Management and Sustainability of Water | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G7:M4B:U1

Management and Sustainability of Water

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In this first unit, students are introduced to the concept of water sustainability. To build their background knowledge, they will read two informational texts: "Water Is Life" by Barbara Kingsolver and excerpts of The Big Thirst by Charles Fishman. Alongside a close reading of these texts, students will also practice their ability to listen for main ideas and details in diverse media. This will prepare them for the mid-unit assessment, in which they analyze the main ideas and details in a new video.

In the second half of the unit, students will continue to build their knowledge of water management and sustainability by shifting their focus to analyzing the argument of informational texts and videos. Students build this skill as they continue to engage with The Big Thirst, as well as supplemental informational texts and videos. The end of unit assessment asks them to analyze and evaluate two arguments: one presented in text and the other presented in a video.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • What are the ways we manage water?
  • Why are we running out of freshwater?  
  • How is the sustainability of water my responsibility?  
  • Human activity affects water sustainability.
  • Freshwater is a critical resource that must be managed carefully. 

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 Social Studies Practices 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-capita consumption of natural resources affect Earth's systems.


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 5-20 lessons. The “unit at a glance” chart in the curriculum map breaks down each unit into its lessons, to show how the curriculum is organized in terms of standards address, supporting targets, ongoing assessment, and protocols. It also indicates which lessons include the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments.

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

Optional: Community, Experts, Fieldwork, Service, and Extensions


  • Invite experts in water management to come speak to your class about local water issues.
  • Invite business people or farmers who have focused on managing their company's or farm's water more efficiently.

Arrange for a visit to a local dam or river to investigate water management and water use.

Students could create brochures, infographics, or other media to raise local awareness of the importance of water sustainability and efficient water management. 


  • A study of water issues in the local community or state of New York. There are numerous issues related to the growing industry of natural gas extraction by "fracking."
  • A more focused case study on one of the many places mentioned in The Big Thirst where water sustainability is an issue. For instance, students could learn more about water management in Perth, Australia; Las Vegas, Nevada; or Saharan Africa.
  • A research project focused on water management of the Great Lakes. Since the water is used by both the United States and Canada, this topic would delve into the issue of how water is shared among many people.

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