Teaching and Knowing beyond the Water Cycle: What Does It Mean to Be Water Literate?


Water is an extraordinary thing: it is the key to the chemistry of life. If it wasn’t for water’s unique properties, such as its abilities to dissolve other substances, life could not exist on our planet. Indeed, life was thought to have started in water and currently more than half of the plant and animal species live in water. On land, plants and animals need water for their existence, as the ability of water to disassemble and rearrange other molecules is essential to all daily actions. As humans, our bodies consist of about 80% water when we are babies, to around 60% - 65% as adults. The human brain is about 85% water. Even though this simple polar molecule is one of the most prized possessions in the universe, what do people know about water? What does it mean to be water literate? In this paper, we explore what it means to be water literate in the fields of engineering and in science education. We will compare this theoretical understanding with what engineering and science education students actually know about water. We finish with recommendations to increase student’s literacy in water.

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Sammel, A. and McMartin, D. (2014) Teaching and Knowing beyond the Water Cycle: What Does It Mean to Be Water Literate?. Creative Education, 5, 835-848. doi: 10.4236/ce.2014.510097.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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