Plaid Pete Gets Treated!

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SWBAT list and describe the steps of the water treatment process.

Big Idea

Where does our drinking water come from? How is it treated? Students play "Plaid Pete Gets Treated - The Board Game of the Water Treatment Process" and are introduced to the engineering tool of flow charts.

Setting Up the Investigation

Connection to The Next Generation Science Standards

In this investigation, students begin the work that will lead them to explore the Disciplinary Core Idea of Earth and Human Activity -  that human activities in agriculture, industry, and everyday life have had major effects on the land, vegetation, streams, ocean, air, and even outer space.  But individuals and communities are doing things to protect Earth's resources and environments. (5-ESS3-1);

Disciplinary Core Ideas of Engineering Design:

  • Solutions to a problem are limited by available materials and resources.
  • Success of a designed solution is determined by considering the desired features of a solution.
  • Proposals for a solution can be compared on the basis of how each one meets the specified criteria for success or how well each takes the constraints into account.
  • Research on a problem should be carried out before beginning to design a solution.
  • Testing a solution involves investigating how well it performs under a range of likely conditions.
  • At whatever stage, communicating with peers about proposed solutions is an important part of the design process.
  • Shared ideas can lead to improved designs.
  • Tests are often designed to identify failure points or difficulties, which suggest the elements of the design that need to be improved. 
  • Different solutions need to be tested in order to determine which of them best solves the problem, given the criteria and constraints. 


Crosscutting Concept of Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World  - People's needs and wants change over time, as do their demands for new and improved technologies (3-5-ETS1-1), and Engineers improve existing technologies or develop new ones to increase their benefits, decrease known risks, and meet societal demands (3-5-ETS1-2).

Please Note:  The Lexile Level for Plaid Pete Engineers A Solution - Lab Scenario Sheet Lesson 3 is 750 (5th Grade Range is 740 - 1010).

The Preparation Time for This Investigation is approximately 30 minutes.  20 minutes will be initially spent constructing Plaid Pete Gets Treated:  The Board Game of the Water Treatment Process.

Materials Needed:

One copy for each student of Plaid Pete Engineers A Solution - Lab Scenario Sheet - Lesson 3

One copy for each student of Plaid Pete Engineers A Solution Lab Sheet - Lesson 3

One copy for each team of Plaid Pete Gets Treated - The Board Game of the Water Treatment Process

One marker for each student

One die for each team

One copy of Plaid Pete Engineers A Solution Word Wall Cards - Lesson 3

One paper copy for each student of Plaid Pete Engineers A Solution Word Wall Cards - Lesson 3

One copy of pgs. 7-9 of Water On Tap: What you need to know (produced by The Environmental Protection Agency)  

Focus & Motivation

10 minutes

Introduce the Topic

I tell my students, "In our last unit, we learned about the water cycle - and in our last lesson we learned about natural resources.  The connection between this unit and our last unit is - water.  It is our planet's most important natural resource.  

I ask my students, "Do you know where the water we drink here at school and in your homes comes from?"  I call on students to respond.  We live in a rural community, so some students know they have a "well" at their house.  However, when I ask them what that means - all they are able to tell me is that "there is water down there."

I project the graphic, Where Is Earth's Water from the United States Geographical Society website.  I read it to students, and we discuss the meaning of the graphic, how most of Earth's supply of water is in the oceans (96.5%), and how most of the supply of freshwater is not available for use because it is frozen in glaciers or ice caps (68.7%).  

I go back to the graphic, and point out that in some places drinking water comes from wells, that tap into ground water (30.1%).  However, getting to that groundwater can be difficult and expensive.  I then point out surface water (1.2%) in the graphic.  I tell my students, "Of these two sources, ground water and surface water - the text states that surface water is the source that is most used by people everyday."   

Introduce the Scenario

I explain to my students that in today's scenario, this very topic of drinking water is going to come up between Plaid Pete and his mom.  I say, "I wonder what they will talk about?"  

My students are excited to find out, and to see that Plaid Pete's Mom, Mrs. Parker, will again be appearing in the lab scenario.  Although they are excited as always to read these scenarios in a "Reader's Theater" format, they are beginning to really appreciate the information they are given about the content they will be learning.

I tell them there will be 3 parts in the scenario today, Plaid Pete, his Mom, and a narrator.  Students work in their teams to determine who will read today.  

I pass out the Plaid Pete Engineers A Solution - Lab Scenario Sheet - Lesson 3 and my students get out their highlighters.  Students read the parts in their teams, as I circulate and listen in.

Learning Objective & Success Criteria

Note:  Consistent with the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, I am now including a language objective with each lesson.  These objectives were derived from the Washington State ELP Standards Frameworks that are correlated with the CCSS and the NGSS.

I share the learning objective and success criteria:  

Learning Objective:  I can list and describe the steps in the drinking water treatment process.

Language Objective:  I can use relative adverbs (e.g. where, when, why) to describe steps in a process.  [ELP.4-5.10]

Success Criteria:  I can identify the steps in the drinking water treatment process during a class discussion.

Once I have shared the learning objectives and success criteria with my students, I tell them it is time to get ready to get treated!

Guided Exploration

15 minutes

Introduce the Game

I tell my students, "While the drinking water treatment process can sound complicated, it is one that is replicated - or repeated - in hundreds of thousands of communities across our country each day.  I have a board game that will help to familiarize you with the steps in the water treatment process - as they are very similar in most communities."

I hand out copies of Plaid Pete Gets Treated - The Board Game of the Water Treatment Process to each of my teams.  Each team receives one game board, one set of game cards, one die, and a marker for each student.

