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Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Water Sources in Cape Verde and West Africa

Water in Africa

Africa, Cape Verde
Grades 3-5
Language Arts & Literature, Science, Social Studies & Geography
Four to five 40-minute sessions

The Republic of Cape Verde, which consists of 10 islands and five islets, lies off the coast of West Africa. In this unit, students learn the importance of a continuous supply of fresh water in Cape Verde. They subsequently research five methods of obtaining and conserving water in Cape Verde. Then they create displays and give oral presentations to demonstrate their understanding of the methods. The presentations are done as simulations, which allows the students to weigh the costs and benefits of each method.


Students will  

  • Conduct research about water issues by reading stories and viewing photos about Cape Verde on the Water in Africa Theme Page.
  • Identify two or more reasons for the lack of fresh water in Cape Verde.
  • Complete a research assignment on water in Cape Verde.
  • Give an oral presentation and complete a display based on the results of their research.
  • Assess their own work on the oral presentation and the display.Identify the strengths and weaknesses of each method of obtaining or conserving water in Cape Verde.
  • Participate in the simulation session on the future direction of water procurement and conservation efforts in Cape Verde. 


  • Photo galleries and stories from the Water in Africa Theme Page for Cape Verde, Togo, Guinea, Kenya, Tanzania, and Mauritania. 
  • Reference sources (print and electronic) for research on desalination, drip irrigation, water catchment systems, pumps and wells, and springs and water-collection devices.
  • World Map (find link above)
  • Map of Cape Verde (find link above)
  • A gallon container, salt, water, food coloring, flat dishes, hand lenses
  • The Source of Our Water: Cape Verde (find link above)
  • Cape Verde Study Guide (find link above)
  • Cape Verde Islands Background Information (find link above)
  • Evaluation Rubric (find link above)
  • Cape Verde Simulation Scenarios (find link above) 


Day 1: Defining the Problem of Fresh Water 

1. Before class, duplicate the following for your students: 

The Source of Our Water: Cape Verde (find link above)

Cape Verde Study Guide (find link above) (First two pages; the third page is suggested answers.)

Cape Verde Islands Background Information (find link above)

Map of World (find link above)

Map of Cape Verde (find link above)

2. Ask the students to answer a riddle: "What is the most basic thing that we eat or drink for everyone in the world?" Ask the students to answer another riddle: "What is something that people sometimes can't get enough of, even when they're surrounded by it?" Entertain answers, then tell students that the answer to both questions is "water."

3. Ask what fresh water is. Discuss this with the students, looking for answers that emphasize ability to use the water immediately—"fresh" meaning clean water and water that does not come from the ocean—that is, without salt. Then ask the students what their sources of fresh water are. Discuss the answers with the students, looking for answers pertinent to your region.

4. Show the students the location of Cape Verde on the world map and the map of Cape Verde.

5. Distribute, or display "The Source of Our Water: Cape Verde" (find link above). Read it with the students. Have the students explain to a partner how water is the answer to the riddle, so both people understand it.

6. Tell the students the story of Cape Verde's name. (Sailors were surprised to see green trees on the mountainous islands, so they named the island "Verde," or green, in Portuguese.) Point out the irony of water making things green, yet often being a hard commodity to obtain during the year. Explain that the mountain springs may have been the source for the water for the greenery on the mountains the sailors spotted.

7. Distribute the Background Resource on Cape Verde (find link above). Read this article with the students to help them learn more about the country.

8. Distribute the first two pages of Cape Verde Study Guide (find link above) to each student. Look for the answers to the first two questions, using the story "The Source of Our Water." Explain that students will be using the Water in Africa Theme Page to learn how people in Cape Verde try to solve the difficult problem of finding sufficient fresh water.

9. Divide the students into small groups, and have them answer the remainder of the questions on the study guide by reading the stories and the picture captions, and viewing the photos. Use the answers given on the last sheet

10. Tell students to keep their completed study guides for the next day

Day 2: Methods of Obtaining Fresh Water
1. Before class, prepare a mixture of water, salt, and food coloring by dissolving as much salt as possible (1.5 cups) in a gallon of water colored by a few drops of food coloring (blue and green).

2. Direct the students' attention to the mixture of salt, food coloring, and water in the gallon jug. Ask them what they think is in the gallon jug and how they could verify their answers. (Point out that tasting is not a safe way to confirm a hypothesis for unidentified liquids.)

