Optional Teaching Supplies

Materials for this Unit

To obtain kit materials, visit our online store to purchase a kit that includes materials for up to 30 learners.

Each unit includes a letter to send home with student for materials donation for the unit.  Click here to download a copy of this letter in Spanish.

Additional Storybooks for Classroom Use

Storybooks introduce each unit with the tale of a child somewhere around the world who solves a problem through engineering. The books integrate literacy and social studies into the unit and illustrate for students the relevance of STEM subjects. 

Explore the Lessons

Students think about what technology is and are introduced to the idea that engineers design technologies.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

What is Technology? / Grade 4 / Worcester, MA

Students think about what technology is and are introduced to the idea that engineers design technologies.

Extension Lessons

What are Extension Lessons?

Extension Lessons use EiE activities as a springboard to more directly reinforce other curricular concepts.

View all Extension Lessons »

Salila lives near the Ganges River in India. She loves animals, so when she finds a little turtle emerging from a very polluted stretch of the river, she’s upset. Salila’s mother is an environmental engineer, so she helps Salila learn about water pollution, microbes, and the different ways that water can be purified. With this information, Salila designs a water filter to purify river water, so she can make a pollution-free habitat for her turtle.

Download a PDF of our storybook illustrations.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Water Filters Storybook / Grade 5 / Jersey City, NJ
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EiE - Water, Water Everywhere: Designing Water Filters L1

Reflection Questions

How does Marlene set the stage for the reading of Saving Salila’s Turtle?

Marlene sets the stage by having students share their prior knowledge about terms used in the book and guiding them to think critically about some of the issues in the story.

  • At the onset of the lesson, Marlene displays the cover of the book, including the description, “an environmental engineering story.” (0:25)
  • Before reading, Marlene reviews what students already know about the terms “engineer” and “environment.” (0:33–1:18)
  • To help everyone understand the story, Marlene reviews what water filters do and asks students where they might have seen one. (1:38–2:11)
  • Marlene has her students think critically about why it is important for all living things to have access to clean water. (2:16–2:40)

What types of “reading workshop” strategies do you see Marlene incorporating in the lesson?

Marlene stops at various points in the story and has students share their own responses to what they are reading in small groups.

  • Marlene prompts students to make connections to their own lives and motivations by asking, “How would you feel if you saw the turtle coming out of the dirty water?” (3:36)
  • Marlene asks students to share and justify their opinions about whether it is wise to move the turtle form the dirty water. She peaks their interest by announcing, “We’re going to continue reading to see what Salila actually does.” (4:35–5:16)
  • Marlene has students share their opinions about whether Salila’s idea to clean the water is a good one, and use evidence to support their opinion. (12:34–13:54)


Saving Salila’s Turtle / Grades 1–6 / North Chelmsford, MA
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EiE - Water, Water Everywhere: Designing Water Filters, L1

Reflection Questions

How does Meghan set the stage for the reading of Saving Salila’s Turtle?

Meghan has students share their prior knowledge about the setting of the story, and leads a discussion about some of the key ideas presented in the book.

  • Before reading, Meghan has students share what they know about India, the setting of the story. This is particularly exciting for the many Indian-American students in Meghan’s class. (0:40)
  • Meghan gets students thinking about where drinking water comes from and why clean water is important. (1:07–1:49) 
  • Meghan introduces the term pollution, and tells her students to listen for any mention of pollution in the story she is about to read. (2:17)

What teaching strategies do you notice Meghan using to structure the review of how Salila uses the Engineering Design Process (EDP)?

Based in Montessori tradition, the activity includes sharing and modeling, followed by small group collaboration.

  • For each step of the EDP, Meghan elicits ideas from students about what Salila did. (6:42, 7:21, 7:58, 8:05)
  • After sharing, Meghan’s co-teacher, Kathryn, models writing one example of what Salila did on the white board for everyone to see. (6:56, 7:34, 8:13)
  • Meghan then asks students to discuss and agree on what they will write down for their group. (7:29, 8:22, 8:57, 9:24)

Students think like environmental engineers as they review a mural of a small American community, noting possible sources of pollution and suggesting ways to clean up or eliminate the source of the pollution.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Who are Environmental Engineers? / Grades 1-6 / North Chelmsford, MA
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EiE - Water, Water Everywhere: Designing Water Filters, L2

Reflection Questions

Where in the video do you see Kathryn reinforcing the distinction between artificial and natural forms of pollution?

Kathryn distinguishes natural and artificial contaminates throughout the lesson, including when students observe dirty water in a bottle and look for pollution in the schoolyard.

