Critical Thinking: A Manitoba school program encourages students to consider water in their daily lives.
With hands-on, experiential learning, the Education for Water Stewardship Program has teachers inspiring their middle and high-school students to become more involved in water issues, both at home and around the world. Produced in partnership and with funding from Green Manitoba, Manitoba Water Stewardship and Learning for a Sustainable Future’s Project FLOW, the day-long workshop is delivered in schools by Green Manitoba staff and is free for teachers to attend.
After a successful pilot in Swan River in the fall of 2010, the program is now ongoing and has engaged 100 educators from approximately 40 schools across the province. Teachers can choose from resources and tools that fall into one of seven themes: Sustainable Procurement, The Science of Water, Sustainable Agriculture, Water Infrastructure, Water and Industry, International Water Initiatives, and Aboriginal Perspectives.
In addition to providing access to the tools teachers need, the program also assists them in securing funding for water stewardship initiatives, with available grants ranging from $500 to $10,000 through the initiative’s funding partners.
“The program is growing in momentum,” says Lindsay Irwin, Green Manitoba’s manager of government and school programs. “In 2011, we have already delivered two workshops and have another one planned for early December. Our goal is to deliver a total of five to ten workshops throughout the province in 2012.”
The learning model is different, she says, because it lets students identify water issues for themselves, rather than being told what the issues are and working within predetermined parameters.
“The tools and processes we recommend to engage students in sustainability action are transferable to other issues, not just water,” Irwin adds.
A teacher from Moscow Chemical Lyceum—an elite school in Russia—who heard about the workshop at a conference in Kyoto, Japan in November 2011 agreed that the Education for Water Stewardship Program has a richer context than other learning models because it empowers students to think critically about their surroundings and focus on what’s important to them.
To demonstrate the success and opportunities of the program, Irwin points to an educator from Helen Betty Osborne School in Norway House who participated in the workshop. “As a direct result of his involvement in our workshop, he and his students will be participating in the upcoming International Student Science Fair (ISSF), to be held in Winnipeg in May 2012,” she says. “The ISSF brings elite schools from over 18 countries all around the world together. Now students from Norway House will benefit from this experience as a result of their teacher attending our workshop.”
As the program wraps up its second successful year, Irwin would love to see it expand to inspire students from across Canada and around the world.
“This workshop teaches a sound approach to engaging students in learning. If that leads to action projects, then that’s wonderful. But there are also many side benefits to the workshop, such as engaging students, building awareness through watershed education, and providing educators tools to look at the issues.” — Jessie Davis