Water Is Life | EL Education Curriculum

You are here

ELA 2012 G7:M4B

Water Is Life

You are here:

This eight-week module focuses on a "science and society" topic, engaging students in reading compelling informational text about water sustainability, fresh water management, and how to make evidence-based decisions. In Unit 1, students read the article "Water Is Life" by Barbara Kingsolver as well as excerpts from The Big Thirst by Charles Fishman to build background knowledge about water sustainability and water management. Students determine main ideas and evidence in diverse media and clarify the issue of why humans need to manage water better. They also trace arguments and evaluate the soundness of reasoning and the sufficiency and relevancy of evidence in the texts and media that they engage with in this unit. In Unit 2, students participate in a robust research project in which they investigate the strategies of better agricultural and industrial water management. This research begins with students reading more excerpts from The Big Thirst to scaffold their research skills. Then students conduct internet-based research. To organize their research sources and information, students use a researcher's notebook. Once they have finished gathering information, students analyze the impact of water management strategies.

To help students grapple with this issue, Unit 2 introduces students to a decision-making process called "Stakeholder Consequences Decision-Making" (see the end of this document for details). This process will help students understand the implications of various choices, and will scaffold their ability to determine, based on evidence and their own values, what they themselves believe can and should happen. Unit 3 marks the transition from research to writing as students plan and draft a position paper, addressing the question: "Which category of water management, agricultural or industrial, would be a good place to begin to improve our use of fresh water?"Students have several opportunities for feedback and revision during this unit. As a final performance task, students publish and share a visual representation of their position paper. This task centers on ELA standards RI.7.1, W.7.1, W.7.4, W.7.5, and L.7.6.

Guiding Questions and Big Ideas

  • How can we balance the needs of people and the environment?
  • How does human activity influence the availability of our water resources?
  • How should humans manage water resources in a way that is sustainable?
  • Human activity can affect the availability of useable, fresh water.
  • Humans use water for many things and manage water in a variety of ways.
  • Sustainable water management is important in order to ensure that the needs of people and the environment will continue to be met.
  • Making an evidence-based decision relies on research and an analysis of consequences and stakeholders.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards as students read informational texts about water management and sustainability. However, the module intentionally incorporates Science concepts and themes to support potential interdisciplinary connections to this compelling content.

These intentional connections are described below.

Big ideas and guiding questions are informed by the Next Generation Science Standards:

Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World
All human activity draws on natural resources and has both short and long-term consequences, positive as well as negative, for the health of people and the natural environment.

The Roles of Water in Earth's Surface Processes
Water continually cycles among land, ocean, and atmosphere via transpiration, evaporation, condensation and crystallization, and precipitation, as well as downhill flows on land. (MS-ESS2-4)

Earth and Human Activity
Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capital consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems.


Each unit file includes teacher materials and student-facing materials.

Texts and Resources to Buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please download the Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water
by Charles Fishman
One per student
ISBN: 978-1439102084, 1439102082


Each module is approximately 8 weeks of instruction broken into 3 units. The "week at a glance" chart in the curriculum map gives the big picture, breaking down the module into a detailed week-by-week view. It shows how the module unfolds, the focus of each week of instruction, and where the six assessments and the performance task occur.

Get updates about our new K-5 curriculum as new materials and tools debut.

Sign Up