African Desert Wildlife Offers a Solution to Water Shortage

ITA International TEFL Academy. Chapter 7 Task 2, Reading Activity.

Rationale for Choice:

I chose this article from, because it highlights the beauty of nature and animals in an endearing way. The article is announcing a cutting-edge technology for a self-filling water bottle. I was almost finished with my task preparation when I made two important discoveries: 1) is a GREAT resource for real-world articles and activities. 2) The self-filling bottle was an utter failure. Investors lost money, and experts called it a scientifically impossible scam. The article starts with a spin on helping poor people, then turns into a promotion for the water bottle. What to do? I decided to incorporate this surprise as a “slice of reality” into my lesson. Students won’t fully understand the possible scam and owner apology until they do the homework reading. I hope this will sharpen their top-down skills to “read between the lines” for intention, point of view, stimulating watchful awareness and comprehension.

Level:  Intermediate Adults

Number of Students: 15

Language Skill:Reading

Theme of unit: Animals/nature

Activity Duration:  1 hour


  1. Realia: Come in wearing a backpack, hiking shoes, hat, binoculars, walking stick, big bottle of water, jeans, and a nature-lovers shirt.
  2. Lots of photos to illustrate the main point and vocabulary – see below.
  3. New Vocabulary pictures handout
  4. Reading text with lines numbered.
  5. Bottom-up questions, Top-Down questions, Comprehension questions on one handout.
  6. Homework handout with link, instructions and questions.

Possible problems:        

Some of the new vocabulary have multiple meanings, which makes them are particularly confusing to students, such as “drawing”, “energy efficiency”, “mimic”, and “prototype”. There are some potentially confusing words and expressions that have forms as both verbs and nouns, such as “research”, and “condense”. The surprise story in the homework revealing a possible scam may be too unexpected for some, and I’m sure it will be a topic of discussion in tomorrow’s class!

Learning goal:
To expand vocabulary and improve reading skills. To use carefully planned techniques to use Bottom-up processing and Top-down processing, so that students learn to apply these skills in all their reading.  

Instructions to Substitute Teacher:

  1. Use the big screen TV, and connect it to your laptop as you’ve done many times, or just your laptop. Scroll through this file. It will walk you through the content step by step.
  2. Before class get out materials, prepare your realia, and get the handouts listed above under Materials. They’re in my big desk drawer.
  3. Follow the class plan in order, keeping to the times indicated.
  4. You should lead the class for 1. Warm-up, and 2. Pre-Reading. For the rest of the class you are holding control without leading, observe and allow the students to work by themselves, using you only as a resource. Have fun!


1. Warm-up:

How many of you like to go out in Nature? What do you love about it? Do you go to look for wildlife – plants and animals? To be in Nature? To relax and away from school? To get out of the city?

When you go for a hike, do you bring water? In some parts of the world there is no water at all. That is a lack of water, a water shortage. Today we’re going to read about a surprising discovery of an animal in the dry desert of Africa that may be able to help relieve water shortage all over the world!

2. Pre-Reading

To engage interest, introduce vocabulary, summon background knowledge, introduce the main idea.

a. New vocabulary found in text:

Discuss the meaning of each word. Ask the students to say them out loud to each other. Then read sample sentences in photo captions. 

b. Use vocabulary in context of reading

Water is a part of nature. Moisture is everywhere in the air. But some people lack water to drink.

Three billion people, almost one half of the Earth’s population, have a water shortage. Some families have to carry water every day because they have no money to pay for systems.

What parts of the world have the worst water shortage? A desert has very little water.

 The amazing Namib Desert Beetle is a very smart insect that has developed a way to live in the desert! It can draw water from the air, condense it into a liquid, and store it in its shell. The beetle can convert and save enough water to live all year.

The Namib Desert Beetle lives in the huge desert of Namibia, Africa. The desert of West Africa has less than 2 centimeters of rainfall per year. Would you like to go there for a hike? How far could you walk without water?

Scientists have discovered how the Namib Desert Beetle stores water. It condenses water from the air into liquid, and stores it in bumps in its shell. The beetle has inspired scientists to mimic this natural system to help populations with water shortage.

Scientists are doing research to develop systems to mimic the beetle. They are experimenting with a prototype technology to draw water from the air to provide drinking water.

Like a steam engine, using energy-efficient solar panels, plus the technology of the beetleresearchers are discovering how to condense water from air, to help populations all over the world.

The exciting new Fontus self-filling water bottle is being introduced. It draws vapor, or steam from the air and condenses it into liquid water. The Fontus prototype is said to collect 1/2 liter to 3 liters per hour.

The Fontus self-filling water bottle has an energy-efficient solar panel to draw sunlight to condense water into liquid. This is a wonderful discovery for Nature lovers! Prototype bottles are now available for an earlybird price of $165. Would you like to buy one?

