Beyond Benign

Elementary School

Cur ES 5th Grade

5th Grade

Desalination Design Challenge Overview

In this unit, students will be introduced to issues surrounding water availability and they’ll use the engineering design process to evaluate both water filtration and desalination as solutions to global challenges. By considering how nature filters out salt, and by using the lens of green chemistry, students will form a fresh perspective on water sustainability and learn how they can use their own creativity to solve real-world problems.

Desalination Design Challenge: 01 Water, Water Everywhere

This lesson invites students to learn about the limited availability of fresh water and introduces them to the unit, in which they will think creatively about desalination: the process that removes salt from saline water. This activity uses containers ranging from an eyedropper to a five-gallon bucket to create a visual model showing how little fresh, drinkable water is available on Earth. Students then reflect on the amount of fresh water humans consume and consider ways to reduce our individual water consumption.

Desalination Design Challenge: 02 How Do Animals Conserve Water?

This lesson builds off of Lesson 1 and students’ prior knowledge of water. Students will learn about adaptations found in nature for both conserving and removing salt from water, in reading and in class discussion. Later in the unit, students will use what they learn in Lesson 2 to help them design a water filter and a desalination device.

Desalination Design Challenge: 03 Focus on Filtering

In this lesson, students will review different types of filters that are used around the world. They will then design a water filter that they’ll build and test with muddy water, using the information on biomimicry and sustainability from Lesson 2. Students will wrap up the lesson by working with their partner to compare sketches and create one final design proposal that uses the best ideas from each partner’s drawing.

Desalination Design Challenge: 04 Fresh Filters: Get the Mud Out

In this lesson, students will build the filters they designed in Lesson 3. They will then test how well their prototype removes mud and salt from water, and use their results to propose and make one change to improve their filter design.

Desalination Design Challenge: 05 Salty Solutions

In this lesson, students will consider how nature removes salt from water, and then design their own evaporation desalinators. The students will use the engineering design process to craft and test their prototypes throughout Lessons 5 and 6.

Desalination Design Challenge: 06 Desalination Design

In this lesson, students participate in the engineering design process as they construct their desalinators, capture data, and think critically about the effectiveness of their prototype. They will then propose and justify a change to their design that will improve their device.

Properties of Adhesives: A Sticky Situation Overview

This unit investigates the properties of adhesives—from strength to environmental impact—through the lenses of green chemistry and biomimicry (the art of taking inspiration from nature in the design of new technologies). Together, these two fields support development of sustainable technologies to help meet the needs of the current population without impacting our ability to provide for the next generation. Throughout the unit, students will explore how nature can provide ideas to scientists and engineers, consider the properties of adhesives, and make their own “greener” glues.

Properties of Adhesives: A Sticky Situation: 01 What Do We Learn From Animals?

This lesson introduces students to biomimicry, first by decoding and defining the word, then by an interactive matching game that challenges students to think like scientists and engineers in considering different aspects of the natural world.

Properties of Adhesives: A Sticky Situation: 02 Testing Tape

In this lesson, students will evaluate different kinds of tape using the green chemistry criteria. Students will learn about properties of adhesives from a short background reading and then test the mechanical properties of various tapes using spring scales to measure force. To conclude, students will use the data they have gathered, alongside information on cost and starting materials of each tape, to determine which tape they would recommend.

Properties of Adhesives: A Sticky Situation: 03 Battle of the Glues

In this lesson, students will make two different glues using household materials that undergo a chemical reaction when mixed. They will then compare the two glues using the same green chemistry criteria that they used in Lesson 2. This lesson is designed to reinforce their ability to differentiate between mixtures and chemical reactions.

Properties of Adhesives: A Sticky Situation: 04 Just Glue It!

This lesson wraps up the unit by having students create an advertisement for their homemade glue from Lesson 3. Students will work in groups and present their projects to the class.