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Daily Do

How do we get drinking water from fog?

Crosscutting Concepts Disciplinary Core Ideas Earth & Space Science Is Lesson Plan NGSS Phenomena Science and Engineering Practices Three-Dimensional Learning Middle School Grades 6-8

Sensemaking Checklist

Welcome to NSTA's Daily Do

Teachers and families across the country are facing a new reality of providing opportunities for students to do science through distance and home learning. The Daily Do is one of the ways NSTA is supporting teachers and families with this endeavor. Each weekday, NSTA will share a sensemaking task teachers and families can use to engage their students in authentic, relevant science learning. We encourage families to make time for family science learning (science is a social process!) and are dedicated to helping students and their families find balance between learning science and the day-to-day responsibilities they have to stay healthy and safe.

Interested in learning about other ways NSTA is supporting teachers and families? Visit the NSTA homepage.

What is sensemaking?

Sensemaking is actively trying to figure out how the world works (science) or how to design solutions to problems (engineering). Students do science and engineering through the science and engineering practices. Engaging in these practices necessitates students be part of a learning community to be able to share ideas, evaluate competing ideas, give and receive critique, and reach consensus. Whether this community of learners is made up of classmates or family members, students and adults build and refine science and engineering knowledge together.


In today's Daily Do, How can we find the water?, students engage in science and engineering practices and use patterns as a thinking tool to make sense of a phenomenon to solve a problem. Students have an opportunity to apply physical science ideas about gravity to Earth's processes namely, the water cycle. This task has been modified from its design to be used by middle and high school students school students, families, and teachers in distance learning. While students could complete this task independently, we encourage students to work virtually with peers or in the home with family members.

Before you begin the task, you may want to access the accompanying How do we get drinking water from fog? Google slide presentation.

What phenomenon am I exploring today? (Introduce Phenomenon)

Begin by showing students a regular water bottle with a lid. Say to students, "What if I told you there was a way to fill this water bottle just by letting it sit here on the counter - what would you think? Where would the water come from?" (Slide 2)

Ask students to make a prediction about where the water might come from and record it in their science notebook. Next, have them share their ideas in small groups along with their reasoning behind their idea.

Next show students the video below: Nets Turn Fog Into Drinking Water (Slide 3)

As students watch the video have them document what they notice and wonder.

Ask students to share what they noticed. Students may share the following (Slide 4):

  • They can get water from fog.
  • They use nets to collect water from the air.
  • The net isn't all the same.
  • The net looks like it is in the desert.
  • The nets are placed on a hill where there is wind.
  • The water is desalinated from the sun.

Transition students to thinking about what problem this technology could help solve. Have students get into small groups and brainstorm ideas about how this technology could be used (Slide 5).

Next, have a whole group discussion to share student ideas. Many students will bring up the idea that this technology could be used to provide clean drinking water and water to crops to people in undeveloped/underdeveloped countries. Prompt students to think about if this technology would be beneficial to people right here in the United States and have them share their thoughts. Ideas that surface here usually have to do with watering crops during a drought. However, there are many people living in the United States that do not have access to clean drinking water. If this ideas does not surface, ask students, 'Do you think everyone in the United States has access to clean drinking water?' Explain that there are still several parts of the United States where people live that do not have access to clean drinking water. Again, prompt them to think about if this phenomena could help solve that problem.

Additional Guidance: Many students may be surprised that not all communities in the US have access to clean drinking water. Consider using this as an opportunity to discuss issues of equity across different communities in the United States. Examples students could look at is the Navajo Nation of the American West or the Appalachian communities of West Virginia.

Now that students have some ideas about what kinds of problems this technology could solve, ask students what questions they have about the video. In a whole group, have students share their questions. As they share, document the questions on the board, common questions could include:

  • How do the nets work?
  • What are the nets made of?
  • Why would people need to pull water out of the air?
  • How do they know where to put the nets?
  • Could they put the nets anywhere to pull water from the air?
  • Does taking the water out of the air hurt the atmosphere?

After students share their questions have a discussion about what they would need to figure out next to help solve the problem of clean water access. If students don't come to the conclusion that they need to figure out where to put the collection nets, use prompts such as:

  • We know water is in the atmosphere (prior learning) so can you put these anywhere?
  • We have evidence that these collection systems work, so what would be our next step? What information would we need?

What data do we need to make an informed decision? (Building Consensus)

Have students get in their small groups and ask them, 'Do you think the nets would work anywhere or is there certain criteria to consider?' Tell them to think about what information they would need to decide where to place the nets to have the best chance at collecting the most water.

