Water conservation includes keeping water safe from pollution as well as minimizing water use (see References 1). Conservation has become especially important as 36 states face water shortages by 2013, according to the EPA (see References 4). Teaching preschoolers about water conservation guides them to become environmental stewards rather than taking clean water for granted.
Ask preschoolers to name daily activities that use water. On a chalkboard, make a list of these activities. If they miss some obvious activities, give them hints. Talk about the amount of water these common activities consume -- for example, some older toilets use nearly 5 gallons per flush, and taking a shower uses nearly 5 gallons of water per minute, according to the EPA (see References 2).
Talk about ways to reduce water use at home, such as turning off the faucet while brushing teeth and putting a displacement device in the toilet tank (see References 2). Also talk about how to avoid polluting the water, and the ecosystem as a whole, by avoiding harsh chemicals and minimizing water runoff from lawns.
Give kids a worksheet that illustrates the water cycle, such as one provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or project the worksheet onto a screen (see Resources 2). Talk about how water moves through the cycle, connecting all water bodies. Discuss how the same water can become part of a glacier, a snowflake, a swimming pool and the ocean over many years. Carry a jar of water outside and pour it onto the ground to water a tree or another plant. Speculate on where that water may go after it nourishes the tree, and what it may become.
Take a trip to a nearby stream for a hands-on lesson about the water cycle. Talk about where the water ends up, as it makes its way to rivers and then the ocean. Discuss how the water carries trash and other pollution that people put into the water, and how this affects ecosystems.
Visit a local wetland area. Talk about the species present in the ecosystem, spotting as many as you can. Discuss how they rely on water to survive, and the kinds of human activities that might threaten their water supply. Wetlands hold water over long periods of time, so they retain pollution and sediment washed into them as well, according to the National Park Service (see References 3).
Take preschoolers to a local nature preserve with a river or stream. Talk about how Native American tribes in your area used these waterways, and how people use them today. Discuss how these uses affect ecosystems.
Go to a local farm that uses an irrigation system that conserves its water use effectively and uses sustainable practices. Arrange for the farmer to give the preschoolers a tour, showing the kids how the irrigation system works and explaining how it benefits everyone.
Tell traditional Native American myths that relate to water conservation, such as the Tlingit myth "Raven the Rivermaker," in which a trickster character tries to keep all the world's water for himself.
Read books about water conservation to children, such as "Watch Over Our Water"(2011) written by Lisa Bullard and illustrated by Xiao Xin, which explores how to care for the planet's water.
Ask children questions after telling or reading stories, such as, "What would you have done differently than the main character?" "What have you learned from the story?" and "How will you use what you've learned?"
- Use a variety of activities to engage all types of learners.
Melanie J. Martin specializes in environmental issues and sustainable living. Her work has appeared in venues such as the Environmental News Network, "Ocean" magazine and "GREEN Retailer." Martin holds a Master of Arts in English.
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