Water, local to global

A project to reduce water consumption at St Richard’s RC Primary School in Longsight, Manchester, developed into a literacy-based exploration of water inequality and a decision by pupils to raise funds for the provision of clean water in Sub-Saharan Africa.

What did the school want to achieve?

The initial goal was a practical one of reducing water consumption at school and at home. The global dimension work was intended to raise awareness of how much water people in the UK use in comparison to people in other parts of the world, to highlight both global inequalities and the potential to reduce consumption in the UK.

How did they set about doing this?

Discussing water issues in class
Discussing water issues in class

As part of their Sustainable Schools work, St Richard’s RC Primary School worked with their water provider, United Utilities, to monitor and reduce water consumption. Liaison workers met with the Eco Team and staff once a term for a year, each time introducing additional water-saving devices including notices about turning off taps, a water meter, water hippos and changes to toilet flushing systems. The Eco Team monitored and recorded data to measure the impact of each variable and shared findings through an eco-display board, assemblies and school newsletters. Over the course of the year, consumption was reduced by around 15%.

Alongside this, the three Upper Key Stage 2 classes (ages 9-11) looked at water use in the home and at school as part of their curriculum. They then explored global water issues, one class focusing on the 2009 World Water Day ‘transboundary water’ theme through literacy, the other two choosing a geography-based approach, using case studies.

After a discussion about the importance of safe water supplies, the first class began their research from a BBC website which gives information about water crises in twelve different parts of the world. Pupils worked in pairs to research and present one of these hotspots using the ‘5 Ws’ (who, what, when, where, why) to help them present issues such as transboundary disputes, acute water shortage and hydro-projects. Each pair was filmed presenting their findings, made into ‘live from location’ news reports by adding downloadable animated country backdrops. The pupils also wrote news reports using a generic model that they had developed in a shared writing session.

Wall display on the topic of water
Wall display on the topic of water

The class watched all the ‘live from location’ reports, discussed the issues raised and completed individual review sheets. The school is fortunate to have a number of pupils who have lived in or visited various parts of Africa and their experiences helped to provide further context to the discussion and avoid stereotyping. The children’s instinctive response was ‘Can we do something about this unfairness?’ which resulted in planning and carrying out sponsored sports events to raise funds for charities with water programmes.

The project provided opportunities to develop literacy skills, including ‘journalistic writing’ and ‘presenting a balanced argument’. Cross-curricular links were made, for example, the class had studied the Nile, one of the water crisis hotspots, in History and had learnt about the Zambezi in a PSHE module looking at world health. As part of a Design Technology project pupils researched environmentally beneficial products, finding one designed to provide clean water, which led them to propose raising money for organisations providing such products.

How well did they achieve their aims?

The local water use work achieved its aims of reducing water use at school and in many of the children’s homes. Awareness of the importance of water and inequalities regarding water supply and sanitation is now high among pupils involved in this work. They no longer take water for granted and will challenge others who leave taps running, as well as having initiated fundraising in order to do their bit to address inequality.

Comments from Year 5 pupils (aged 10)

“I have learnt illnesses are common for those people who have to drink dirty water.”

“I understand that we have and use more water than other people all around the world.”

“I think water distribution is like the Apartheid system we learnt about in PSHE but based on wealth not race.”

“We get clean water but other people have to drink dirty water – so we should do something about it because lots of people get diseases and can die.”

What do they plan to do next?

Both local and global water projects will be written into forthcoming curriculum revisions so that all pupils will encounter social and environmental issues around water at Upper Key Stage 2. Ian Caldwell, Year 6 teacher and Environmental Education Co-ordinator, has plans to develop part of the school website about water and related issues and hopes that younger classes will take on age-relevant water topics to deepen awareness throughout the school. The school is to have a new building and discussions are taking place with the architects about water efficiency and water harvesting to further reduce water use. Ian’s goal is to see a focus on water in all its aspects embedded into the curriculum and life of the school, so that it becomes self-sustaining and core to the school values.

Find out more

School website: www.st-richards.manchester.sch.uk.

Download this case study as a PDF: Water, Local to Global Case Study

With thanks to Ian Caldwell. Case study © Think Global. Pictures © St Richard’s RC Primary School. Researcher: Gillian Symons.

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