Have groups share their ideas with another group to compare ideas, then have a building consensus discussion. Have groups share the criteria they came up with and have other groups weigh in on agreement. Criteria should include:

  • They would have to be placed where it is humid (water in the air) or foggy.
  • Probably somewhere not too hot, because the air gets dry and the water that is collected could evaporate.
  • Where there is wind (this is from the video).
  • Cost (optional and would need to include more research)

Decide that the most important criterion is placement. Nets would have to be placed where there is water in the air. Ask students what data they would need to figure out where those places are. Common student responses include gathering data on the aquifers, fog, humidity and temperature.

Show slide 8 and explain that scientists have studied and tracked groundwater reserves (aquifers) for many years. Researchers know and keep track of groundwater as it is a main source of fresh water. Now ask them how they think scientist keep track of water in the air. Have students share their ideas then show slide 9. Ask students if they have seen a picture like this before and have them explain what they think it is. Many students will tell you this is a 'heat map' and they would be right, but this heat map doesn't represent temperature variation, it is showing variations in the Earth's gravity field which indicates water mass changes. Ask students how knowing where water masses are and how they change could help inform our decisions about where to put the water collection nets. Students should come to the conclusion that knowing the pattern of water mass change would allow them to place the nets in places that indicate there is a high potential for water in the atmosphere.

Optional Video: To explain how this system works to measure the changes in water masses in the air consider playing the following videos:

Making data-driven decisions

Tell students you are going to watch a video on how scientist have tracked water mass changes in the United States. Have students watch the video on slide (slide 10) then lead a discussion for students to share out what the noticed.

Next have students break into partners or groups and assign each group a year from the video in order to analyze the data more in depth. Share the link to the GRACE data ( for the years 2003-2012.

Have students look for patterns in the data that would help them determine the best places to put water collection nets. After they have analyzed the data for their year, have them share the patterns they noticed with the class. As students share document the data trends on the board. Patterns that should be surfaced are (slide 12):

  • Water masses fluctuate throughout the year.
  • Water masses fluctuate from year to year.
  • Some parts of the US show little increase in water storage
  • Some parts of the US show a lot of increase in water storage
  • Many places in the US have similar patterns of increase and decrease of water storage.

Next have each group make an argument for where they would build their fog-capture system. Students should cite evidence and use reasoning in their argument.

What did we figure out? (Making Sense)

Transition to thinking about our predictions from the beginning of class. Remind them of the initial question, "What if I told you there was a way to fill this water bottle just by letting it sit here on the counter? Where would the water come from?" Have students share what they think now.

Next circle back to recap what we learned and how we used that information to potentially solve a problem (slide 13).

  • Water is found in many places in various states (solid, liquid, and gas).
  • Groundwater has been tracked for many years.
  • Scientist use gravity to track water masses in air by satellite.
  • Nets can be used to harvest water from the air that can be used for drinking.
  • Many people worldwide do have access to clean water, including some in the United States.

Next Steps and Extension Activities:

Go back to the original questions from the first video (Slide 14):

  • How do the nets work?
  • What are the nets made of?
  • Why would people need to pull water out of the air?
  • How do they know where to put the nets?
  • Could they put the nets anywhere to pull water from the air?
  • Does taking the water out of the air hurt the atmosphere?

Ask students what questions they have answered and what questions would they like to investigate next?

Students should be able to answer:

  • Why would people need to pull water out of the air?
  • How do they know where to put the nets?
  • Could they put the nets anywhere to pull water from the air?

To continue learning about this topic, consider having students investigate how the nets work. They could also investigate other ways water can be harvested. Using the Teen's Invention Makes Water Out of Thin Air clip (slide 15), have student compare the teens invention with the nets. What similarities and differences do they have? Do you think they could both work?

NSTA Collection of Resources for Today's Daily Do

NSTA has created a How do we get drinking water from fog? collection of resources to support teachers and families using this task. If you're an NSTA member, you can add this collection to your library by clicking Add to My Library (near top of page).

Check Out Previous Daily Dos from NSTA

The NSTA Daily Do is an open educational resource (OER) and can be used by educators and families providing students distance and home science learning. Access the entire collection of NSTA Daily Dos.


This Daily Do is inspired and uses materials from the Tracking Water Using NASA Satellite Data Activity .NASA's educational resources are an open educational resource that can be used by families and teachers to implement student-driven learning.

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