Filtering Water on the ISS

Filtering Water on the ISS

8-10 yrs old

11-13 yrs old


Students will experiment with creating a water filtering system as well as learn how water is filtered on the ISS.

avatar Submitted By: Phygital Labs

June 1, 2020

Learning Objectives

  • 1. explore how astronauts filter water on the ISS a. CCSS.W.7
  • 2. experiment with creating a hands-on filtering system in small groups a. NGSS 3-5-ETS1-2
  • 3. design and build a water filtration system in Minecraft a. NGSS 3-5-ETS1-3

Guiding Ideas

Would you drink dirty water? Probably not! That’s why it’s important to have engineers that help us by filtering our drinking water. How would that be done on the ISS? In this lesson, students will learn how astronauts filter water in space, participate in a hands-on experiment, and create a filter design in Minecraft before building it with recyclable items!

Essential Questions

• How do astronauts get clean water in space?

• What is the engineering process?

• How can we engineer a water filtering system using household items to get the cleanest water?

• How can I design and build a water filtration system in Minecraft? Where would that system be used?

Teacher Preparation & Notes

1. Watch the STEMonstrations: Water Filtration video about how astronauts filter water in space.

2. Read through the Water Filtration Project from TeachEngineering (this lesson has been adapted).

3. Decide on a limitation for the design challenge (for example, students can only use x number of materials or materials cost different amounts of money).

4. Decide if groups for the hands-on activity will be teacher or student selected.

5. Gather materials for water filtering activity (items with an asterisk should be collected PER group):

a. Liter bottle with muddy water (use soil and sand)

b. 3 clear cups or test tubes for class demonstration

c. *3 clear cups or test tubes

d. *Funnel (if using test tubes)

e. *Liter bottle cut about 4-5 inches from the top

f. *Various filtering items to choose from:

i. Coffee filters

ii. Natural materials (grass, gravel, etc.)

iii. Paper towels

iv. Cheese cloth

v. Cotton balls

vi. Netting

vii. Tissues

viii. Gauze

ix. Anything else that could be used!

6. Create handouts of the design challenge components identification sheet for student groups in OneNote or for written responses.

7. Makerspace materials for students’ final projects (you can ask for donations from parents ahead of time to make this collection easier!)

8. Graph paper

9. Chart paper

10. K-W-L chart

11. Writing utensils

12. After the second lesson, teachers will need to print off student screencast QR codes from Flipgrid if choosing this option.


Student Activities

Day 1:

Estimated time: 90 min

1. Students will gather in a group and the teacher will pose the question, “How do astronauts get clean water in space?” Post ideas on chart paper.

2. The teacher will put up a K-W-L chart and ask students what they know about water filtration and what they want to know.

3. Students will watch the video STEMonstrations: Water Filtration and add what they learned about how astronauts get clean water to the chart paper.

4. The teacher will explain that they are going to use the engineering design process to design their own water filtration system in small groups.

5. Students will watch The Engineering Process: Crash Course Kids #12.2 video to understand what the engineering design process is.

6. The teacher will show the students a bottle of muddy water and ask if anyone would be willing to drink it. S/he will then explain that s/he will do a water filtration demonstration using different materials. There will be three different kinds of filter demonstrations as a whole group.

a. The Water Filtration Project lesson suggests grass, a coffee filter, and two coffee filters with a paper towel between the filters. You can choose whichever materials for the class demonstration, but make sure they show a distinct change in filtering by the end.

7. The teacher will show students a variety of household materials that they may pick from to make their own systems.

a. Before they begin, groups should fill out the design challenge components identification sheet. Any limitations should have been shared by the teacher at this point.

8. Groups will use the provided supplies to experiment with water filtration systems.

9. Each group will take notes on what materials they used as well as the results to share with the group in the next lesson.


Day 2:

Estimated time: 60 min

1. The class will review how astronauts get clean water in space as well as discuss their hands-on water filtration system group experiment.

2. The teacher will tell students to think of a place or time when water may need to be filtered somewhere on Earth or in space and create a device to filter it. The first step will be creating their prototype in Minecraft.

3. After students choose their place or time, they will begin sketching out their devices, labeling what materials will be used with slates.

4. Once the teacher has approved each student’s sketch, s/he will begin creating his/her water filtration device in Minecraft. The students should choose the biome or world that best suits the area in which this system would be needed. Students can find biomes in the Minecraft Library.

5. Students will create a screencast of their final project in Flipgrid.

Day 3:

Estimated time: 60 min (could be extended depending on how in-depth the students go with their prototypes)

1. Students will create their actual device in class.

2. Students will present their work to the whole class or the small group in which they completed the water filtration experiment on day two.


Performance Expectations

Summative Assessments:

• A rubric for the collaborative hands-on water filtration experiment can be used

• Student screencasts of their Minecraft water filtration device

• Students’ final project and presentation


The teacher can place the QR codes of the students’ Minecraft screencasts on their physical products and place them on display for others to see!