Earth's Water: A Drop in Your Cup

California of Sciences
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Lesson/Lesson Plan , Model , Activity
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



This lesson plan provides visual and hands-on activities provides for learners to gain knowledge about the finite amount of fresh water on Earth and encourages the discussion of the various ways to conserve this resource.  The end of the lesson mentions that this lesson can also be used with NGSS 5th grade standards.


Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Elementary School
  • Kindergarten
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

K-ESS3-3 Communicate solutions that will reduce the impact of humans on the land, water, air, and/or other living things in the local environment.

Clarification Statement: Examples of human impact on the land could include cutting trees to produce paper and using resources to produce bottles. Examples of solutions could include reusing paper and recycling cans and bottles.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This lesson meets the Performance Expectation by providing visual and hands-on activities for learners to create knowledge about the finite amount of fresh water on Earth and encourages the discussion of the various ways to conserve this resource. Background information about water in California is provided. It is suggested that the teacher research any water issues specific to the local area that the students live in.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
This lesson provides students a visual model of the limited supply of water on Earth and where it is found. The teacher should make sure to guide the discussion to include how that water is used and conserved, building on the relationships of the amount of freshwater versus the amount of salt water. Students should discuss ways they can conserve water in their lives and ways to keep water from becoming polluted. Through this discussion, the Practice will fully be addressed.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The lesson includes several opportunities for students to discuss the water model in order to answer both teacher-guided and self-generated questions about the human impact on the water of the earth. It is suggested that students make a class chart of ideas they have for conserving water. Then they should pick one idea and make a poster of it. The class could visit another class. The students can communicate to the other students, using their posters and the class chart as a guide for ways to lessen human impact on natural water. Through this discussion, the students will extend learning and meet the Disciplinary Core Idea.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
The lesson allows students to discuss how water is used, how much is used, and where it is found on earth. Then the teacher provides each group of students with the scaled amount of water model that corresponds to the whole amount of water on the earth. Students should be encouraged to record the amount of water in their notebooks or on a class chart. Additionally, allow students to identify and compare their water to the water of other groups. This will foster the idea of the parts of a system working together. Students should also talk about how humans can limit their impact on the water system. These suggestions help to make sure that the Crosscutting Concept is addressed.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The students are encouraged to obtain information from each other and the teacher about where water is found on earth and how to limit their impact on it. Then they use a model, provided by the teacher, that represents the amount of water found in each area of the earth. The model represents the relationships of the amounts of water. The amounts are scaled, and are used so that comparisons can be made which addresses all three dimensions of the NGSS.

  • Instructional Supports: The lesson includes instructional supports, but it is a lesson in which the teacher is the driving force. The lesson could be modified for the students to practice measuring the the water in groups. They can also communicate what they have learned with their parents or another class through a presentation or with posters.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: This lesson does not provide formative or summative assessments. It does not provide suggested questioning either. The teacher could enhance the experience by asking pre and post assessment questions and having students record information in science notebooks, classroom charts, or personal posters.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This lesson does not include Technology Interactivity. It is suggested that the teacher consider using a powerpoint developed by National Geographic entitled Water Conservation Power Point 2 ( to support this lesson and include technology. The powerpoint is developed for older students, but provides a tool that the students can take home and use with their family to track their water use.