People and Water Lesson Plans


We’re largely made of water, so it should be no surprise that much of human life revolves around water. Explore some of the ways water matters with these lesson plans.

Water to drink

Human beings cannot live without water, and finding clean, potable (safely drinkable) water is a challenge in many parts of the world.

  • Learn about the water cycle.
  • Check out an interactive map on water safety in the United States.
  • Wonderopolis tells how water gets to the faucet.
  • Check out the EPA’s drinking water page for games and activities related to ground water and drinking water for K-12. Lots of printouts!

Water for transportation

Rivers were highways long before cars were invented, and ships sailed the ocean long before planes were thought of. Boats used the cutting technology of their day —  from steam engines to servo motors — before land or air vehicles did. It’s easy to overlook the importance of water transportation, but even today it’s extremely important for freight.

  • Use our cookie geography lesson to see how human settlements grow up around rivers and other navigable bodies of water.
  • Explore the science and geography of boats.
  • Explore the Steamboat Arabia to get a clearer understanding of the importance of rivers and riverboats in the pioneer era.
  • Learn about pirates and Vikings as examples of historical use of water for transportation.

Did you know that Albert Einstein was a keen sailor? See Einstein’s page at — and lots more resources on sailing.

Water for power

Water has supplied energy in many ways throughout history, and it still is an important source of power today.

Water for art

People need water for survival, and we’ve used water to get things done, but human beings also like and need to create beauty. See how water connects with culture:

  • Cherokee water drums use interesting physical properties of water to create different sounds. The lesson plan at the link includes both science and music.
  • Handel’s Water Music is a wonderful piece of music designed specifically to be listened to on a boat. Learn more about this as a good introduction to classical music.
  • The Sea King’s Daughter and The Little Mermaid are a couple of watery fairy tales. Examine ways that the sea has inspired literature with these stories.
  • Chris Witcombe has an interesting lesson on Water in Art that looks at some of the many ways visual arts have used water as a symbol or inspiration. Note: this lesson includes many classical paintings, and the subjects are often nude. Review the lesson before you use it in your classroom to make sure it will be appropriate for your class and community. We’d use it with a projector in classes in which this was appropriate, and use it as an outline with different examples for those in which it was not.
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