The Water Project A Project by Second-Grade Students at Grafton Elementary School, Grafton, Illinois

Length of project: 8 weeks
Teachers:  Dot Schuler

Phase One—Beginning the Project

Children from Grafton School, on the Illinois River, began their project with a class web. Personal stories were recorded and placed in a listening center with a continuous-roll "movie" box of illustrations. Questions for investigation included: How does dirty water get clean? What can I learn about water pollution? What is the color of water? What happens to food when it is placed in water? How does water work? What can I learn about sharks, manatees, dolphins, sea horses, and whales? Children said they also wanted to learn about all of the pools at Raging Rivers (the local water park), and about river otters, turtles, birds, and fish.

Phase Two—Developing the Project

Field Sites included: the local water park, Grafton Water Works, Locks and Dam system on the Mississippi River, and a local creek and pond. Our Environmental Educator and a park ranger visited our classroom. Several children studied ocean creatures, displaying models in an "aquarium" made from boxes. Books, posters, graphs, and diagrams represented their learning. Others studied river wildlife. Models were hung in the "river" behind a plastic see-through mural. Children typed and printed out information about the wildlife. Samantha put "pollution" in the river and created a poster describing the pollution. One group interviewed teachers about uses of water and constructed a model of the school building for displaying their information. Bethany studied the effect of water on foods; results were charted. Katie investigated the color of water; a book and bar graph represented her learning. Kate made models of the local water park attractions; posters described her models. Another group built a model of the Water Works building with a filter for cleaning the water. Many children published poetry, songs, idioms, and comic strips; numerous poems were displayed on an animated computer "movie." Group meetings were used for sharing progress on investigations and representations, with children offering encouragement, comments, and suggestions.

Phase Three—Concluding the Project

The morning of culmination, we walked through our river community collecting litter. That evening, after hearing songs written by the children, parents and community members viewed our display. The printed guide, books, bar graphs, and a Venn diagram provided information on the river exhibit. The Water Works exhibit displayed a flow chart explaining how water is cleaned and a diagram showing the layers of the filter. Water actually flowed from the filter to the "school building," where signs explained how water works in each classroom. At another exhibit, guests viewed charts and posters explaining various experiments. Models and informational signs about Raging Rivers Water Park attractions were on display. Our aquarium contained models of ocean life and was accompanied by books, posters, diagrams, and a pictograph.


After the culminating event, we watched videotaped segments of our project, reflecting on our work. Throughout the project, application of curricular skills abounded, whether occurring naturally during small-group investigations, or taught systematically for assignments completed at learning centers. Persuasive essays were written and displayed in the hall. Often, spelling words were selected from our project. In the reading center, several charts about water were made using new curricular skills: suffixes, fact-and-fiction, and cause-and-effect. Two class books about water were written and compiled using alliteration and descriptive essays. Three class math books were made incorporating two-step story problems, number words, and fractions, all of which were related to water.

drawing of different pipe shapes

For her investigation, Bethany decided to put different foods in water and observe the results. She wrote about her idea in her daily journal: I can't wait until we start our project and it will be fun to do my experiment. I wonder if my experiment does not work.

She read the journal entry to the class and we had a discussion:

Probably do another experiment. Valerie
I think you could do another experiment, but maybe retry it. Phil
I thought maybe you could make another one and while you're making another one, you could work on the one that you think won't work out. Kylie
You could just do something else about what you're studying. Kyle
If the first time it didn't work and you want to try it again, add more ingredients. Matt
I think she could do that project over but before that one, try a different one, but then do that one over. Carley
Maybe you could get a friend and maybe they'll tell you if you did something wrong.
Instead of water use a different liquid. Maddie
You can just not do an experiment. Think of another project to do. Heather
If you have two experiments and you keep messing up on the first one, then do the other one. Katie
I think you could maybe not retry but try thinking and when you think of something you might have done wrong, then do what you thought of. Phil
If it didn't work the first time, if she had a piece of paper she could go over it on a piece of paper to see if she did everything right. Carley
See if it has enough ingredients. Stephanie
Work on another question. Valerie
Try another idea and if that doesn't work, go back to the other one. Kylie
First, use a whole carrot, then just try a little piece. Maddie

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