Students are often exposed to bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers, and oceans, which helps them develop a better understanding of surface water. But visualizing what groundwater looks like can be very challenging because it is nothing like what students experience on the surface. This disconnect can lead to the misconception that groundwater flows under the surface of land much like a river or stream. It is difficult for students to visualize groundwater as existing in the pores of soil. In addition, students in the United States have a difficult time grasping the importance of groundwater because many of them live in urban areas where their water is supplied by utility companies rather than wells in their own backyard. Showing the mechanics of a pump or well can be helpful, but students may still need additional instruction about water scarcity and how groundwater is a vital water source for many people around the world.
Watch this video of 6th grade students in San Diego, California—a coastal community. The purpose of this classroom video is to see students share their ideas about groundwater.
For additional classroom context, video analysis, and reflection opportunities, read the Picture of Practice page for "What Is Groundwater?" in the Earth's Freshwater Environmental Literacy Teacher Guide, page 66.