Water Investigations Program

Program Type

Curriculum/Instructional Materials
Hands on/Project-Based

Target Audience

All Students




Grades 6 - 8
Grades 9 - 12

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Program Impact



Program Overview

The Water Investigations Program (WIP) is a formal education program for 6th- through 12th-grade students that improves critical thinking skills and enables students' to refine their environmental position over a year of inquiry, collaboration, problem solving, and synthesis of evidence.

Teachers commit to six days (48 hours) of professional development, integrating four WIP units into their curriculum over the school year. Teachers naturally transform their instructional practices from teacher-directed to student-directed inquiry. They are supported with in-classroom facilitated sessions and relevant project-based learning that affects the community, including the opportunity for students to design and conduct their own investigation at an Arizona river. 

WIP students understand their interconnected water resources and how the natural environment and human water distribution system are connected. Engineering becomes understandable as they apply science and mathematics to solve real-world problems like reducing water use at school and at home. Mathematical thinking skills are the focal point as students become water auditors, measuring flow rate, thinking through other variables needed to calculate gallons per year, developing a process to collect data, calculating answers including unit conversion, and analyzing data graphically. Students learn about careers and use equipment in the field that chemists, hydrologists, aquatic biologists, soil scientists, biologists and engineers use. They record daily learning and use digital tools summarize ideas, data, photos, videos and discoveries about their studies online. Finally, students synthesize their learning and present their ideas, recommendations and commitments to peers and adults at a STEM Symposium. The experience is transformative.


Kerry Schwartz, Associate Specialist

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Design Principles

The programs in this database clear a high bar. STEMworks reviewed each program against the Design Principles for Effective STEM Philanthropy.

  • Accomplished
  • Developing
  • Undeveloped

Overarching Principles

  • Need

    Identify and target a compelling and well-defined need.

  • Evaluation

    Use rigorous evaluation to continuously measure and inform progress towards the compelling need identified.

  • Sustainability

    Ensure work is sustainable.

  • Replication and Scalability

    Demonstrate replicability and scalability.

  • Partnerships

    Create high impact partnerships

  • Capacity

    Ensure organizational capacity to achieve goals.

STEM Principles

  • Challenging and Relevant Content

    Offer challenging and relevant STEM content for the target audience

  • STEM Practices

    Incorporate and encourage STEM practices.

  • Inspiration

    Inspire interest and engagement in STEM.

  • Under-Represented Groups

    Identify and address the needs of under-represented groups.