Cover image: It's time to Ditch the Dirt

It's time to Ditch the Dirt

Bren Hellier, Education Officer at Practical Action, talks about their work in Turkana, Northern Kenya, and how it became the basis for their new Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) resource Ditch the Dirt. Is it a bit sad to wake up in the middle of the night thinking about which story from our international work to use as the basis for a new education resource? OK, I confess to it…but who wouldn’t when there are so many great stories to choose from. Each week here at Practical Action we have a cross organisational meeting that includes updates from our international projects. These could be from any of the countries or theme areas in which we work including; Food and agriculture, Disaster Risk reduction, Water and Sanitation and Renewable Energy. Have a look at what we do and let me know your favourite projects that you’d like us to share with young people.
When I heard about our work in Turkana, in Northern Kenya and saw photographs of people accessing clean and safe water for the first time…I knew this was a story worth sharing with young people. I hope you agree!
‘Ditch the Dirt’ our latest Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) challenge is suitable for pupils 8-14 years. Practical Action Ditch the Dirt resourceIt introduces pupils to their own use of water for daily tasks before connecting them to the global issue of access to clean and safe water. The particular story behind Ditch the Dirt focuses on the lives of young children and women who face little choice but to walk miles to collect ‘dirty’ water for their daily use from ground water holes The Ditch the Dirt starter activity ‘A daily task’ enables pupils to simulate collecting water from ‘ground water holes’ (from various sized vessels containing dirty water around the classroom/playground!), some of which have dried up. It is hoped that this activity combined with looking at photographs from Turkana will help pupils understand the injustice of not having access to clean and safe water and the wider impact of women and children spending hours collecting water. The next step is to introduce the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular Goal 6 on Clean Water and Sanitation, where individuals and organisations are working to address the inequalities and injustices around access to clean and safe water. Following the introductory activities, pupils then investigate how science and technology is used to enable people to have access to clean water. They are then challenged with developing models and testing water filtering systems to remove as much of the ‘dirt’ from contaminated water as possible. Hopefully having removed some of the dirt, the pupils then research into methods of making their filtered water safe to drink. Finally, pupils find out about a range of solutions that have been developed with the communities in Turkana that now enable them to have access to clean and safe water. Ditch the Dirt would make a perfect activity for British Science week (9-18 March) and/or World Water Day on the 22 March. Pupils can also gain a British Science Association CREST Award. Blog by Bren Hellier, Education Officer at Practical Action.