Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Getting Ready: Exploring Water

Preparing Your Classroom Environment

  • Images of water — rain, puddles, lakes, rivers, oceans, shower, or bathtub

  • A camera to capture students exploring water

Materials

There are all kinds of materials that will assist students in their exploration. Be sure to introduce materials deliberately and only a few at a time so that students have ample time to explore the material. Then when they are ready, introduce new materials. 

To begin Open Exploration, start with:

  • measuring cups

  • spoons

  • funnels

  • plastic squirt bottles

  • turkey basters

  • plastic cups or containers

As you begin to explore other areas of Water Exploration, consider the following materials:

  • Sink and Float — different objects that sink or float

  • Flow — funnels, tubes, plastic bottles with holes cut out of the bottom

  • Drops— small plastic eye droppers or other droppers, aluminum foil, wax paper, construction paper, or paper towel.

Other materials to keep on hand:

  • Smocks or water-repellent aprons can be helpful!

  • Extra towels for quick clean-up (Beach towels are great.)

  • A water table or containers for table-top water exploration.

 

žSpace available 

Students can gather around the water table in small groups. This works well with teacher guidance and when they are engaged in the exploration

  • A large water table is great to have in the classroom — sometimes sand tables can turn into water tables.

  • Fill bins with a small amount of water and place them on table tops

  • If the weather permits going outside, set up your containers outdoors! 

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Displays of student learning

  • Find a space to display photographs or drawings that students create of water exploration.

  • Students can create artwork that are representations of water, such as using strips of construction or tissue paper and glue. 

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Resources that help students wonder

  • Books about water

  • Food coloring to color water

  • Pictures of uses of water

  • Visiting experts — invite staff or family who work with water

 

About Water Exploration

Water is a very special science unit. There is a lot to learn during water exploration — and part of the learning process can make a mess!  However, it is important for students to explore the water fully. Allow them space and time to get familiar with the basics of water splash and flow before moving to more complex explorations.

Give your students a chance to come up with their own rules for keeping everyone safe during water exploration. Some rules to keep in mind may include:

  • We only keep water in the water table.

  • We explore water with our tools.

  • We never splash or drink the water.

  • Water toys and tools stay at the water table.

With defined rules, everyone will understand. It may take a little time, and do expect some students to splash water or pour it on the floor, but by keeping them engaged they will eventually become familiar with the materials and explore with them appropriately.