water-relay-croppedThe first semester of our ECOS environmental education program is focused on water. Before we get into the science of water and water quality, we establish students’ understanding of water as a finite resource required by all living things and increasingly difficult to access by a growing world population. 

Interestingly, both Northeast and East high schools have diverse populations of African American, Latino, Asian and African nationals, many of whom are English language learners. The gift of such diversity is the lived experiences these students bring to our study of environmental issues. For example, a new immigrant from Zimbabwe described her and her sister’s experience walking miles to fetch water for their family of eight and getting routinely beaten at school for being tardy as a result. She lamented the effort of pumping and carrying the heavy loads, often four times a day. Sometimes they cried because their four brothers were wasteful with the water. 

She shared her story during an exercise in which students carried a gallon of water for one minute each simulating the reality of millions of females in water-poor countries. When it was her turn, another student intervened to carry the water, emphatically stating, “you shouldn’t do have to do this!” This exchange is at the heart of what we do: introduce students to complex issues and provide space for them to respond.