Origins of Water on Earth

Keywords: Science Inquiry, Theory, Natural Resources; Grade Level: 9-12; Total Time Required: 1-2 Instructional Periods; Setting: Classroom

Subjects Covered:  Science, Scientific Inquiry

Topics Covered:  Direct/Indirect Observation

Goals for the Lesson

This is an introductory lesson for a watershed education course, grades 9-12.  Concepts of scientific inquiry/method are introduced, but only to serve as catalysts to raise curiosity about a natural resource so familiar and taken for granted that, in the minds of many older students has been "covered" already in previous grades via "the water cycle."  

Materials Needed

  • Photo of familiar objects only showing a small part, making it hard to guess what they are
  • Muslim bag(s) filled with familiar object (like pencils of different sizes, shapes, and wholeness)
  • Science notebook

State Standards Addressed:
a. PROCESS/ the "how"
Inquiry and Design 3.2.10 #A:
Apply knowledge and understanding about the nature of scientific and technological knowledge.
• Compare and contrast scientific theories and beliefs.
• Know that science uses both direct and indirect observation means to study the world and the universe.
• Integrate new information into existing theories and explain implied results.

b. CONTENT/the "what"
Renewable and Nonrenewable Resources 4.2.12 #C
Analyze factors that influence the availability of natural resources.
• Compare the use of natural resources in different countries.
• Determine how delivery systems influence the availability of resources at the local, regional and national level.

Teaching Model: Differentiated Instruction
Respectful Tasks -limited writing;  higher order concepts verbalized
ELL Learners (high content w/o dependence on reading materials, visual aids, simple written language-no more than 1 line per idea, pair Roman numeral topics with suggested pictograph)
ADD/ADHD Learners (scaffolding via directed notebook entry 1 page, shifting of topics, activities)


1. Introductory/Warm-up
Hold up picture(s) from book; ask class to guess what they are
If necessary, pass around boxes/bags with unknown objects which they can shake/feel, but not see.

Discuss direct/indirect observation.

1.  Start a notebook entry using a science notebook (Cornell Note System), using the following format:

I.  Origins of water on earth
    -scientific (refer to Bill Bryson book)
    -mythological (cultural explanations as time permits)
II.  Problems with theories
    -scientific (indirect observation)
    -mythological (unobservable/measurable)
III.  Implications
    -current water supply on earth is all there is
    -water supply not as RENEWABLE as thought;
    -some water so polluted as to not be recoverable
IV.  Modern perspectives
    -"nature as cornucopia" an unwritten general understanding of a quasi-    scientific nature that no matter what we do to nature, it can/will renew     itself; poll class by raising hands/indications (formative assessment)

End lesson by reflecting on what was learned, sharing examples out loud


Guess the Picture - Atom
More Than Meets The Eye:  The Importance of Making Observations
Thinking Inside the Box - Case Teaching Notes - Case Study Collection - National
Scientific Theories/Origins of Water on Earth
Bill Bryson: A Short History of Nearly Everything


Pamela Blodget, Children's Home of Reading/9-12