Questions about Water: Cloud to Faucet Student Drawings


Questions about Water: Cloud to Faucet Student Drawings
Water Inquiry Teacher Roundtable

Renee Bachman shows a student drawing

How does water travel?
On the sunny afternoon of March 31, teachers from three elementary schools joined Smith students and faculty to investigate children’s maps tracing the journey of water from cloud to faucet. Renee Bachman brought student work from Leeds Elementary School, where her third graders have been exploring rain, water droplets and the river as part of a year-long water inquiry.  Children’s diagrams stimulated a flurry of questions about how water travels and about advancing inquiry.


Hannah Searles writes questions

Questioning as a Tool for Deepening Inquiry
Teachers spent several minutes looking closely at each drawing and crafting questions on sticky notes in response to the prompt:  What questions does this student work stimulate for you?
Questions included:

“How are those pipes connected to the faucet?”

“It says clean water goes in, but how does the water get cleaned?”

“How does the cloud know to let the rain go?”


Sorting Questions
Participants sorted their questions into clusters of ideas by taking turns reading aloud a question and deciding if and how it connected to other questions.  The biggest cluster focused on the overarching question,  “How does water get clean?” One child’s drawing and explanation of the “water mill” provoked follow-up questions about where, why and how water gets clean (and what makes it dirty).

Water mill detail from 3rd grade drawing

Water mill detail from 3rd grade drawings

Katy Butler and Al Rudnitsky sort questions

Katy Butler and Al Rudnitsky sort questions

Identifying Overarching Questions
Teachers worked in pairs with clusters of questions to look for overarching questions and think about next steps for student inquiry:
What makes water dirty?
How does water get cleaned?
What do pipes do?
How do clouds work?
One teacher discovered an overarching theme, “What does water do by itself, and what do we control?”


Maria Garcia pointing to questions about "dirty" water

Maria Garcia examines “dirty water” questions

Where do we go from here?
Teachers exchanged ideas about adapting questioning strategies for K-3 classrooms. Marcia Garcia highlighted the importance of students asking their own questions and thought her Kindergarteners would want to investigate what makes water dirty. Bob Hepner had the idea of exploring how pipes work by building marble mazes. Katy Butler brainstormed ways to help first graders write and sort questions. Al Rudnitsky discovered a cycle of questions in the “cloud” cluster and  Hannah Searles was curious about the “creatures” living in the “dirty” ocean water pictured in one child’s drawing.

Sneak Peek! Water Story for Classrooms
Ruth Neils and Hannah Searles read aloud their working draft of a water inquiry adventure story designed to engage children in asking questions and solving problems to rescue ducklings from a storm drain. Al connected the water story to his research using story-telling as a tool for teaching first grade math Investigations. Participating teachers gave valuable feedback about the story, which students are eager to revise and pilot in classrooms.  Stay tuned for more!

Written by Carol Berner on behalf of the Water Inquiry Team
Ruth Neils (’19)  Hannah Searles (’18) and Al Rudnitsky
(with Pinn Janvatanavit contributing images and ideas)

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