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  • Elizabeth Barrett-Zahn

Water in Our World

Water is the most perfect traveller because when it travels it becomes the path itself! — Mehmet Murat ildan

Where is there a time when water isn’t essential? Water plays an indispensable role in our very existence, and its properties are almost magical in its ability to affect and change our world. Think of the ocean, so vast, deep, and filled with life we have not even begun to understand. Then compare the small yet powerful raindrop that can bring essential life to plants and animals or with persistence, change the shape of a mighty boulder. We drink it, use it for cleaning and recreation, harness it to run generators, and it is one of the primary drivers of our weather. No rain, we have droughts; too much rain, we have floods. Water is that most perfect traveler, and its pathways have shaped our world.

Our topic for this issue of Science and Children focuses on water in its many forms. Water is critical whether we are floating in canoes, learning about waterfowl habitats, saving a local swamp, or building weather models. This issue coincides with World Water Day, March 22. This annual United Nations day of observance highlights the importance of fresh water and advocates for sustainable management of freshwater resources. With over 2 billion people struggling to find safe drinking water access, the topic remains one of the most critical issues of this century. One of my favorite walking field trips was to visit a local lake near our school. Our fifth graders engaged in yearlong problem-based learning to determine the lake’s health by conducting water tests through World Water Monitoring Day resources, now called EarthEcho Water Challenge. Students analyzed the water quality and also investigated evidence of human impacts on the environment by looking for runoff from surrounding roads and homes. Additionally, they considered how to maintain trails and reduce trash accumulation around the lake. After this intensive study, the fifth graders submitted “The Health of Glenwood Lake” to the local neighborhood association. Beyond the science embedded in the study, the students felt connected to their community and built relationships with others who cared about the lake.

Other grades also visited the lake; third graders studied ecosystem connections focusing on LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience. They mapped physical characteristics, recorded weather conditions, and identified plants and animals living in and around the lake. Even our youngest students walked to the lake as a venue for inspiring writing; what better way to spend a learning day than perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking a peaceful lake or with nets and identification guides figuring out what lives in the lake.

So, dive right into this issue to discover how young learners can explore living shorelines, analyze the effects of ocean acidification, or model extreme weather events precipitated by warmer oceans. Learning about the vital importance of water in our biotic and abiotic world is a starting point in developing an awareness of the importance of this most precious resource: water.

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