I've come to this conclusion: allowing students to have pint-sized water bottles on their desks is a good thing. The mind and body need water to function properly, and having a bottle within reach provides a handy supply. Granted, you might experience an increase in the number of trips to restroom; nonetheless, I feel that the advantages of hydration are more important than the rather small amount of class time students will miss during the bathroom run.
If your tap water is bearable, it's an easy matter to refill the bottles at the beginning of the day. If, however, your tap water is like our tap water, you'll want the students to refill at home. (It doesn't take too much time to get into the "put your bottle in your backpack" habit.
The only downside to students refilling at home is that they--actually their moms--like to freeze them so that it the water stays cold during the day.
Now then, you science buffs out there will relalize that a bottle of frozen water sitting in a warm room will produce condesation on the outside of the bottle, which, through the wonders of gravity, will end up creating a pool of water on the desk top. Although the mini-science lesson is great; the water is a real nuisance. In the past, I've been adamant regarding bottle refills from home, i.e., no cold or frozen water allowed. I now have a better way to handle this issue.
I was teaching a two-day workshop in Los Angeles in which the participants were encouraged to spend a few minutes sharing one of their own ideas. Well, one of the teachers told us that she has the students bring their bottles wrapped in a sock.
This will not only take care of the condensation problem, but will make the bottles somewhat unique. (I can only imagine the variety of socks that will be used by my students this year.)
Teacher thoughts on water bottles:
I, too, allow my students to drink water from a water bottle all day. The way I've tackled the puddle dilemma is to use coasters. Local restaurants use throw away paper coasters. I got a class set for free just by asking. The only downside is that sometimes the coasters promote alcohol products. For those, I just use my Sharpie marker to"doctor" brand names out.
C.E. Hanna Elementary
About six years ago I tried the sock idea. The students came with really long socks on their bottles and started playing with them. They became a toy not a tool. Since then I just have them keep the bottles on the floor and no longer have to deal with condensation. Also their papers don't get wet from the occasional spilled bottle; an extra added attraction.
Another idea to solve the dripping water bottle is to use a plastic lid from a margarine container as a coaster.
I suggest that my students only fill their bottles about 1/4 full when they freeze them. Then, when the bottle is pulled from the freezer, water can be added. This not only allows for a cool drink but keeps the bottom of the bottle flat since it didn't expand beyond its original shape during the freezing process. Also, there is much less condensation.
Butterfield Elementary, Lake Elsinore