Grade Five Thematic Unit Part 4: Water Spirit- Water is in us and all around us

Where Does Your Water Come From?

Subject(s): Science/ Language arts

Topic: Safe Drinking Water

Time Frame: 45 minutes


  1. Students will be able to examine water and determine which water sample tastes and looks better to them.
  2. Students will be able to analyze water from different sources, encourage students to think about water sources for drinking water.
  3. Students will perform a taste test which will illustrate the differences between ground water and surface water.
  4. Students will be able to organize a water information night/daytime tea at their school.

Methodology: Experiential learning

Materials: • 4 litres of distilled water • 4 litres of tap water (identify the source) • 4 litres of mineral water (or private well water, if available) • 4 litres of filtered tap water • Cups for the class

Space Requirements: Classroom

Background Information: Every day, the average North American uses about 200 litres of water for drinking, bathing, cooking, and maintenance. Most people, however, are unaware of the source of their water. Most water in North America is supplied by community water supplies and is treated in water treatment plants. Some public water systems use surface water as their source, while others use ground water from wells. The aesthetic properties of the drinking water from these public systems are often affected by the source of the water. Ground water often has a slightly metallic taste, and may contain high amounts of minerals. Surface waters, on the other hand, usually have a musty taste and look cloudy. Treatment techniques aim to produce water that is: safe for human consumption, appealing and good tasting to the consumer, and conforms to drinking water standards at the lowest possible cost.


  1. Mark a set of 4 cups for each student. Label each cup 1 through 4 and fill them with the different types of water. You can take water from different manufacturers of bottled water or from different communities around you including urban, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities. If anyone objects to their children being given water to sample from other rural or Aboriginal communities perhaps it is a time to ask “Why is it good enough for someone else’s children to drink everyday?”
  2. Make sure that similarly labeled cups contain the same type of water. Indicate on the board the different types of water present in the four cups.
  3. Have the students work together in groups to try to identify different tastes, smells, and appearances in the water. Have each group write down their observations on each water sample, and identify which cup has which type of water.
  4. After everyone has completed their observations, have the students mark their guesses on the board. Ask the students what types of impurities they would expect to find in the different types of water, and if their senses confirmed their intuitions.
  5. Record these observations on the board.
  6. Reveal to the students which samples contained which type of water. Discuss with the students their observations and what other impurities might be found in these waters.
  7. Also discuss the source of water for the community. If anyone in the class lives in a location supplied by a private well, ask him/her to describe the water at their home, and how it compares to other water he/she drinks in the community.

Optional: As one of your water sources ask a nearby First Nation to provide you with a sample of their water and compare the taste and texture to water in your community.

Ask your students to brainstorm about what they have learned about water thus far in this unit. Ask them what their thoughts are about organizing a water information meeting at their school. Issues and topics they could write reports on and present include safe drinking water and that it is a basic need. Students would gather information and provide an opportunity to other classmates in the school or parents to learn more about water. Students could research how to conserve water and what constitutes safe drinking water.

Students are encouraged to partner with high school students to order “Template for Change”, another SDWF school program, whereby students can organize community Water Awareness sessions and raise funds for their school projects at the same time.

Students could design posters and invitations to invite people to learn about the Water Spirit and its significance within their lives. Students could explore water conservation and why it is important to conserve water.

Students could also research other contemporary water issues in Canada.

Evaluation: At the end of this unit is a suggested evaluation form for teachers to adapt to fit the needs of their students.


Importance of Water to First Nation Ceremony and Practice

Subject: Social Studies

Topic: Water in Aboriginal Ceremonies

Time Frame: 45 minutes

Objective: Students will be able to identify two Aboriginal ceremonies that include water.

