Thursday, May 23, 2013

NH Fourth Grade Water Science Fair

Do not take lightly good deeds,
Believing they can hardly help.
For drops of water, one by one,
In time can fill a giant pot
-Patrul Rinpoche

On a sunny morning, this Wednesday, May 8th, Christine Badalamenti (Bada) and I set out for the New Hampshire Fourth Grade Water Science Fair in Concord.  It promised to be a beautiful day full of adventure, both for the fourth graders visiting the fair, and for me.  I have been an Antioch University New England student intern with Christine Destrempes for Art for Water this spring semester.  While Christine left to travel the world, Bada and I agreed to take the reigns for this fair.  Organizing a fair activity for children was a new experience for me, and I was excited.

Christine, Bada, and I had brainstormed several ideas for activities to do with the fourth graders.  We landed on the idea of creating a public-participation mobile.  We arrived at the fair with the wire structure created and paper cut into the shapes of raindrops; all we needed was some students to share their thoughts!  Classes of fourth graders came to our tent where we asked them questions about water conservation and why it is important.  They were asked to think about how they use water in their daily lives and where they get their water.  Popular responses for how they use water were to brush their teeth, drink, take showers, and go swimming.  A couple of more creative responses were to wash their dog and water gun fights.  Then we asked if they washed their clothes and we discussed how we use water to make most of the items we use.

After thinking about how water is used and how it comes easily from the tap, we talked to them about how 1 billion people in the world do not have access to clean water and 2 billion people do not have basic sanitation.  In order to give scale for how many people that is, we asked them how long it would take to count to 1 billion.  At first they started out guessing small, such as 3 days or 50 days.  They were often amazed to find that it would take 32 years to count that high, which would make them 42 by the time they had finished counting.  At this point one girl thought that was so old, she would be dead by then! 

Then we did our water carry activity with them, because around the world, girls their age have to carry the family’s water supply 4 to 8 miles a day.  We had a 6-gallon jug filled with water and asked them to take turns picking it up.  They really enjoyed this and some struggled to lift the jug an inch, while others seemed to take pride in being able to lift it a foot off the ground.  But all were amazed to think about having to carry the jug for miles on their backs.

After some discussion about water for context, we set them to our activity to write or draw how they can use less water in their own lives, or some other special message about water.  We gave them the quote from the start of this blog, to encourage them to think about how their own small actions can make a difference.  And as the day progressed they had visual evidence of this fact, as each individual drop was added to the display making a large and beautiful piece of art.  While thinking about how to use less water, one girl made a connection between water being used to manufacture items and water conservation, and suggested that instead of shopping with disposable bags, we shop with a reusable one.  Others stuck mainly to such items as taking shorter showers and plugging the sink when they wash dishes.

By the end of the day we had a large art installation that contained approximately one hundred water drops contributed by fourth grade New Hampshire students, and if they all go home and turn off the faucet while they brush their teeth, what a difference that will make!

Erika Stimpson
Art for Water Intern