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Celebrating Our Connections Through Water


In this unit, students will reflect on the role of water in ceremonies and celebrations around the world.

Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) vignettes will provide the basis for researching and collecting data to be organized into a class celebrations chart. As a culminating activity, students will set up learning stations and host a celebration of Water Day, leading younger students on a rotation of the stations


  • Thematically synthesize world celebrations involving water into a celebrations chart.
  • Research the history of these celebrations using the Internet.
  • Reflect and write about a personal celebration involving water.
  • Create a learning station to show and share what they have learned.


  • Songkran: A yearly festival in Thailand in which water is thrown on people as a symbol of washing all the bad away.
  • National Celebrations: Festivities to celebrate a historic event, religious importance, or local day of importance. These celebration can vary by country or culture.


  • World map
  • Internet
  • Water Celebrations Chart
  • Water Celebrations Chart (Completed for Teacher) (find link above)
  • Peace Corps Volunteers Write About Songkran (find link above)
  • Selected Anecdotes From Peace Corps Volunteers (find link above)
  • Audio tape or CD of ocean sounds or rain showers (optional)


1. Introduce the lesson by having students brainstorm examples of ceremonies or festivals in which water plays a role. It may be helpful to read aloud from I'm in Charge of Celebrations, by Byrd Baylor, to reinforce the idea that a celebration isn't connected only to holidays or festivals. A celebration can also be a special memory about a place, event, or experience. Students may give examples such as baptisms, blessings, water balloon fights at Fourth of July or family picnics, pool parties, etc. Record answers from students on the board.

2. After students have generated their own ideas about celebrating with water, tell them that they are going to be "H2O detectives" and investigate the ways in which water plays a key role in celebrations around the world. Distribute copies of the "Water Celebrations Chart" (find link above), reminding students that, in their search for data, it will be important to keep track of their findings. The celebrations chart will help them do this. Using an overhead of the celebrations chart and an overhead of the handout "Peace Corps Volunteers Write About Songkran," (find link above) demonstrate how to alternate between the two to complete the celebrations chart. Tell students that they will know which anecdotes to research by matching the country and Peace Corps Volunteer's name from the chart to the country and Peace Corps Volunteer's name on the selected anecdotes and links.

3. Next, have the students find Thailand using a world map or atlas. Discuss the location of this area in terms of country, region, continent, and hemisphere. Have students write down the physical location on their celebrations chart and, point out the other categories that they will be researching. Reinforce that the information for these categories will come from actual firsthand accounts written by Peace Corps Volunteers and related websites.

4. Have students brainstorm session of celebrations, holidays, or special occasions in which water plays an important ceremonial or festive role. Ask students to bring this event to life in a free writing exercise that includes descriptions of sights, sounds, smells, setting, expressions, and actions of those around them, as the Peace Corps Volunteers did in their vignettes.

5. Assign partners to focus on a specific country and have them research the related anecdotes and websites on this country. Allow partners extended time so that they can research all countries on the celebrations chart as completely as possible.

6. Allow students to work in pairs completing the research charts. Assist as needed.

Teacher options for processing research efforts: Have country groups present their findings to the class so that all may complete the chart from a group research effort, or group partners together to compare and refine results of their research efforts

7. Ask students to respond to the prompt "I will always remember the special role water has played in..." Some questions that may help students generate ideas might include: How is the thematic role of water in my personal anecdote similar to or different from the role of water described in one of the Peace Corps Volunteer anecdotes? What is the background or story behind this experience and how is it significant to my culture, custom, tradition, or life? You may even wish to put on a soothing CD of ocean sounds or rain showers to set the atmosphere.

8. Allow students time to share their ideas with the class if they wish.

Frameworks and standards

Essential questions

  • How does water play a part in celebrations around the world?
  • Why are these celebrations significant to the culture?
  • Why is water significant in celebrations in my culture?


  • Language Arts Standards
    • NL.ENG.K-12.2 Understanding the human experience
    • NL.ENG.K-12.4 Communication Skills
    • NL.ENG.K-12.5 Communication Strategies
    • NL.ENG.K-12.8 Developing research skills
    • NL.ENG.K-12.9 Multi-cultural understanding
  • Science Standards
    • NS.5-8.6 Personal and social perspectives
  • Geography Standards
    • NSS-G.K-12.1 The world in spatial terms
    • NSS-G.K-12.2 Places and regions
    • NSS-G.K-12.4 Human systems
    • NSS-G.K-12.5 Environment and society
  • Music Standards
    • NA.5-8.9 Understanding music in relation to history and culture.
  • Visual Arts Standards
    • NA-VA.5-8.4 Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures


Suggestions for Learning Stations:

  • Picture-Book
    Make a picture book that includes an illustration of each celebration or festival on one side with a paragraph summarizing the celebrations chart information and a map showing the location of the country on the other side. The illustrations should be carefully colored for the picture book. Text should be in large print for young children to read. Practice reading the book with expression. Read the book to children and leave with the class as a gift.
  • Coloring Book or Pages
    Make bold line drawings that capture the main activities in the celebrations portrayed. Include a title with country name and name of event such as "Songkran Festival in Thailand." Print a neat caption below each picture that describes what is happening in the picture. Refer to existing coloring books for ideas on how to simplify drawings for coloring purposes.
  • Poster or Travel Brochure
    Visually represent a country's celebration of water in a travel brochure or poster format with captions for each picture and category. Practice using the brochures or posters as teaching tools.
  • Crafts
    Design a craft that younger students can make as a memento of each of the country's water celebrations. For example, a wreath for Lithuania's St. John's Day and miniature rafts to float away worries for Thailand's Loi Krathong.
  • Role-play
    Develop ways to allow young students to respectfully reenact some of the celebrations without necessarily getting soaked. For example, have students practice balancing buckets partially filled of water on their heads for Africa's Independence Day. Have a model of a Buddha where students splash its feet and sprinkle baby powder or tapioca pudding on it for Thailand's Songkran Festival.