented with how dirty water can be filtered and learned which particles can be eliminated and which ones will remain in the water. The real-life connection students made showed them how useful this knowledge actually is for families all over the world every day as they try to provide somewhat clean water to their families.

As we continue to build our IB program, these moments offer powerful and valuable learning opportunities for our students and us as a learning community.

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