Going deeper… ecosystems and environmental change

Key Stage 2

Geography: describe and understand key aspects of the water cycle.


Ecosystems and environmental change

Download the visual resource that accompanies the session below.

Activity A

Water is essential to life.

What do we use water for? (Drinking, cooking, flushing toilets, watering plants, washing ourselves e.g. showers and baths, washing objects e.g. cars, plates, clothes). Make a list of learners’ suggestions.

Which is the most important reason we use water, and why? (All living things need water to survive. For humans, the animals we care for and wildlife, drinking is the most important use of water. Humans can only live for 3 and 7 days without drinking water).

Which is the least important reason and why? (An example could include washing the car, or anything else that does not involve basic human needs such as drinking, eating, personal hygiene).

Activity B

Can we drink any water? (no, we need clean, fresh water). Explore where our freshwater comes from, how we can use water wisely and who and what will benefit by showing the class the WWT ‘Water cycle’ video. The animation is designed to be paused at the questions, to allow for discussion. Support learners to draw on their knowledge gained from their recent WWT visit to answer the questions posed.

Activity C

Give pairs of learners a copy of the WWT ‘Ecosystems and environmental change’ visual. Ask half of the class to draw a large red cross in the bottom left of the visual. These pairs should work together to write as many ways they can think of that we are having a negative impact on the water cycle (pouring cooking oil down the sink, having lots of baths, resurfacing areas with tarmac, wasting rainwater, relying on sewage treatment plants too much and therefore using a lot of energy). Ask the other half of the class to draw a large green tick in the bottom left of the visual. These pairs should work together to write as many ways they can think of that we can have a positive impact on the water cycle (fixing leaks, collecting rainwater in water butts to use in the garden, turning off taps e.g. when brushing our teeth, creating Sustainable Drainage Systems - SuDS are drainage systems that mimic natural processes by catching and slowing the flow of rain water to streams and rivers, and filtering it to remove pollution along the way.  Examples of SuDS include interconnected ponds, reedbeds and living green walls and roofs). When complete a pair with a negative impact poster should join a pair with a positive impact poster. They should compare and discuss. These images could be displayed in public areas of the school, printed in the school newsletter or laminated and hung on school fences, to raise awareness of how we could improve our water usage behaviours.

Less time?

Just do section B

Have a whole afternoon?

Extend section C by asking pairs to draw, or search for, images that highlight the points they are making. Can they add to the visual to show a flooded, polluted image (if working on the negative impact poster) or a responsible area with water butts, SuDS and fresh, unpolluted water (if working on the positive impact poster)?

Go outside

As a class, explore a weather forecast website online and check when it is likely to rain next. Take an empty bucket or container outside and place it somewhere that won’t be knocked over or moved. When it next rains, measure how deep the water gets in the container. You can then do the following:

  • A water butt is a way of collecting rainwater that runs off roofs (you may need to show learners an image) Imagine how much water we could collect if we all had water butts in our gardens and school grounds. What could the water collected in a water butt be used for in our school grounds? (water our plants, allotments, veg patches, play with, clean windows and wellies, for example). This would mean we would not use fresh water from the tap unnecessarily. Where would be a good place in the school grounds to have a water butt?
  • Measure the school playground or estimate the roof size of part of the school or a house. Use this measurement to calculate how much rain fell on the whole playground or roof.