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Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

Water-Aware Portfolio

Lesson Description:

A portfolio is a record demonstrating what students learn over an extended period of time for a specific unit such as a “global water crisis” unit or “water-awareness” unit. The introduction of a water portfolio is an effective technique teachers can use to interface water curriculum with ongoing assignments and activities in any subject including economics, geography, biology, language arts, social studies, and environmental science.
  • the participation and completion of a global water crisis or water-awareness portfolio will give students access to knowledge and awareness of current water conditions in developing nations, an increased awareness of the need for conservation practices and the value of water as a shared global resource.
  • students who are involved in creating the portfolio gain valuable experience in setting their own goals and standards of excellence. The process of creating many entries over time gives students a sense of ownership and control over their own learning. 
  • portfolios that have depth, duration, and complexity will challenge students and motivate them towards construction of knowledge. They will acquire problem-solving, planning, and self- evaluation skills. Students will process and generalize information to make predictions about, and generate solutions for, the global water crisis. The written components of a portfolio also strengthen reading comprehension and writing skills that benefit students in standardized testing conditions.

  • students will create a proposal to convince the U.S. congress to take a more active role in assisting developing nations with water and sanitation infrastructures.
  • students will write a letter to inspire and challenge family members to conserve water. Students will read the letter to their family and discuss family reactions the next day in class.
  • students will visit ( and create a venn diagram comparing water and sanitation conditions in two of the five following countries: Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Honduras, India, Kenya.
  • students will read the article “Dangerous Waters” by Sharon P. Nappier, Robert S. Lawrence, and Kellogg J. Schwab. Students will identify and describe five infectious pathogens posing serious threats to freshwater sources around the world. Students may research images of infectious pathogens and create visual representations of pathogens such as norovirus, plasmodium, giardia, e. coli, and cryptosporidium parvum.
  • students will create a timeline that demonstrates the evolution of significant water and sanitation inventions and discoveries since the time of roman aquifers through the present.
  • students will read the document “Early History of Water Sanitation Technology” and create an invention to assist with the collection, distribution, sanitation or any other aspect of the global water crisis. 
  • students will analyze a variety of economic plans to assist water-deprived third-world nations. Students will visit ( to research micro-finance example: watercredit and other sources to research oil-for-water programs.

Lesson Type:
  • Discussion

Sustainability Topic:
  • Economics
  • Ecosystems
  • Water

GEF Program Category:
  • Sustainable Water Challenge

Standards Addressed:
  •  English/language arts national standards:
    • nl-eng.k-12.1 - reading for perspective: students read a wide range of print and non-print documents to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the united states and the world.
    • nl-eng.k-12.3 - evaluation strategies: students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts.
    • nl-eng.k-12.4 - communication skills: students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
    • nl-eng.k-12.5 - communication strategies: students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
    • nl-eng.k-12.6 - applying knowledge: students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions, media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
    • nl-eng.k-12.7 - evaluating data: students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
    • nl-eng.k-12.8 - developing research skills: students use a variety of technological and information resources to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
    • nl-eng.k-12.11 - participating in society
    • nl-eng.k-12.12 - applying language skills: students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
  • science national standards:
    • ns.9-12.5 - science and technology: abilities of technological design/ understandings about science and technology
    • ns.9-12.6 - science in personal and social perspectives: personal health/populations, resources, and environments/risks and benefits
  • geography national standards:
    • nss-g.k-12.1 - the world in spatial terms: understand how to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information from a spatial perspective.
    • nss-g.k-12.2 - places and regions: understand the physical and human characteristics of places/ understand that people create regions to interpret earth’s complexity/ understand how culture and experience influence people’s perceptions of places and regions.
    • nss-g.k-12.3 - physical systems: understand the physical processes that shape the patterns of earth’s surface/ understand the characteristics and spatial distribution of ecosystems on earth’s surface.
    • nss-g.k-12.4 - human systems: understand the characteristics, distribution, and migration of human populations on earth’s surface/ understand the characteristics, distribution, and complexity of earth’s cultural mosaics/ understand the patterns and networks of economic interdependence on earth’s surface/ understand the processes, patterns, and functions of human settlement/ understand how the forces of cooperation and conflict among people influence the division and control of earth’s surface.
    • nss-g.k-12.5 - environment and society: understand how human actions modify the physical environment/ understand how physical systems affect human systems/ understand the changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution, and importance of resources. 
    • nss-g.k-12.6 - uses of geography: understand how to apply geography to interpret the present and plan for the future 
  • technology national standards:
    • nt.k-12.1 - basic technology operations and concepts: students demonstrate a sound understanding of the nature and operation of technology systems/ students are proficient in the use of technology. 
    • nt.k-12.2 - social, ethical, and human issues: students understand the ethical, cultural, and societal issues related to technology/ students practice responsible use of technology systems, information, and software/students develop positive attitudes toward technology uses that support lifelong learning, collaboration, personal pursuits, and productivity.
    • nt.k-12.3 - technology productivity tools: students use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity/ students use productivity tools to collaborate in constructing technology-enhanced models, prepare publications, and produce other creative works. 
    • nt.k-12.4 - technology communications tools: students use telecommunications to collaborate, publish, and interact with peers, experts, and other audiences/ students use a variety of media and formats to communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences.
    • nt.k-12.5 - technology research tools: students use technology to locate, evaluate and collect information from a variety of sources/ students use technology tools to process data and report results/ students evaluate and select new information resources and technological innovations based on the appropriateness for specific tasks.
  • economics national standards
    • nss-ec.9-12.1 - productive resources: scarcity 
    • nss-ec.9-12.3 - allocating goods and services: comparing the benefits and costs of different allocation methods in order to choose the method that is most appropriate for some specific problem can result in more effective allocations and a more effective overall allocation system. 
    • nss-ec.9-12.4 - positive and negative incentives: acting as consumers, producers, workers, savers, investors, and citizens, people respond to incentives in order to allocate their scarce resources in ways that provide the highest possible returns to them. responses to incentives are predictable because people usually pursue their self-interest/ changes in incentives cause people to change their behavior in predictable ways/ incentives can be monetary or non-monetary. 
    • nss-ec.9-12.6 - gain from trade: a nation pays for its imports with is exports/when imports are restricted by public policies, consumers pay higher prices and job opportunities and profits in exporting firms decrease.

Materials Needed:
  • a three-ring notebook or a folder with pockets
  • instructor prompts (see sample portfolio entry prompts below)
  • a portfolio may include a variety of written assignments: journal entries, poetic responses to a piece of art or journalism, letters, essays, reports, stories, timelines, creative writing, book summaries, article summaries and/or webquests. 
  • non-written entries may include: drawings, original artwork, photos, brochures, maps, charts, computer-generated graphics, maps and/or illustrations, etc. students should demonstrate correct grammar, punctuation, spelling, and vocabulary usage in all entries.

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Located in: Creativity

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