Keeping Water Safe Demonstration

Learn about water contamination and its prevention through this demonstration.


To learn how fecal matter can get into water supplies


  • Open container
  • Dipper
  • Drinking cup
  • Edible powder (e.g., corn starch, flour)
  • Water


20 minutes


Set up an area in front of the group with an open container full of water, a damp dipper on the floor next to the container, a drinking cup next to the dipper, and powder in two or three areas on the floor, some near the dipper. Explain that the powder is fecal matter left by animals/ children on the floor/ground. Walk on top of the powder and say you are going to the kitchen to fetch some drinking water. Make sure plenty of powder falls off your shoes next to the dipper. Place the dipper in the water, and then pour a small amount into the drinking cup. Put the dipper back down on top of some powder. Drink the water, then put the dipper back into the water and pour some more into the cup. Ask if anyone would like to drink this water. Then ask why or why not. Ask them to describe what they saw and how we might prevent the powder, or fecal matter, from getting into the water. 

Do a group container-cleaning session, and talk about the importance of cleaning water containers with soap and a scrubber once a week. Also talk about using clean dippers (with handles), preventing the dippers from touching the ground or other surfaces (attach with string to a wall or table), keeping foreign matter out of the containers, and keeping the containers covered to avoid oral-fecal contamination by flies as well as malaria-carrying mosquitoes attracted to stagnant water.


Another way of carrying out this exercise is to spread an amount of powder on the floor where kids are going to walk. When the kids enter the room, they will get the powder on their shoes and feet. Hopefully, they won’t notice too much. Now, get them engaged in some activity in which they are sitting or on their hands and knees on the floor, perhaps an art project or a discussion ring. After a while, ask the kids how many of them have powder on their hands, arms, and even faces. Tell them that the powder represents, in fact, fecal matter from animals and small children. What would happen if the kids put their fingers in their mouths or got the powder in their water or on their food? Do they see how fecal matter can spread and cause disease?

This lesson plan is an activity from the Environmental Activities for Youth Clubs and Camps, a resource developed by the Peace Corps Office of Overseas Programming and Training (OPATS). It was contributed by Peace Corps/Cameroon.

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