What can we do to conserve Earth’s limited fresh water?

Questions to hold on to

  • Where is all the water?
  • How do our Earth’s systems interact?

Add to Your Thinking

The Digital Notebook is a space to hold your thoughts, questions, and growing understanding throughout this Unit. You will be able to access it from every Module. Use The Digital Notebook to jot your thinking, take notes, or as a space to develop your writing. You can print and export it anytime, and at the end of module 8 you’ll be reminded to save a copy for yourself.

Read Along with the Video

Roll over to see a synopsis and links to read-along text
It fills your cup but where does it come from? Water doesn't come it goes around.
Read Full Story

Read Along with the Video

Roll over to see a synopsis and links to read-along text
A wind whistled over the moutain, carring the snowflake back up into the air. The snowflaked twisted and spun, swirling into a pond on the mountainside.
Read Full Story

Experience our planet's natural beauty and examine how climate change impacts all living creatures.

All Lesson Videos

All Lesson Texts

All the Water in the World by George Ella Lyon

Snowflake: A Water Cycle Story by Neil Waldman

Agent H2O Rides the Water Cycle by Rita Goldner

Ice Boy by David Ezra Stein

Don’t Let the Pidgeon Stay Up Late by Mo Willems  (or any other of the Pidgeon titles)

Earth Systems graphic from NASA

Clean Water and Sanitation

Peanuts by Charles M. Schultz

Bleeker by Jonathan Mahood

Standards & BlueTech Alignment

Anchor Phenomenon Infographic on the State of Water
Student Action / Outreach Design a comic to share how to conserve water.
Career Connection Operations Manager, Wastewater Engineer, Water Resource Specialist
Blue Tech Alignment / Ocean Literacy Principles (OLP) OLP 6: The Ocean and humans are inextricably interconnected. (3-5)
Water Issue(s) Addressed Conservation, Pollution, Access to Clean Water
Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) 5-ESS3-1: Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment. 
Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)
Literacy Standards CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.5.2

Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text.


Draw on information from multiple print or digital sources, demonstrating the ability to locate an answer to a question quickly or to solve a problem efficiently.


Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.


Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure in which ideas are logically grouped to support the writer’s purpose.


Provide logically ordered reasons that are supported by facts and details.

Visual Arts VA:Cr2.1.5a  Experiment and develop skills in multiple art-making techniques and approaches through practice.


Link to Phenomena Board



To launch this unit on fresh water, students use prior knowledge to think about what makes up the ecosystem around them. This helps contextualize that water is life and is at the heart of every organism’s ability to survive. They draw a model of their ecosystem and label all of the systems that they can think of. They watch videos and read books to identify that their ecosystem is actually made up of what Scientists describe as the Earth systems: Hydrosphere, Geosphere, Biosphere, and Atmosphere. This begins to open their understanding that there are larger systems at play right in their own backyards.



Where is all the water?


Students brainstorm a list of all of the places where freshwater can be found on Earth. Students watch this illustrative tour of freshwater – click here

As they watch the video, they write down the different types and forms of water they see. 



Question to Investigate: How do our Earth’s systems interact?


In order to answer this question, we must first go back to our understanding of ecosystems. Gather students’ prior knowledge through a class discussion on ecosystems.

  • What makes up an ecosystem? (Students share plants, animals, nonliving things like rocks and soil.)
  • How do living things survive in an ecosystem? Think of all of the parts of an ecosystem including those you can’t see. (Students share background knowledge that living things need food, water, and air to breathe.)
  • How do all of the living and nonliving things interact in your ecosystem?


For this final question, ask students to draw an initial model of their backyard ecosystem in their inquiry notebook. If they don’t have a backyard, suggest any green space near them, such as a park or even a school playground. The goal is to help students identify all of the living and nonliving things in the ecosystem. Invite them to label their model and use arrows to show movement of water if relevant. They can also show the unseen factors at play in their ecosystem. At this point, it is important to elicit students’ prior knowledge. 

Have students share their models in small groups. When they share, have them identify their ecosystem, living and nonliving things, and the interactions between these things.

After students share their ecosystem models, the teacher shares that our ecosystems exist as a part of a larger system on Earth, called the biosphere. There are four major Earth systems that make our planet unique and habitable.  Our ecosystems rely on these different Earth systems’ interactions: Geosphere, Hydrosphere, Atmosphere, Biosphere. Students are going to explore these in more depth later in the lesson. To get students thinking about these interactions, share the Earth Systems graphic from NASA – click here.


Launch the Anchoring Phenomenon 

Description of Phenomenon: Water is everywhere on Earth. However, it is a natural resource threatened by human impact. This is an infographic about global water issues. 

Show students this infographic and ask:

  • What do you notice?
  • What do you wonder?
  • What does this remind you of?


Capture their thinking on a chart  – What are we noticing and wondering about water issues affecting the world?  Define hydrosphere, and explain that the hydrosphere is an essential Earth system and it needs our help. As students explore issues of freshwater, they will be exploring the Essential Question: What can we do to conserve Earth’s limited water?

Ask students what they already do at home to conserve water. Let students know that we need everyone to help and that they will be gathering more ideas about how to spread their conservation message worldwide.



