In this lesson, students will quantify their at-home water usage and predict the amount used in a 24-hour period. We will discuss water conservation strategies both indoors and outdoors and students will consider ways in which these strategies can be adopted in daily life.

Lesson overview

Grades 3-6
Time 1 hour
Standards NGSS 5-ESS3-1 


Connecting CCCs and SEPs

  • How many gallons of water do you think you use in a day? How could we use math to calculate how much water our entire class uses? (Scale, Proportion & Quantity; Using Mathematics & Computational Thinking).
  • What are some of the causes of water waste? What about the effects?(Cause & Effect; Constructing Explanations & Designing Solutions)
  • What changes can you make to reduce your water use? (Stability & Change; Constructing Explanations & Designing Solutions)


  • Home Water Audit Handout (use this one for less advanced math)
  • Pencils
  • Clipboards
  • Gallon jug, liter bottle, and/or 5 gallon bucket
  • Items from home (toothbrush, water canteen, scrub brush)


  • Print out worksheet
  • Have pencils and clipboards ready, or request that class comes to the garden prepared with the materials


Engage: Begin with a show and tell about different ways you use water. You can display on a table or in a bag items you use typically with water in your own life like: toothbrush, shampoo, tshirt, picture of your dog because you wash him, veggies that you water to grow in the garden, etc.

Explore: Ask students, “What ways do you use water everyday? Are there things I did not mention?” Ask them to share with an “elbow partner” first and then call on a few students to share as a group.

Write the following underlined question on your board and record student answers: Do you have a prediction of how much water you use in one whole day? (24 hour period) Encourage students to think about a specific way they use water and try to get them to make an educated guess… Some may be silly and say “1 trillion billion gallons!”

Explain: Each activity we do uses a different amount of water. What are some ways we can measure water (gallons, pints, quarts, liters, etc). Show different measuring containers to give the students a visual for what a gallon of water looks like. How much water do you think you use when you wash your hands? A cup of water. Two cups? All of these activities add up.

In some places people don’t have running water in their homes and they have to walk long distances to get clean water for cooking, drinking, and doing their laundry and dishes. Do you think if you had to walk a long way you’d use more or less water?


  1. We are going to be doing something called a “water audit.” Does anyone know what the word audit means? Call on some students who may say things like “counting, measuring, documenting”… An audit is a calculation of an item, for us today it is water, and determining the total by estimating the usage from records.
  2. Tell students that you will be passing out sheets of paper and they are to write their names on it first but don’t fill it out yet. Hand them the Home Water Audit Handout.
  3. Explain how the worksheet works, that you will be multiplying the number of gallons typically used for each activity by the number of times you do that activity in a day.
  4. Go around and assist students who need additional help. *You can also do this activity together as a class

Reflect: Call on students to share how many gallons of water they used in a day. If the students are old enough, see if you can figure out what the students daily water use is on average. Discuss the differences between the typical water usage of American households with those of desert regions of Africa and the Middle East. Ask students to brainstorm ways they can save water at home and in the garden. Write a list on the board of their ideas.

Extension activities

  • Have students develop letters in class with their teachers that make a constructive argument or inquire about water conservation and have them suggest better practices to their principal on their campus. You could also have them make a brochure or flyer on water conservation tips for both indoor and outdoor. These letters or PSAs could be shown at Open Houses, in the library or cafeteria on exhibit, Science Weeks, or any event that families and other classes would be exposed to them.
  • Personal Water Use Estimate is a good take-home or extra math extension for students to be challenged with in class
  • The Water Conservation Checklist is a good take-home sheet too. It digs deeper into what families can do and how students can lead efforts in checking on operations at home that could save them resources!
  • Water Audit Footprint Handout can be used to color in their totals now and/or what their goals are to reduce and by how much… This could be a window hanging in their classroom perhaps to share with passerbys being water conscious about personal consumption.


Thank you One Cool Earth!

The lessons and resources for this topic have been adapted from the Earth Genius curriculum developed by One Cool Earth, a California 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to bringing garden education to students.