Fresh water is required for human survival. Freshwater is scarce in the Virgin Islands. In 1941, when this photograph was taken people collected water for their personal household use from rainfall and from ground water. We can access ground water by using a well. Ground water comes from rain that soaks through the soil and is stored underground naturally. Some wells in the Virgin Islands are made by private property owners, others were built by the government for public use. Today in the Virgin Islands, freshwater used by the community is largely made from desalinated seawater, which is fresh water created from salt water. Another major source of fresh water in the Virgin Islands is rainfall, collected in cisterns. Additionally, private wells are still used by some residents.
In this activity, students will use questions from an Analyze a Photograph worksheet to meet and examine a photograph from 1941 of people getting water from a public well on St. Thomas. They will list human needs and will analyze how humans and living things need water. They will discuss how fresh water is produced, distributed, and consumed in the Virgin Islands today, and how it was in the past.
Primary Sources in this Activity
Suggested Teaching Instructions
Before beginning this activity, help students to understand primary sources, what they are, examples and how they are different from secondary sources.
The teacher should ask the class to think about and list human needs – things that a human being needs to survive. If students need help with the answers, give one example, food is a human need. Can students name some others? Bring their focus to water, and ask the class to list the ways they use water today? They will likely list their immediate uses for drinking and bathing, and for their parents to cook and wash clothes. Ask them to also think about the water needed to grow the food they eat – the water that farmers use to water the vegetables and give to farm animals to drink.
Load the photograph of “getting water from a public well” taken in 1941 onto an interactive smart board and have students make observations together. If there is not a smart board, students can work in small groups at computers.
Also load the Analyze a Photograph worksheet on the smart board or on computers so that you can lead students through answering the questions on the worksheet.
Analyze the Primary Source
Using the questions from the Analyze a Photograph worksheet, lead students through a photograph analysis and discussion. You may load the Analyze a Photograph worksheet on the smart board or on computers so that you can lead students through answering the questions, print the worksheet and distribute to your students, or adapt the questions from the worksheet to create your own. Primary Source Analysis Worksheets
Work through the sections of the worksheet:
Meet the Photo.
Observe its Parts.
Try to make sense of it.
Use it as historical evidence.
After completing the questions from the worksheet, engage students in the discussion about water use and where water comes from.
Ask students to think about and describe where the water they use comes from? How does the water get to them? Where does city water come from? How are these answers similar and how are they different from how the people are getting fresh water from a government regulated public well in the photograph from 1941?
As needed, the teacher can share some background information from the About section.
Children’s Chores in the Past Discussion: Have students look at the photograph again. Who is getting the water? Have students heard stories from their grandparents or older relatives regarding the hard work of getting water in the morning and afternoon as a daily chore from public wells? In the past, collecting water from a well was one of a young child’s first responsibilities in the home. How do you suppose the child in the photograph will get the water from the well? How will they get it home?
Ask students if they know the location of any community wells in their town or community? Have them ask their parents or grandparents if they know of any community wells in town? Also have them ask older relatives whether they had to gather water from wells when they were children? Students can report back the next day with any insight their relatives shared with them.