Today I have two books and two STEAM activities that are both related to water, specifically speaking - drinking water. We all need water to...

Story Based STEAM - 'The Water Princess' and 'Nya's Long Walk'

Today I have two books and two STEAM activities that are both related to water, specifically speaking - drinking water. We all need water to survive - lots of water! In case you missed it, here's my Read and Rise post featuring "A Cool Drink of Water" and the importance of hydration. Despite our great need for clean water, about 1 in 3 people do not have access to clean water! (source: WHO). 

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We explored the topic of access to clean water during our unit study on the African Savannah using "The Water Princess" by Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds and "Nya's Long Walk: A Step at a Time" by Linda Sue Park and Brian Pinkney. Let's start with "The Water Princess." 

"The Water Princess" tells the story of supermodel Georgie Badiel's childhood in Burkina Faso where she had to walk miles with her mother carrying a heavy pot on her head just to get some water. And before she could drink any, she had to wait for it to be boiled! Georgie dreamed of a day when the water could be close by and clean and ready to drink. 

Listen to the story read by Georgie Badiel hersel!

Now let's get our hands dirty! Or...our water dirty...our experiment today involved figuring out how to clean dirty water. I made a batch of dirty water by pouring oil, coffee grounds, dried herbs, and green sprinkles into a pitcher of water (and forgot to take a picture...). I found this tutorial from Kids National Geographic and discovered, to my dismay, that not preplanning left me without any of the filtering materials they recommend besides cotton balls! I would definitely try this experiment again with all of the filtering materials but, in the meantime, we carried on using materials we did have at home.

Our filters:
1. Push several cotton balls into the narrow part of the funnel.
2. Place a coffee filter in the funnel and fill with a layer of small rocks.

That was it. We decided to double layer Squidgy's funnel (an extra coffee filter with more rocks) to see if it made a noticeable difference. Then we poured in some of our dirty water and waited.

It didn't take too long for the water to make its way through the layers of the filter and drip down into the containers. At which point we made a surprising discovery...

Our water was green! Then I remembered what we added to our dirty water - green sprinkles! The green sprinkles must have dyed the water! 

In the end our filters did a good job of cleaning out the oil and particles. However, the green coloring passed right through!

I also came across this video demonstrating a powder that can quickly and easily clean dirty water and make it safe for drinking.

Our second story was "Nya's Long Walk" which takes place in the Republic of South Sudan. In this story, Nya and her little sister Akeer take the several hour journey back and forth to get some water for their family but along the way, Nya's sister becomes too sick to walk on her own. Somehow, Nya has to find the strength to get both her sister and the water back home! After another long walk and a visit to the doctor, Nya's family learns that Akeer became sick from drinking contaminated water. The end of the book provides some information on the efforts to bring clean drinking water to villages in the South Sudan.

Our first activity focused on cleaning the water and this activity focused on transporting the water. We made a very simple water pump using a cup, balloon, and a straw.

Creating the pumps is fairly simple, cut the bottom off the balloon (the narrow part you blow into) and stretch the balloon across the opening of the cup. Tape around to secure the balloon to the cup. Next, cut a teeny tiny hole in the balloon for the straw to go in. This was the only tricky part because we found it was REALLY easy to accidentally make the hole too big - you want the straw to be snug so that when you push on the top it pushes the air down causing the water to go up the straw. If your hole is too big the air will just move out the hole and not pump your water.

I tried to help Lil C and Squidgy visualize how this simple pump could be used in the real world by comparing the cup to a well with water too far down for you to reach. A pump would bring the water up and out of the well so you could fill your bucket!

I hope this inspires you do a little exploring yourselves! You never know who will come up with the next brilliant idea for helping provide everyone with access to clean water!