How I teach - Go with the flow: give the gift of water

23rd January 2015 at 00:00
A discussion of children's rights can lead in unexpected directions - and get pupils excited about fundraising

Teaching young children about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is an important lesson in its own right, but I have also found the topic a useful conduit for so much other learning. For my P3-4 class (of six- to eight-year-olds), the jumping-off point was that they were really interested in the right to clean water.

I took this curiosity and ran with it. After some brainstorming, the class generated long lists of the varied ways that we use water here in Scotland. This led them to compare practical and important uses of water with more wasteful uses. The topic made for a fantastic narrative through which we could delve into local environmental and ecological issues.

Building on this, it was beneficial to contrast our region with areas of the world that lack access to fresh, clean water. The children were amazed to discover how something as essential as water can so easily be taken for granted and how it can have such an impact on our lives, affecting everything from health and education to happiness.

The students were so moved by what they learned that they wanted to help. After investigating non-profit organisations, we decided to support Charity: Water. This American organisation offered the best way of tracking our campaign: with their simple and visually stimulating fundraising pages, you can see your goal amount, how much you have raised, who has donated and how many people your money will help. While setting up our page together, the class and I decided that $100 would be the perfect amount to raise; it equates to providing clean water for five people for the rest of their lives.

All's well that ends with a well

After a lot of planning, writing and rewriting, we had a finished script for a campaign video to boost our fundraising. We filmed it in the playground with Flip camcorders and then edited our clips as a class using iMovie. With encouragement from parents and guardians, the completed film, Water Changes Everything, was uploaded to YouTube. Then it was a question of checking and updating the fundraising page and waiting to see if donations would roll in. After a month, we had smashed our target, raising pound;229.

Eighteen months later, the students were ecstatic to receive photographs of the finished well that we had helped to build. Not only could they see the result of all their hard work but they were also able to see a small number of the 225 Ethiopian people in the community of Areba who are now able to drink safe, clean water.

Nicholas McMahon teaches at Thornlie Primary School in North Lanarkshire


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