I joined Waterlution this year as the School Liaison and Facilitator with the Great Waters Challenge, specifically to introduce the challenge into French Schools. l feel lucky that through this program, I am able to meet so many inspiring youth. I started this position thinking I will go to various schools to engage youth to organize Water Celebrations, but what I didn’t know is that I would learn so much from them. Here is the story on how we are celebrating our “great waters” in schools.
The Great Waters Challenge (GWC)
First of all, some background on the Great Waters Challenge (GWC). It started as an online participative game for young Canadians to uncover water stories in their communities and share with players from across Canada. The GWC became so popular in schools that Waterlution decided to adapt it better for students from grade 4 and up.
Schools are a great platform for reaching and engaging with many youth, from diverse communities. The GWC provides the schools with the opportunity to let their students take the lead in organizing water celebrations.
Engaging with Youth
My journey with the schools starts with an introductive in-class workshop where we speak about water and more specifically about the GWC. The workshop is very interactive and one of my favorite questions is when I ask the students: “If you could be water, what would you be and why?”. The answers are as broad as river, ice, ocean, vapour, snow, drinking water, lake, clouds, etc. The most interesting is the answer to the question “Why?”. With this simple question, you can see the personality of the students and how they connect to water. Here is a sample of some of my favorite answers:
- “I would be vapour so nobody can see me”
- “I would be snow because every snowflake is unique”
- “I would be drinking water so I can help people”
- “I would be a cloud so I can see everything and travel everywhere”
- “I would be an ocean so I can be home for many animals”
The main objective of this workshop is for students to brainstorm different ideas on how they would like to celebrate water. At this point, they work in small groups and the sky should be the only limit of their imagination! Then, they share their ideas with the rest of the class and start discussing what they can really organize.
Learning from Youth
The best part in working with youth is the energy you get from them. Yes, they take a lot of energy from you but they also give so much, it’s a two-way relationship. As adults, we’re so used to limiting our ideas by saying or thinking “yes, but if..?”. Then, nothing is done… when, actually, you never know what will happen until you really try. For example, we might think that celebrating water will not provide people with drinking water or save ecosystems from being polluted. But celebrating water allows people to connect to water and the more you care for something, the more you will protect it.
You see, I felt I had to explain why it’s important to celebrate water. When I was with the students, I didn’t even think of explaining why we should celebrate water because I didn’t feel I had too. The students were already convinced it was important and jumped into the challenge without any second thought. That’s what I love about working with youth. When I’m with a class, everything around me disappears and my whole attention is focused on the students because I don’t want to miss any moment of my interaction with them, especially when I am working on an amazing project like the GWC.
Being inspired by Youth
With the GWC, I went to 13 different classes in French and French Immersion Schools, and engaged with around 350 students from grade 4 to grade 8. Each class had its own dynamic and was very inspiring. I wish I could write about all the amazing classes I had the chance to work with but I can’t, so I will use just one example of how inspiring youth are.
Example: Grade 6 class, La Mosaique, French Public Elementary School
When I did my introductory workshop for a grade 6 class at “La Mosaique” in Toronto, the students were very engaged with a lot of great ideas on how they wanted to celebrate water. On June 8, 2017, for World Oceans Day, I saw all of their ideas come to life. It was incredible! They organized exactly the water celebration they described during our workshop together.
For the 147 students from grade 4 to grade 6 of the school, they offered five tables of water-themed activities, from sport to science, as well as dance and art. It was so well planned! They invited other classes in their school at different times and took a maximum of 10 students by table, rotating every 10 minutes. The youth who organized the event were very involved, making sure the activities were going smoothly. It was very inspiring to see the students take such a great lead and educate the rest of the school about the importance of water. Here is a snapshot of the water-themed activities they organized:
- Celebrating water with sport: After answering a question about water, the students could participate in an 8 min soccer or basketball game.
- Celebrating water with science: After looking at 4 glasses of water containing different types of pollution (including one glass with just water), the students were invited to submit hypotheses on what they think will happen.
- Celebrating water with dance: The students were taught a choreography on a water themed song that was to be used for a flash mob in the school the following day (but shhh it’s a surprise!).
- Celebrating water with art: The students had to choose a marine animal and write on it something about water they are grateful for. Then, the animal cut-out was added to a big artwork representing the ocean.
Do you want to celebrate water with us?
I hope you’re as inspired as I am by all those incredible youth! If you are a grade 4 and more teacher or adult team “manager” for age 9-18, we would be very happy to add your team to our map of Water Celebrations. The GWC is open to youth (age 9-18) all over Canada!
An updated interactive version of the GWC will be launched on October 16, 2017 and will take place until March 22, 2018 for World Water Day!
Ludiwine Clouzot, PhD
Agente de liaison avec les écoles pour Le Défi des eaux canadiennes