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SAFE DRINKING WATER FOUNDATION HANDS-ON WATER KITS A HIT WITH STUDENTS
By Suzanne Forcese
“For many of us, clean water is so plentiful and readily available that we rarely, if ever, pause to consider what life would be like without it.” – Marcus Samuelsson.
This quotation was the email signature of Dr. Hans Gosta Peterson (1950-2018), Founder of Safe Drinking Water Foundation (SDWF) and the Safe Drinking Water Team. Dr. Peterson’s dream was to provide water treatment solutions to even the smallest community with the poorest quality raw water source. Dr. Peterson was well known for pioneering the invention of the Integrated Biological Reverse Osmosis Membrane water treatment process.
A large part of fulfilling Dr. Peterson’s dream is education. Based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Safe Drinking Water Foundation (SDWF) is a registered Canadian Charity focused on educating community leaders, politicians, health officials, the general public and students.
WaterToday spoke with Nicole Hancock, Executive Director of SDWF. “Drinking water quality and solutions are the topics we are bringing to the classroom,” Hancock (also Communications Director for the Safe Drinking Water Team and a classroom teacher) told WT.
SDWF has educational resources and programs available in English, French and Cree.
Water Kits created in the lab by SDWF (available for all grade levels) are a great starting point for learning in the classroom and beyond. “Over 2900 schools and other educational institutions have used the kits. We offer assistance to teachers every step of the way – questions on how to use the kit, brainstorm ideas for action projects and to help students share what they learned with others,” Hancock said.
SDWF staff is available to give presentations, at no extra cost, to students and answer questions via Skype, Google Hangouts or webinars in English or French.
There are various kits available that are designed for all grade levels. As far as fitting these projects into the existing curriculum guidelines Hancock says, “I’m a firm believer that if you want to fit it in you can make it fit. Water is a topic that can be approached in all subjects and all grades.”
Available kits include:
- Operation Water Drop Kits Grades 4-8. Students can test their local drinking water and control water samples for 8 different components (alkalinity, ammonia, colour, total chlorine, copper, pH sulphate and total hardness) and compare their results to the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality.
The High School version enables students (Grades 9-12) to test 5 different water samples (SDWF recommends local, urban, rural, raw and control) for different components (alkalinity, ammonia, arsenic, colour, iron, manganese, nitrate, total chlorine, copper, pH, sulphate and total hardness) and compare their results to the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality.
- Operation Water Pollution Kits enables Grade 5-12 Students to learn what causes water pollution and how it can be cleaned up and prevented. The 11 lessons represent a comprehensive unit on water issues with additional suggested activities and resources along with references.
- Operation Water Biology is a series of 8 lesson plans designed for Grades 9-12 connecting directly with science, chemistry, biology curricula and covering several different aspects of drinking water treatment. Students
learn about biological water treatment. They also conduct hands-on experiments on chlorine chloramine ammonia and iron.
- Operation Community Water Footprint is designed for Grades 6-12 and directly connects with science, social studies and math curricula and is set up as content integrated lessons. Students learn about local drinking water treatment facility and distribution systems with hand-on projects.
- Operation Water Health for Grades 4-12 provides an opportunity to investigate health issues such as water borne illnesses and contaminated water. Students are encouraged to do their part in making a difference through a variety of activities and cooperative learning strategies. They also examine the role of Federal and Provincial Governments in drinking water quality. These kits are also available in Cree.
- Operation Water Spirit is a collection of thematic units and lesson plans which reinforce Aboriginal culture and perspectives regarding water for Aboriginal students while at the same time providing an Aboriginal perspective to non-Aboriginal students about water issues. There are also K- 2 lesson plans available.
- Operation Water Flow supports teachers of math, chemistry, biology and social studies in giving students a more thorough understanding of issues surrounding drinking water such as establishing the true cost of water, the social responsibilities of providing safe drinking water, the need for national regulations, and the need for water conservation and source water protection.
Tracy Webb, Acadia University professor, who just recently retired from teaching at Horton High School in Wolfville NS, has used Operation Water Drop, Operation Water Biology, and Operation Water Pollution kits in her classroom with her students for many years. “It’s a perfect science lab in a box,” Webb told WaterToday in a telephone interview. Tracy finds the kits engage the students in relevant hands-on learning.
After classes explored their own water samples with
the High School Operation Water Drop Kits, they created an Environment Club and sponsored metal water bottles with the logo “I make a difference.” Profits from the sale allowed the club to buy a water dispenser for the school from Ekay (ekay.com). The dispenser has counters which display the number of disposable plastic bottles which the water filling station helped eliminate.
Webb, who has been recognized for her teaching excellence with several awards, also sits on the Board for SDWF as well as several other national and international water organizations. “Water is something I have always been passionate about and have taught it in all my subjects at all grade levels. Students have to find out for themselves about the use and abuse of water. Most Canadians are ignorant when it comes to water issues.”
“There are many different ways to use the kits,” Webb continues. “Some kits lend themselves to chemistry, or oceanography or groundwater. There are many different cross-curricula variations and activities to explore.”
Webb treasures a thank-you letter she received from two students years ago. The letter reads “We never knew what would happen in your class but we knew it would make us very emotional.” Webb adds, “Water does that.” Incidentally, the students have gone on to be teachers.
Kristine Holloway and teaching partner Catharine Rayner of David Leeder Middle School in Mississagua, ON, began their ‘water teaching journey’ when Holloway read the novel A Long Walk To Water, by Linda Sue Park, to her Grade 6 class. “The children and I were so moved by the story of an 11 year old girl in South Sudan who walks 8 hours a day to fetch water from a pond to support her parents and younger sister-- while being subjected to violence and not having the opportunity to attend school-- that we wanted to do something,” Holloway told WaterToday in an interview. “I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting to find out about our own water and also connect with an Indigenous community and trade details. I wanted to make it a learning journey, to have the Indigenous students teach us about the sacredness of water and we could teach about the science.”
Holloway was awarded $1000 through the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada. With those funds she has been purchasing SDWF’s kits to send to First Nations communities in remote areas. Holloway has also partnered with a number of Elders to learn about the Water Walk. “We decided to do our own Water Walk and have connected with many other schools.”
Catharine Raynor, who is teaching the science aspect in the team effort told WT that they also use Nibi’s Water Song as a hook for middle school students to incorporate water issues into art by creating Zen doodle art animals.
Water does indeed flow through all subjects and all grades.
The palpable passion these champion teachers and SDWF have for water is evidenced by their committed efforts in realizing their mission “We will educate the leaders of today and tomorrow about drinking water quality issues to realize our goal of safe drinking water being available to every Canadian.”
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