Together, we read the instructions at the bottom of each game sheet.  I then point out the words that are on the path of the game board.  I tell my students, "These words give you the names of the steps in the water treatment process.  As you play the game, pay attention to the steps in the process, and what happens during those steps, because we will have a class discussion when we are finished and we will see if we can recreate the steps on chart paper.  I explain that the game cards will give them clues about what happens during the steps, but they will have to pay attention.

Students Play the Game

As students are playing the game, I am moving between teams, asking questions and directing their attention to the game cards.  I know that if I don't direct their attention to the information contained in them, they will just disregard it and focus in on the game.  I give several general reminders saying, "I wonder which teams are going to be able to list and describe the steps in the water treatment process after playing this game?"  I know that they aren't going to understand the steps, but it is my hope that they will be able to list the steps, and have some familiarization with the names.

As individual students begin winning the game, I encourage teams to begin discussing the steps to see if they can orally list and describe them.  When all teams have finished play, I ask my students what they noticed about the cards.  One observant student noticed that when improvements were made to the water treatment plant, engineers were involved, as seen in this Video Clip.  I tell my students, "Wow - there are some new vocabulary words here that we need to work with before we will be prepared to move on.  Let's do that now."

Vocabulary Instruction

10 minutes

Consistent with the 5E Model for Science Instruction, I have provided a hands-on opportunity before introducing vocabulary.  

Introduce Vocabulary

I present the words from the Plaid Pete Engineers A Solution Word Wall Cards - Lesson 3 using the following instructional routine:

  1. Say the word to students.
  2. Ask students to repeat the word at least 5 times.  For example, I will say, "Say it to the window.  Say it to my hand.  Say it to the door.  Say it to the ceiling."
  3. I say the word in context.  For example, I will say, " The position the plants were placed in was one of the controlled variables in the video."  
  4. I will then randomly call on a student to use the word in a sentence, giving successive prompts to assist them, if needed.

Science Notebooks

I use the following routine to have students write these words into their Science Notebooks:

After introducing the words, I demonstrate for students how to make a three column table with rows for each of the eight vocabulary words.  I model for them in my own Science Notebook how to write the word in the first box, a non-linguistic (e.g. picture) representation of the word in the second box, and work with the class to generate an example sentence for the first word in the third box. Students cut out their copies of the cards and place in the envelope, which they glue on the page behind their table.  They will finish sentences for the remaining seven words either for homework, or for seat-work later.  A completed notebook will look like this Example.

Team Activity

20 minutes

Introduce Flow Charts

I pass out the Plaid Pete Engineers A Solution Lab Sheet - Lesson 3 to my students.  I explain that one of the tools engineers use to describe the steps in a process is something called a flow chart.  I call attention to the boxes and arrows, along with the title:  The Water Treatment Process.

I tell my students, "Your job is to list and describe the steps in this important process.  You have two resources available to help you - the game cards you used to play The Water Treatment Game, and your vocabulary cards."

As my teams work, I move between them, redirecting as necessary, however; I do not call attention to errors.  I want them to discover and correct them during the revision process.  Doing so, will make the information more meaningful and memorable to them.

Revise Flow Charts

Once my teams have completed their flow charts, I tell them that I have some additional information for them.  I pass out pages 7-9 of Water On Tap:  What you need to know.  I explain to my students, "This document is produced by an agency of the government called The Environmental Protection Agency.  The "EPA" as it is called, has the responsibility of ensuring that the laws that are passed about drinking water treatment, and drinking water quality, are followed by local water utilities across our country."  

Since this is a document produced for the general public, and not specifically for elementary students, I begin to read it to them, stopping to paraphrase at the end of the first section. My students are very interested in the topic of where their drinking water comes from.  This has been a topic of discussion since our last unit when they discovered that all of the water that is on Earth is constantly being recycled. However, this is difficult text, and I can see that it is not going to hold their attention!

My purpose is for them to understand the water treatment process, so I make a decision to present the information in a different way.  While my students are out at recess, I take the class chart on which I have replicated the graphic organizer that is on their lab sheet, and sketch some quick notes.  When they return, I have them come to the front of the room and sit on the carpet, next to the whiteboard where I have clipped the chart.  Using the Guided Language Acquisition Design (GLAD) Strategy of providing input using a graphic organizer, I present the information as they watch.  In this Video Clip, I present the first layer of information - the steps in the process.  As I go back and review the steps in the process, I add the quick pictures in Video Clip 2.  This classroom chart will stay posted in the classroom and will serve as a resource when students are designing their filters, and as a source of academic language.

My students revise the charts they have completed previously, to accurately reflect the process.  This is a completed student example.

Reflection & Closure

10 minutes

Review Big Ideas

When my teams have finished, I call them to the meeting area.  I point to the whiteboard where I have written the first Big Idea for this unit:

Big Idea #1:  Communities use science ideas to protect the Earth's resources and environment.

I tell my students, "You have seen how communities use science ideas in water treatment plants to protect one of our most precious natural resources - the water we drink!  Some of you have noticed that there are engineers who work in our water treatment plants everyday to improve these facilities.  Our next step is to learn about how these engineers who design these treatment processes work, because, you are going to help Plaid Pete engineer a solution to a most perplexing problem!"  I point to the whiteboard where I have written our second Big Idea for the unit and I read it out loud to my students

Big Idea #2:  Engineers use systematic practices of research and design to find solutions to human problems. 

I tell them, "Get ready for tomorrow students, because you are all going to become scientific engineers!"