In this unit, students will be reading to understand water as a precious resource, and to understand water and the hydrosphere as a system.  They will construct big ideas inside each text, and integrate ideas across texts.  Each module will have suggested read alouds to engage them in thinking and talking about water and where it comes from.  If possible, links to digital read alouds are provided.

Students will also need ample informational texts about freshwater, its sources, and our need to preserve and conserve water (print or digital including video) for Independent reading research.  Each module suggests texts, but you will want to check and gather from your library, science textbooks, or other sources to gather.


Read Aloud

In Module 1, the suggested read aloud texts will engage students in thinking and talking about the water cycle.  In addition to the read alouds, two videos will introduce students to planet Earth’s four spheres, or systems.

  • Where does our water come from?
  • How much water is on Earth?
  • Why is water a precious resource?
  • How do the four Earth systems interact? 


Suggested texts:

All the Water in the World by George Ella Lyon

Agent H2O Rides the Water Cycle by Rita Goldner

Water Rolls, Water Rises by Pat Mora 

Snowflake: A Water Cycle Story by Neil Waldman

One Well: The Story of Water On Earth by Rochelle Strauss

 Four Spheres Part 1 (Geo and Bio)

Four Spheres Part 2 (Hydro and Atmo)


Independent reading time should be focused on exploration of a range of information regarding freshwater.  In this module, have students browse through texts on sources of freshwater, issues with freshwater, access to freshwater, etc. to begin developing a sense of the breadth of the conversation about water.  Create charts for the varied subcategories of exploration, and encourage children to post interesting information or questions.


Shared and Small Group Reading

Recommendations for leveled and fifth grade NGSS-aligned texts for shared and small group reading are included in the BlueTech materials matrix.  Shared reading instruction for this unit should include the overarching meaning making strategies as outlined in this unit.

Additionally, shared and small group reading should include focus points specific to the nonfiction genre.  This genre specific instruction will support children’s meaning making as they delve deeply into both read aloud and independent reading.  Focus points for nonfiction genre shared and small group reading in fifth grade may include any focus points included in the previous grade level which require added support, and:

  • Use information to build and dismantle an argument
  • Identify the ways an another uses a mix of information and persuasion


Independent Reading

As children read independently and research water, have them keep an inquiry notebook to jot their thoughts, and intriguing data and facts.  This information will help them to formulate the characters, problems, and setting for their comic strips.  

Research supports:

The Four Spheres of Earth by Paul Larson

Earth’s Hydrosphere by Amy Hayes

Earth’s Geosphere by Jenna Tolli



As students read the different texts and watch the videos about Earth systems, they can keep track in their inquiry notebook or on this graphic organizer from NASA to build their understanding – click here


Writing Workshop

In this unit, children will be gaining a heightened awareness of water as a finite resource, and of the issues with clean, accessible water, through comic strips.  If you are new to teaching comic writing, the following information may prove helpful – click here

Module 1 begins with an exploration of comic strips as mentor texts.  Choose a variety of comics for children to explore, with varied topics, characters, and lengths.  Give children time to read and reread, and enjoy the exploration of ideas.  Then, focus on author’s craft:

  • How do comic authors explore big ideas? What kinds of ideas? How do those ideas affect us as readers?
  • What are we noticing about comic characters?
  • How do the stories unfold?
  • How does the entire text lie on a page?
  • How are panels arranged on the page?
  • What happens inside the panels, and across the panels?
  • How do the authors use thought bubbles, speech bubbles, sound effects, and captions?
  • What are we noticing about the artwork and lettering/font?


Mentor text options might include:

Peanuts by Charles M. Schultz

Bleeker by Jonathan Mahood

You may also want to explore picture books that are crafted to be comic-like.  Possibilities include:

Agent H2O Rides the Water Cycle by Rita Goldner

Ice Boy by David Ezra Stein

Don’t Let the Pidgeon Stay Up Late by Mo Willems  (or any other of the Pidgeon titles)

Wallace the Brave by Will Henry



Students return to their initial ecosystem models from the beginning of the lesson and revise their models adding in knowledge gained from text and media. Encourage students to use labels representing the Earth systems and arrows to show interactions. 

Our Planet: Fresh Water (watch from 3:23 – 6:45) You will see the entire movie throughout the unit. During the Elaborate section of each module, you will be revisiting different parts of this film for deeper inquiry and conversation.



What role does water play in our ecosystem?

Students complete the Phenomenon Board with the class and share back what they did and what they figured out. They make a connection from their learning in this module back to the Anchor Phenomenon.


Investigative Phenomenon Question to investigate What we did What we figured out Connections to the phenomenon Questions we still have
Backyard/ Community Ecosystem

Our ecosystem is affected by four Earth systems. 

How do our Earth’s systems interact? We modeled an ecosystem and its components. We tried to name the components of an ecosystem. We read different texts and watched videos about our Earth’s systems. Scientists describe the Earth systems: Hydrosphere, Geosphere, Biosphere, Atmosphere. These systems interact in different ways. Water is part of the hydrosphere.  (water cycle) Complete with students.

Log In