The decline in the quality of the water we need to live is one of our greatest challenges. In fact, more people die from poor quality water annually than from all forms of violence, including war.
As we look to the future, the problem is only expected to increase, so it’s imperative that the students of today understand the challenges they face, and most importantly, are informed to be able to tackle them.
Thousands of HSBC employees continue to take part in FreshWater Watch thanks to the HSBC Water Programme, and now, as the ripple effect furthers its reach, Earthwatch is bringing the initiative to teachers and students globally, inspiring new generations to preserve this most precious resource.
An exchange of ideas in India
In April, the Earthwatch India team ran a workshop for students of Indraprastha Global School, Uttar Pradesh, following a request from Christina, a teacher from Felsted Preparatory School, Essex, England.
Christina was visiting the school, along with a group of students from England, on a British Council School Exchange Programme. Christina’s pupils had already been working on the Water Explorer programme – an initiative of Global Action Plan in partnership with HSBC - and had heard about the HSBC Water Programme from a family member who is an employee at HSBC in the UK.
The children enjoyed the day, learning about the River Yamuna and important wetlands like the Okhla Bird Sanctuary where HSBC employees are trained to be Citizen Science Leaders. After the workshop, the students came up with some excellent action points to save water within their school. Both schools will continue to work on the Water Explorer project between now and April 2016.
Earthwatch believe these strong global links are critical to helping children recognise the importance of freshwater on our planet.
Studying storm water in New York
Also in April, the Earthwatch US team hosted their first FreshWater Watch teacher training in New York City.
This was a half day event adapted from the HSBC Citizen Science Leader training day. It is expected that by training teachers to gather FreshWater Watch data, they will in turn train their students to help collect data in a local water body near their school.
Mayen, a teacher from Brooklyn said, “I think this is a great resource to use in my classroom. It would be great to collect and analyse data in our community.”
Because teachers are so connected to their community, the Earthwatch team focused the training mainly on local water issues, describing the current water situation in New York and how our research with Columbia University is addressing some of those issues.
New York City, is a place with a lot of people and a lot of water – with only a 1/12th of an inch of rain, the sewer systems can get overwhelmed and raw sewage can go directly into rivers and streams by combined sewer overflows. To improve water quality, the city has committed to increase green space so that excess storm water is absorbed and sewage overflows are prevented. With the data that HSBC Citizen Scientist Leaders will help collect – including bacteria and pH levels – researchers will determine whether the increase in green space has resulted in improved water quality for the city.
Although Earthwatch has been working with Columbia University for two years now, these are the first teacher citizen scientists to be trained in New York. They will be “guinea pigs”, and Earthwatch will be gathering feedback on how easy it is for them to integrate FreshWater Watch into their schools and what could be done to make it more accessible to teachers in general.
Teachers often want to find alternative ways of engaging their students outside the classroom. There are many types of activities that teachers can do with their students to teach them about science, but what’s great about FreshWater Watch is that it is real science.
“I am excited to collect research and contribute to a global database. I also hope to get my students passionate about citizen science” says Jess, a 9th grade biology teacher.
Also in April, The Earthwatch US team worked with Deerfield Academy. They are the first school to sign up for FreshWater Watch in North America. Earthwatch trained four teachers who teach advanced placement courses in the sciences. Those teachers will be training up to 25 students to carry out FreshWater Watch in the Deerfield River which is located right behind the school.
The UK: Nature is the classroom
In the UK, Earthwatch leads an annual residential training programme for teachers combining “hands-on” scientific research which can be replicated in a school setting, and innovative tailored learning sessions.
The programme aims to increase confidence and develop skills in delivering environmental educations outside the classroom. Held in the inspiring location of Wytham Woods in Oxfordshire, the course enables teachers to re-energise, refocus and plan.
The course involves hands-on citizen science activities, resource and information sharing, and an exploration of current environmental issues and challenges. As part of this, the teachers study climate change, and are trained to carry out FreshWater Watch.
As one Teach Earth 2014 participant said:
“My week at Teach Earth has reinvigorated my enthusiasm for teaching. I feel confident in tackling difficult issues…in positive and engaging ways. Brilliant. Thank you team! It's great to be doing real, exciting science"
Find out more
If you’d like support our teacher programme, or you know a teacher who would like to get involved, wherever you’re based, please contact Neil at email@example.com.
Alongside FreshWater Watch, participants on Teach Earth get involved with climate change research.