Methodology: Teacher lecture, large and small group discussion

Materials: Student handout

Space Requirements: Classroom

Background Information:

Mni or Nipi (water, movement)

Water is a life-sustaining liquid. Water is an essential element of life because without it, everything dies. Because water is sacred, it should not be contaminated and polluted. Water is naturally stored in the Earth's aquifers. Water flows as healing liquid through natural springs and hot springs. Water flows through the rivers, the veins of Mother Earth, the Sacred Life-Giver. Water recharges our bodies. Pure water is medicine that flushes toxins from our bodies, and sustains the child in the womb of its mother. Falling raindrops and snow help cleanse the air of contaminants. Ceremonies for First Nations vary, yet there are two ceremonies that seem to be found throughout Turtle Island (North America) and those are Fasting and the Sweat Lodge Ceremonies. Both of these ceremonies deal with water, one is immersion within the Water Spirit and the other is deprivation of water. These ceremonies are conducted by various First Nations and the ways in which they are conducted are dependant upon the beliefs of the person, community, elders, and keeper-of the ceremony. Many Sweat Lodge conductors were handed down the right to conduct the sweat lodge, others were given the right through ceremony and visions, while others purchased the right from others. One of the most important things to consider is there is no “right” or “wrong” way to conduct a sweat lodge ceremony, each one is different. A person can always take what they need or want from the ceremony and then leave the rest. Fasting is a way of depriving one’s body of luxuries and essentials like water and food. A person can live weeks without food, but after seven days without water one’s body begins to shut down. Fasting provides a person with the opportunity to concentrate not on their body but on their spirit and meditation. It is through fasting that one is able to sacrifice and perhaps receive spiritual enlightenment. Fasting can be from one day to seven days depending on the person and their belief systems.


  1. Provide students with a basic background about the two ceremonies they will be learning about, fasting and Sweat Lodge Ceremonies. Encourage the students to provide insight into why a person would consider fasting or the Sweat Lodge. (10 minutes).
  2. Either have the notes on an overhead projector for students or provide them with a photocopy. Read through the information sheet on Fasts and Sweat Lodge Ceremonies. Ask students to write down either the full notes or jot notes on the information that has been provided. (15 minutes).
  3. Students will be assigned to write a “reaction and reflection” paper on their thoughts and perspectives on the Sweat Lodge and Fasting rituals. They will be given an opportunity to write for two minutes without interruption. This is an individual assignment to allow the students to reflect on the importance of water within First Nation Ceremony. (3 minutes). Students will break out into small groups to read and discuss their reflections and interpretations. (15 minutes). One student from each of the groups will present a brief about what they discussed within their group. (10 minutes).

Evaluation: At the end of this unit is a suggested evaluation form for teachers to adapt to fit the needs of their students.

Optional: Students could research about Sweats and Fasts and place pictures on the Canada Mural map. A good source of academic information is David G. Mendelbaum.

Other sites that address Aboriginal ceremonies are: 8912929312.txt


Fasting is one of many ceremonies that have been practiced in First Nations communities for thousands of years. In the past, the Elders of a community would take the young people out to fast in order to help them find their direction in life. It is said that when a person fasts they are sacrificing self for all, for family, and for community by denying self the basic comforts of shelter, water, food, and companionship. Fasts are conducted in many different ways and in many different places. Wherever they spend their one, two, three or more days of fasting, they will bring them the medicinestobacco, cedar, sage, sweet grass or other plant medicines that may be used in their region, and their sacred items such as a drum, pipe, smudge bowl, feathers, and ribbons of their colours. Spring and fall are generally the times for fasting. Some teachings say that a person will fast in the fall to take away negative energy and fast in the spring to replenish them with new energy. It is said that when one calls on the spirits with a song, they will hear it and come. A fast can last from sunrise to sundown or for four full days. A traditional feast is prepared for the fasters in celebration of the spiritual journey the fasters have experienced once the fast is ended.


Sweat Lodge is one of many ceremonies that have been practiced in First Nations communities for thousands of years. The lodge is a place where a person can call on Grandfather Rock and Mother Earth to help them in their journey of life. Water, Fire, Earth and Air combine within the lodge which is representational of the Mother’s womb. Tobacco and cloth are usually offered to the conductor for participation within the ceremony. Gift exchange might also take place. These ceremonies can be conducted throughout the year and can also be contained within a dwelling such as a shed, old house or other such building. The lodge itself, depending upon culture, can be faced in any of the four directions. The lodge has a conductor and a doorman. The conductor goes inside the lodge and conducts the ceremony. The doorman is responsible for opening and closing the door upon request of the conductor. Experiences are dependant upon the individual and while some may come away with a vision, others may just have experienced a very hot sauna. They say that when you are born you come out of your Mother’s womb, and they say that when you come out of a sweat lodge ceremony you are again emerging out of your mother; Mother Earth, perhaps reborn.