PS/IS 686 | Brooklyn, NY

Identifying a Need – A Safe, Working Water System

IMG_1779Fourth-Graders are demonstrating some of what they’ve learned in their Water Unit by using the Engineering Design Process to solve a real world problem centered around ensuring a clean and ample drinking water supply system.

Each group of four students was given a scenario identifying the water needs of a given community or family. Then they brainstormed ideas and came up with a plan. Students next created a large, labelled illustration of their product and presented it to the class.

During the presentation students described their problem, their various ideas, and how they ultimately agreed on their final product. They also described how their product works to solve the problem facing the community or family. After each presentation, students in the audience asked clarifying questions, offered compliments on the presentation and/or design, and offered suggestions for product improvement.

To view one of the presentations, click here


(1)  This family lives in a region that used to have fresh water available through underground wells. However, their water has become contaminated by pollution. They live in a tropical climate that receives high levels of precipitation throughout the year. Design the family a system that will help them get clean drinking water.

(2) This family’s water well has completely run dry. They used to get all of their drinking water directly from this well. They have lived in this desert region for all of their lives and have never been this thirsty. Design this family a system that will help them become less thirsty once again.

(3) This community lives on top of a hill. The water table is really low, almost as close to the valley where the river is. This makes drilling a well to bring up the water difficult and expensive. The valley below has a nicely flowing stream through it. People from the community walk a long way down the hill to fetch water and carry it all the way back up the hill for their water needs. This is such a long and hard process! Design a system to help the community get water more easily.

(4) This family lives high in the mountains and has watched the nearby ice glaciers begin to melt at alarming rates due to climate change. Melting glaciers are sending more and more water into the local rivers, causing flooding and increased sediment and pollution into the water sources. This family seems to have too much water, and sadly, all of their water is filled with more and more sand and pollution. Design a system to restore the quality of their drinking water.

(5) This community lives in a region that has clean water sources. However, there are just too many people living in the area for the water sources to provide enough clean drinking water for everyone. The community is in a coastal region by a saltwater ocean. Design a system for the community that could help them provide enough clean drinking water for so many people.