3. Pour some of the liquid into a flat dish and set it in a warm place. Have the students predict what will happen to the mixture.

4. When the water has evaporated, let the students study the salt crystals on the dish with hand lenses. Discuss how this evaporation procedure is similar to—and in which ways it differs from—the desalination process used in Cape Verde.

5. Remind the students of the riddles, and the answer to them, and ask how the people of Cape Verde are trying to use the ocean to their advantage. (See Brandon Lundy's comments on transportation.) Point out that desalination plants exist in other places in the world, including the United States, and that the students will be finding out more about desalination in the next few days.

6. Tell the students they will now be doing research on methods of procuring and conserving water that are used by people in the United States as well as in Cape Verde. Advise them that this research will help them learn how people obtain and conserve water in their own region of the United States. List these five methods on the board: desalination, irrigation, pumps and wells, mountain springs, and rainwater collection systems. Review the vocabulary for each of these methods, and ask the students for background knowledge they might have on the methods.

7. Assign small groups to each topic. Explain that the purpose of the research is to report on their assigned method to the others by means of an oral presentation and display. Explain that they must evaluate the method in terms of costs (labor, expertise, materials, limitations on expansion), benefits (amount of water generated/ saved), and possibilities (e.g., future technologies).

8. Have each group find a general description of its method by looking in an encyclopedia or at the U.S. Geological Survey Water Glossary at http://wwwga.usgs.gov/edu/dictionary.html. Then instruct each group to write a description or definition of their assigned topic in their own words on the bottom of their Cape Verde Study Guide Sheet.

Day 3: Researching Techniques for Procuring Water
1. Distribute six index cards to each student. Have them write the headings "Costs," "Benefits," "Possibilities for the future," "Historical context," "How the method works," and "Sources" on the cards. Discuss the meaning of each term.

2. The remainder of the period will be used to conduct the research necessary for the groups' displays and to prepare presentations. Ask students to conduct internet research, use Water in Africa Theme Page, and the Evaluation Rubric (find link above).

3. Demonstrate how to fill in the index cards using information from a website.

4. After demonstrating how to conduct this research, direct students' attention to the Water in Africa Theme Page. Tell them this theme page is a useful sources of information for their research. Suggest that they begin with the Water in Africa Theme Page to gain anecdotal information, and then move on to the other websites for more scientific explanations.

5. Draw students' attention to the Evaluation Rubric (find link above) for the oral presentation and display. Make sure each group knows they are responsible for a research summary, which will serve as the basis for the oral presentation and display. Facilitate group research for the rest of the period. Assist individual groups in writing a summary of what they have learned about their topic.

Day 4: Preparing Presentations and Displays
1. During this class period, small groups will be finishing their research and preparing their oral presentations and displays. Before they begin, discuss how the groups will use their research summaries to make oral presentations and displays. Refer to the Evaluation Rubric (find link above). Go through each area of the rubric to make sure groups understand what is required. Focus on the first descriptor in Content Accuracy: "important, related information." Give examples from student research note cards of more important and less important information.

2. Focus on the Process criterion—"All group members participated." Review the benchmarks for the standard, Life Skills Working With Others Standard: "Helps the group establish goals," "Takes the initiative when needed," and "Evaluates the overall progress of a group toward a goal." Demonstrate how group members can use these behaviors during project work time.

3. Share two or three examples of visually appealing displays that show attention to detail. Discuss the features that make them "visually appealing " and give them "attention to detail."

4. Establish a due date for oral presentations and displays. Facilitate the research and the preparation of the final products.

5. Invite parents or other members of the school community, as you deem appropriate. It would also be appropriate to invite water-related professionals who live or work in your area to attend the presentations. They could supplement the information presented with their own information. Such professionals might also be useful sources of information during student research on Days 2 and 3.

Day 5: The Presentations
1. This day is designed to allow the small groups to present the results of their research to the other members of the class. Tell the class they will be participating in a simulation of Cape Verdean society in order to help them understand the situation there.

2. Divide the class into eight groups. Give each group a copy of the Cape Verde Simulation Scenario. (find link above) Assign each group one of the eight roles: government official, board member of a large foundation, Peace Corps Volunteer coordinator, high school student, farmer, housewife and member of the village council, real estate developer, and public health official.

