Lesson 2: My Water Footprint (Middle School)

Kai Olson-Sawyer, GRACE Communications Foundation
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Initial Publication Date: March 30, 2020 | Reviewed: December 10, 2020


This lesson centers on a deeper exploration of the water footprint associated with food. Students learned in Lesson 1 that virtual water, especially as it relates to food, typically makes up the majority of their water footprint. In this lesson, they find out why. First, they see an attention-grabbing demonstration of how much water is needed for three food products. Second, they break into groups to do research, and then they teach their classmates about key aspects of water use related to food and agriculture. Next, they think about how their diet is influenced by social groups, advertising, and structures in place at home and at school that encourage them to potentially eat food with large water footprints. Finally, they brainstorm ways they might be able to influence change in those areas. The lesson concludes with students sharing their ideas and providing one another with constructive feedback.

This is the second of the three-part Lessons for Understanding Our Water Footprint: Middle School Lesson Plans.

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Appropriate for general middle school level (lower secondary) coursework with some background in earth sciences, environmental sciences and social studies.

This activity is also available in a format appropriate for a high school level (upper secondary) audience.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students must have mastered the scientific method and basic science principles; basic numeracy; ability to make concrete abstract thinking as it relates to virtual water and water footprinting; ability to work with a small group or team.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is the second of three lesson plans. Each lesson can stand on its own or build on each other sequentially.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Provide examples of how different foods require different amounts of virtual water.
Research key topics related to the water footprint of food.
Teach key topics related to the water footprint of food.
Identify external factors that influence their diet and share ideas for overcoming those influences.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students must use critical thinking; creative problem solving; collaboration; information literacy; systems thinking; adaptability.

Other skills goals for this activity

Students must be able to discern the difference between direct water use and indirect water use (virtual water), understand complex systems (agriculture), conduct research, brainstorm and collaborate with a team, prepare and/or present with their team in front of class.

Description and Teaching Materials

The lesson plan PDF for "Lesson 2: Water Resources and Water Footprints" is uploaded to the SERC platform. All the other supplementary resources are free and available as PDF downloads at the Water Footprint Calculator website: https://www.watercalculator.org/resource/middle-school-lessons/
MS Lesson Plan -- Lesson 2: My Water Footprint (Acrobat (PDF) 1.7MB Mar26 20)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Teaching notes are incorporated into each of the lesson plans (numbers 1-3). For each lesson plan module, teachers are guided with specific instructions based on the options they choose.


Rubrics are provided as part of each lesson plan.

References and Resources

All "Lesson 2: My Water Footprint" resources are available at: https://www.watercalculator.org/resource/high-school-lessons/#mywaterfootprint

Supplementary Resources:

Food's Water Footprint Research Cards (PDF)
Food's Water Footprint: Mini-Lesson Team Rubric (PDF)
Food's Water Footprint: Mini-Lesson Group Evaluation (PDF)