  • Kathryn first describes the two types of contaminants as she reviews the storybook. (1:21)  
  • Kathryn prepared a bottle of dirty water for students to observe. When naming items they see in the water, she asks them to it identify the items as artificial or natural contaminants. (1:49)
  • As part of the activity, students use red and green crayons to circle any artificial or natural contaminants they find in the picture. (3:45)
  • In the iPad extension activity, students are again asked to identify items they find as either artificial or natural contaminants. (7:57)

What are some of the benefits of including the iPad activity as part of this lesson?

The iPad activity allows students to apply what they have learned in a local environment while developing their technological literacy skills.

  • By looking closely at their schoolyard, students can see that environmental contaminants can be found all around, including in their local environment. (7:49)
  • By taking digital pictures and using the device to highlight items in red or green, students gain and/or apply new technology skills. (7:56)
  • Any opportunity for students to get outside during the school day is a bonus! (7:40)
Who Are Environmental Engineers? / Grade 5 / Jersey City, NJ
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EiE - Water, Water Everywhere: Designing Water Filters L2

Reflection Questions

The science content presented in the story is new to some of Marlene’s students. What things do you see Marlene doing that may help her students grasp the key information from the story?

Marlene is explicit about what she expects students to know, and provides relevant examples and background information to help students understand the content.

  • Marlene explicitly lists the things she expects students to understand. These include the “jobs that environmental engineers do” and “the different ways that water can be polluted”. (0:25)
  • Marlene refers to a recent field trip the class took to a cave/mine to help them visualize how water can pass through ground and become polluted. (0:58- 1:46)
  • Marlene tries to make the connection between air pollution and water pollution by reviewing the water cycle and reminding them how water molecules can pass though air and pick up contaminants. (2:04- 2:16)

What evidence do you see that Marlene has spent time building and reinforcing the norms and expectations for how students should behave in groups?

Evidence of frequent group experience can be seen in the ways Marlene’s students’ take turns, listen respectfully, and designate roles.

  • When Marlene passes the group a small marker, the first student circles one item on the worksheet and then passes it to another group member to continue circling. (4:36)
  • The groups themselves are able to designate one member to come up and draw on the findings chart. (5:01)
  • There are multiple instances that show Marlene’s students taking turns contributing and respectfully listening to small group conversations. (7:14, 7:53)

Students test a variety of filter materials to see how well they remove particles and color from contaminated water.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Exploring Filter Materials / Grade 5 / Jersey City, NJ
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EiE - Water, Water Everywhere: Designing Water Filters L3

Reflection Questions

What do you see Marlene doing during this class to help her students develop English proficiency?

Marlene often pauses to teach new words and their meanings to her students, and always encourages them to expand simple verbal answers into ones with more detail.

  • When a student replies to her question with the answer, “She wanted to take the turtle”, Marlene prompts her to continue and the student adds, “out of the dirty river.” (0:29)
  • When describing one of the water samples, Marlene asks, “What is another word we could use for 'it looks white'?" Then she suggests terms like “cloudy” and “foggy.” (2:31)
  • When one student defines property as “something that somebody owns,” Marlene points out that properties is a “multiple meaning word” that can also be used to describe how something behaves. (4:08-4:23)

What evidence do you see that Marlene encourages students to be open minded and value learning from failure?

Marlene encourages students to change their minds as they learn, and reassures them when their predictions end up being incorrect.

  • Students seem comfortable changing their minds about the best filter materials. One group predicts that “sand and gravel will be the worst” (6:37), then they test (7:01) and report that “sand and gravel worked perfect.” (7:30)
  • After testing the filter materials, Marlene asks students if any of their predictions were wrong, and then assures them by saying, “That’s okay.” (7:59)
  • Marlene mentions in her interview that her students “have to make their own mistakes. That’s the only way they’ll learn.” (9:15)


Exploring Filter Materials / Grades 1–6 / North Chelmsford, MA
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EiE - Water, Water Everywhere: Designing Water Filters, L3

Reflection Questions

What evidence do you see that Kathryn and Meghan spent time preparing materials before teaching this lesson?

  • Kathryn and Meghan prepared sample materials bags for each group of students, which contained screen, coffer filters, sand, and gravel. (3:12)
  • They prepared several bottles of contaminated water for students to test: tea water, soil water, and cornstarch water. (8:15)
  • For testing, teachers cut the tops off of 2-liter soda bottles and taped them to chairs (9:20), labeled and marked several different cups for pouring and collecting (9:48), and measured out samples of sand and gravel for each group. (10:14)

How does Kathryn make sure that all students are familiar with each of the materials they will have available to them design their water filters?

