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Water in Your Community: Drought!

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    There is a serious drought in your entire region. There has been no rain for weeks -- and no significant rain in the forecast. Reservoirs are well below capacity. Under normal conditions, people can take long showers, allow faucets to drip, wash their cars, and water their gardens without having any significant impact on the water supply. But during a drought, every drop of water counts.

    Your task is to work in groups of five to establish water-conservation policies for your immediate area for the next three months. Without changes in policy, the current water supply will last only one month, or maybe less. To make the water last, you need to find out everything you can about water supply and demand in your community -- including the source(s) of the water, how it is distributed, where it is stored, how much water is used on a daily basis, how water is processed, and where alternative sources of water exist.

    You will use this information in a document that you will later present to the entire community, so be sure you understand the water cycle well enough to diagram it and explain it to others.

    For this task, each student in your group will be assigned, or will choose, a specific role from the following: mayor, citizen, mathematician, geologist, president of the Chamber of Commerce, journalist, environmental activist. (There should be only one of each role per group.)

    Each group must find ways to work together to get your community through the drought and make the water last for the next three months. Each individual group member will need to examine information and ideas, keeping in mind his or her own expertise and "constituencies" (people in the community he or she must please and satisfy), yet reaching consensus on the solution.

    A description of the roles:

    Mayor: The mayor must see to it that the community runs smoothly, all citizens are safe, and there are no health problems. The mayor also is elected by popular vote, and so must keep in mind his or her own popularity in order to get reelected. Constituents: all voters in town.

    Citizen: The citizen is the father or mother of a family in the area and is concerned that his or her own children are safe, have enough to eat and drink, and are healthy and happy. Constituents: Self, and his or her family and friends.

    Mathematician: The mathematician in the group helps to understand the data that the group collects on past rainfall amounts in the region. (S)he also is a major help in calculating the rate at which water is presently being consumed and what ways a reduction can or cannot help. The mathematician works for a nearby computer company. Constituents: His/her employer, self, and family.

    Geologist: The geologist is an expert in the land formations of the local community. (S)he uses charts and past research to calculate the level of the water tables. (S)he is able to tell whether the present conditions are temporary and indicate a lack of rainfall or are more long term and have to do with a reduction of groundwater. The geologist works for a local university. Constituents: His/her employer and scientific peers.

    President of the Chamber of Commerce: This person is concerned with the businesses in town: making sure that they run smoothly, stay open, and are not adversely affected by the drought and by conservation measures. Constituents: businesses in the community.

    Environmental Activist: This person is concerned with preserving natural resources, including bodies of water, in an unspoiled condition. Constituents: citizens of the community who are also concerned about the environment.

    Journalist: The journalist (a reporter for the local newspaper) has a duty to his or her readers to present news of the drought. He or she is also interested in underlying stories, including mismanagement of the situation. This person wants to also present the "human" side of the situation: How do people feel about the drought? How do they feel about conservation efforts they must take? Constituents: Readers of the newspaper.

    In spite of your differing roles, the five of you in each group must work together to find a solution and then present it to the entire community. You need to keep in mind your own "constituencies," yet reach a group consensus on the solution. You will probably have to make compromises and deals. Time is of the essence!

    Each group will then create a step-by-step plan, using the software program Inspiration, that addresses how water will be conserved, what steps you need to be take in your roles, what steps need to be taken by community members, and how your plan can be implemented and enforced.

    You will show your plan to the teacher, who once he or she has approved it, will provide each group with the name of a water-conservation expert that you can contact via the Internet. You'll e-mail the expert with a written summary of the plan and ask for feedback.

    After using the experts' feedback to make changes, the groups will create a PowerPoint presentation to be given at a "town meeting" of community members (actually, in your classroom or the school auditorium; guests determined by the teacher.)

    Your group will also prepare a more detailed "white paper," showing the water cycle in your community and including diagrams of how water flows, is processed, and is delivered.


    For Teachers  |  For Students

    Workshop: Cooperative and Collaborative Learning
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