3. Help each group make a list of criteria that would be important to a person in making a decision about the use of additional resources for Cape Verde, as explained in the scenario. Advise the small groups to put themselves in their person's shoes by thinking about these criteria, as they listen to the presentations and view the displays. Let them know that after the presentations they will be making an important decision on water that will affect Cape Verde for years to come.

4. Have each group give their presentation and show their display for the students, parents, and other invited members of the school community. Ask any water-related professionals who attend to participate in the question and answer portion of the presentations in order to help clarify concepts and provide information for everyone.

5. After all the presentations are complete, reconvene the students in their eight groups. Tell them they must reach consensus on a decision about the best method for water conservation and procurement, given the resources available on Cape Verde.

6. Have each small group report to the large group on the method chosen, and the reasons for the choices. Discuss the challenges the people of Cape Verde face as they confront the continuing problem of obtaining fresh water. Compare these challenges with problems in the United States and other places in the world.

7. Have each student complete an assessment rubric for his or her presentation and display. Collect these self-assessments.

8. While the students are working on their self-assessments, write the benchmarks for working together on the board: "Evaluates the overall progress of a group toward a goal," "Takes the initiative when needed," and "Helps the group establish goals."

9. Convene the groups that worked on the presentations and displays. Ask the groups to discuss their group's effort. Have each person in the group share an oral self-assessment based on the benchmarks written on the board. Let others comment on the speaker's self-assessments. Emphasize the need for positive, constructive suggestions for improvement. Model this process with one or two students before the discussions begin.

10. After the small groups have discussed group effort, have them comment on the quality of their presentations and displays, now that they are complete. Use the assessment rubric as a tool to focus the discussion. Give each person a chance to comment on an aspect of the presentation and display mentioned on the rubric.

Complete an evaluation rubric (find link above) for each student during the presentations. Use this assessment, your observations of the group discussion, and the student self-assessment to form an evaluation of each student. 

Frameworks & Standards


Geography Standard 14: Understands how human actions modify the physical environment
Benchmark—Knows the ways people alter the physical environment
Benchmark—Knows how human activities have increased the ability of the physical environment to support human life in the local community, state, United States, and other countries (e.g., use of irrigation and dry-land farming techniques to improve crop yields, reforestation to prevent erosion, flood control projects to make land habitable)

Language Arts Standard 8: Demonstrates competence in speaking and listening as tools for learning Benchmark—Makes eye contact while giving oral presentations
Benchmark—Responds to questions and comments (e.g., gives reasons in support of opinions)
Benchmark—Makes some effort to have a clear main point when speaking to others
Benchmark—Organizes ideas for oral presentations

Science Standard 1: Understands basic features of the Earth
Benchmark—Knows the major differences between fresh water and ocean water

Life Skills—Working With Others, Standard 1: Contributes to the overall effort of a group
Benchmark—Helps the group establish goals
Benchmark—Takes the initiative when needed
Benchmark—Evaluates the overall progress of a group toward a goal

National Science Education Standards
Content Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
Content Standard E: Science and Technology 


Investigate water-related problems in your community and compare them with Cape Verde's problems.

Investigate how your community uses Cape Verde's five principal methods of water procurement and conservation, and whether Cape Verdeans could benefit from any methods not currently used, or from new advancements in existing technologies.

Learn some Portuguese vocabulary, the language spoken in Cape Verde.

Investigate the music of Cape Verde, as mentioned in Brandon Lundy's story "Water and Culture."

Trace the Cape Verdean immigrants to the United States. Many Cape Verdeans live in New England.

Additional Resources
David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies. "Culturgram: Republic of Cape Verde." 1999. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University.

Groundwater Foundation. "Making Waves." 1992. Lincoln, Nebraska: Groundwater Foundation. A manual on organizing children's water festivals for grades 5–6. These festivals help children learn how to conserve water and stop pollution through hands-on activities. Contact the Groundwater Foundation at P.O. Box 22558, Lincoln, Nebraska 68542-2558 or call 1-800-858-4844 or visit the website http://www.groundwaterfoundation.org

Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds website. July 2000. http://www.epa.gov/owow/

USGS Water Resources of the United States website. July 2000. http://water.usgs.gov/

U.S. Geological Survey—Branch of Distribution, Box 25286, Denver Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225. 888-ask-usgs. Resources available are the posters "Ground Water: The Hidden Resource," "Watersheds: Where We Live," "Water: The Resource That Gets Used and Used and Used for Everything," and "Ocean Coastal Hazards" for grades 3–-5 or 6–8. 

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