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Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Barrels and Buckets: Access to Water

What would it be like to live in Africa?

Africa, Kenya
Grades 3-5, Grades K-2
Language Arts & Literature, Science
1-2 class periods

Students increase their understanding of access to water through reading Peace Corps Volunteer stories from Kenya (in east Africa) and Ghana (in west Africa). As part of this lesson, each student will make a book that compares access to water in the United States, Kenya, and Ghana. An overall goal is to develop the students' understanding of the similarities and differences among water use in Kenya, Ghana and the students' own communities.


Students will

  • Use maps and globes to locate the continent of Africa, two regions in Africa, and the countries of Ghana and Kenya.
  • Use reading skills to learn about Kenya and Ghana from written accounts of Peace Corps Volunteers who served in those countries.
  • Use reading skills to see similarities and differences among daily use of water resources in Africa and the United States.
  • Develop enduring understandings of how water is a valued resource for life.


  • Africa: One of the largest continents on Earth. It has 53 countries and is known for many things including large deserts and many animals.
  • Rainy season: The time of year when most of the rainfall occurs. The rest of the year is much dryer.
  • Borehole: A narrow shaft drilled into the ground so people can have access to water. Similar to a well.


  • Access to Water: Narrative Stories in Ghana (find link above)
  • Water in Africa: Kenya Photo Gallery (find link above)
  • Water in Africa: Ghana Photo Gallery (find link above)
  • Access to Water: Narrative Stories in Kenya (find link above)


  1. Write "Where do we get our water?" on a blackboard or flipchart, and ask the students what they think this means. Discuss students' ideas about where the water in their communities comes from. Generate a list of their thoughts and experiences.
  2. Explain that students will be learning about how people in the African countries of Kenya or Ghana get their water each day, and looking at how the process they do this is much different than that in the U.S. Photos and real-life stories from Peace Corps Volunteers in Ghana and Kenya will illustrate this difference.
  3. Using a world map, globe, or textbook, show the class the location of their community, country, and continent. This will help establish an understanding of the location of where students live in the world. Write the name of your community, country, and continent on the board for the students to read. Show the students the location of the continent of Africa. Show them Kenya in east Africa or Ghana in west Africa. Write the name of the country and the continent of Africa on the board for students to read.
  4. Show the students the photos of Kenya or Ghana, pointing out how access to water is illustrated. As each image is shown, ask the students to describe what they see. Use questions such as:
    1. What are the people in the photos doing?
    2. Where are the people in these photos finding water?
    3. How is it different for these people in Kenya or Ghana, compared to you in the U.S.?
  5. Read aloud the stories of David Frommell, Patrick Campbell, and Barbara Hinsman from Access to Water: Narrative Stories in Kenya (find link above) or the stories of Nell Todd, Amy Wiedemann, and Molly Campbell from Access to Water: Narrative Stories in Ghana (find link above). Discuss how the people in each of the Peace Corps' volunteers' communities get to their water supply, how often it is available, and how that affects people's daily lives.
  6. Have students write a narrative and draw pictures about what their lives would be like if they lived in Kenya or Ghana instead of the United States. This mini-book will consist of several pages and drawings from the students' point of view. Younger children can use pictures only to create a picture book. 

Frameworks & Standards

Essential Questions
  • How does access to water change the way people live?
  • Why is water valuable?
  • Language Arts Standards:
    • Standard 1: Reading for Perspective
    • Standard 9: Multi-cultural Understanding
  • Science Standards:
    • Standard A: Science as Inquiry
    • Standard D: Earth and Space Science
    • Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives 


  • Presentations: Have students in the class present their books, or parts of them, to other classes in the school. Students may choose to show images from the website that they think are relevant to their books.
  • Have students listen to some of the podcasts on the World Wise Schools website.
  • Have students watch one of the narrated slide shows on the World Wise Schools website, such as Cynthia Chenault's "My Life in East Africa."
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