Kathryn passes out small samples of each material for students to touch, identifies each item with proper vocabulary, and reviews each of their properties.

  • Student groups are given small samples of the materials and encouraged to explore their properties. (3:30)
  • After students have handled the materials, Kathryn goes over each item and introduces the various words they could use to describe it. (3:50)
  • Students describe the properties of the various materials, and Meghan records their ideas on chart paper. (4:39)

Students focus on the environmental engineering problem of providing clean water as they imagine, plan, create, test, and improve their own water filters.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Designing a Water Filter / Grades 1-6 / North Chelmsford, MA
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EiE - Water, Water Everywhere: Designing Water Filters, L4

Reflection Questions

What do you notice about the activities students engage in during each step of the Engineering Design Process (EDP)?

Activities at each step of the EDP emphasize different thinking skills.

  • During the Imagine step, students work independently to come up with several ideas for water filter designs. (0:59)
  • During the Plan step, students collaborate to combine ideas and decide on one idea they will try. (1:50)
  • During the Create step, students get items from the materials store and build the water filter described in their plans. (3:17) They then test (4:01) and score their results. (4:36)
  • During the Improve step, students write out a second plan, rebuild their filters, then test and score the results. (9:22)

How does the structure of the EiE design challenge support and compliment the Montessori teaching method?

EiE and Montessori are both examples of project-based learning, with a focus on hands-on science and collaborative group work.

  • EiE is a hands-on curriculum, where students learn by doing. (4:08)
  • In EiE, students work in small, collaborative groups; value each other’s ideas; and take responsibility for their own learning. (2:59)
  • Both EiE and Montessori place emphasis on the process of learning, not on the product that students create. (10:21)
Designing a Water Filter (1) / Grade 5 / Jersey City, NJ
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EiE - Water, Water Everywhere: Designing Water Filters L4P1

Reflection Questions

Marlene expects her students to know the steps of the Engineering Design Process (EDP) and to reflect on how and when they use each step. Where in the video do you see her reinforcing these ideas?

Marlene continuously highlights the steps of the EDP through her use of posters, pages in the EDP packet, and conversations.

  • Marlene removes the Ask poster from the board and replaces it with the posters for Imagine and Plan, highlighting the two steps the class will work on during this class. (0:51)
  • Marlene explicitly defines the Ask step by explaining, “You are not just playing with water. You are actually focusing. This is the problem, this is what I have to fix, and this is how I am going to fix it.” (1:20)
  • Before moving on to the Create Step, Marlene reflects on the Plan Step by saying, “you just finished the planning. You drew a diagram, you made a list of materials, and many of you also created the list of the price.”(9:06)

How do the EiE handouts for the Plan step scaffold the process of slowing down, thinking about possibilities, and arriving at possible solutions?

The handouts break the process down into discreet steps and encourage groups to work together and discuss important details of the design before they start building.

  • When making the list of materials, students are forced to consider how many different things they will use and plan for how much of each material they will need to buy. (8:10)
  • In order to draw their filter diagram on Plan [4-7] students discuss and come to agreement about the specific order of materials they will place in the filter. Any differences in opinion or misunderstandings are cleared up before construction. (8:33)
  • By calculating the prices of all their materials, students are forced to consider the cost of their design and perhaps modify choices before they even start. (9:02)
Designing a Water Filter (2) / Grade 5 / Jersey City, NJ
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EiE - Water, Water Everywhere: Designing Water Filters L4P2

Reflection Questions

Working with water and other “spillable” materials can quickly become messy. What preparations do you notice Marlene has made in order to efficiently manage materials?

Marlene organizes water filter materials, pre-pours water samples, and coordinates the testing of filters.

  • Marlene has used easy-carry plastic tubs to hold all the water filter materials for each group. This allows for easy transport through a crowded classroom. (0:35)
  • Marlene pre-measured and poured a 1-cup sample of dirty water for each group to use in their filter test. (1:51)
  • Marlene has all the students use the same procedure and test their filters at the same time so that water is only being poured at specific, limited times. (2:29)

What do you notice about the way Marlene has students score their filters in terms of color? How does this evaluation differ from what is presented in the guide?

Because Marlene had limited time, she modified the color scoring rubric for her students.

  • She reduces the number of points on the scoring scale from 5 to 4. (3:29)
  • Instead of using the sample color dilution formula cups recommended in the guide, she holds up student result cups to illustrate the different colors. (3:47)
  • The guide suggests using the dilutions in order to provide a more scientifically accurate measure of color. Because Marlene wanted her students to have more time to focus on the optional variable of cost, she chose to spend less time analyzing the color results.