Thanks to the wildlife of the desert, new technology inspired by a simple beetle can provide free energy and sustainable living for billions of people who lack clean water.

Inspired by Nature, we can now end water shortages, so that populations all over the world can enjoy free water.

3. The Reading:

African desert beetle inspires self-filling water bottle

(From news article from Edited by Jane Barthelemy to bring it up to 300 words.)3. During Reading

a. Bottom-up During Reading first time

  1. Read the text handout.
  2. Circle any unfamiliar words.
  3. Circle the vocabulary words we just studied.
  4. Raise your hand when you finish and we will discuss any questions line by line

b. Top-Down During Reading second time

  • Underline any sentences or phrases you do not understand. Please raise your hand and we will try together to guess the meaning together. Try to infer the meaning of an unknown word from the other words around it.
  • Scan the text for the word “bump”. How many do your find?
  • Now scan for the word “prototype”. How many do you find?
  • What do you think is the intention of the author in this article?
  • Is there any hidden agenda, such as investor money? Tourism to Africa? Selling a product?
  • Would reading this article influence you to want to know more and maybe invest money?

c. Metacognition Comprehension Questions.
Raise your hand if you have the answer.

  1. What problem do the researchers want to solve?
  2. Which country is the beetle from?
  3. What is the beetle’s shell covered in?
  4. How does the beetle survive without water in the desert?
  5. What do the scientists want to make?
  6. Who will this new product help?
  7. What substance do energy-efficient condensers convert to liquid water?
  8. How much water can the prototype collect in an hour?
  9. What did a scientist say everybody is excited about?
  10. Did the owners make promises to provide clean water to the world?

4. Post Reading Activity

  1. Get into pairs and read the article aloud to each other. Pay attention to your pronunciation, especially of the new vocabulary words on your handout.
  2. After each sentence with a critical point of view, ask your partner if he or she believes each statement is True, or False, or Partly True, or Partly False. Answer honestly.
  3. Switch roles, read each sentence, and ask it it is True, or False, or Partly True, or Partly False.
  4. While reading, use your intelligent good sense to consider if this article can be trusted or not.

5. Homework Handout Instructions:

  1. Read the attached article. Circle any words or expressions you do not understand. Tomorrow we’ll study these words and expressions:  Scam, Too good to be true, gullible, publicity, owners, enthusiastic, investors, creators, fundraising, vaporize, solar, refund, complain, apology, popularity, failure, backpack.
  2. Skim the article for the main point, and write it down at the bottom of this sheet. If you aren’t sure of a word, read the words around it, consider the main point of the article, and try to guess or infer the main gist of the article.

Answer these questions:

  1. How much money did the Fontus researchers raise on the website IndiGoGo?
  2. Is the Fontus self-filling water bottle available now?
  3. Did the Fontus developers end the project?
  4. Did any of the investors get a refund of their money?
  5. In your opinion, were the developers honestly trying to make the product?
  6. Or was their primary intention to get money for an impossible dream?

b. Watch the video attached. Then answer the following questions:

  1. Do you agree with Dave Jones that the project was scientifically impossible?
  2. If you read the article when it appeared in newspapers in 2012, would you have believed it?
  3. Would you have ordered a self-filling bottle at the early-bird price of $165?
  4. Do you think this situation is an example of developer greed?
  5. Or is it an example of the media just grabbing an interesting story without careful study?
  6. Was it caused by the developers, the media, a gullible public, or all three?
  7. If you were a trusted personal advisor to the developers, what advice would you give them? Before? After?

Is the Fontus Self-Filling Water Bottle a Scam?



Article Source:

Reading Excerpt: This was a widely publicized “scientific news” story in 2012 from: 
Breaking News English. Their sources are:


Other Resources:

BBC News. Namib Desert beetle inspires self-filling water bottle. November, 2012.

Beach, Greg. Brilliant self-filling water bottle pulls moisture from the air while you hike or bike.

Chow, Denise. Self-Filling Water Bottle Converts Humid Air into Drinkable H2O. 4/26/2016.

Clark, Liat. Self-filling water bottle mimics Namib beetle’s water-trapping wings. November, 2012.

Jones, Dave. It Looks Like The Fontus Self-Filling Water Bottle Was A Scam.

Jones, Dave. Twitter. Fontus admit that their self filling water bottle concept didn’t work. Oops, how embarrassing. Laws of physics are a bitch. Fundraiser closed. Fontus – The Self Filling Water Bottles. $345,576 USD raised by 1438 backers.

Ortiz, Adrian, MA. ITA – International TEFL Academy. The Fundamentals of Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Chapter 7

Tamburro, Paul. Is the Fontus Self Filling Water Bottle a Scam? This Evidence Suggests So. May, 2016. Anywhere.