Building empathy with a water carry: young people take action with their innovative ideas for World Water Day
In 2017/2018, I ran a series of Flow In Action Innovation & Impact Challenges for students (ages 11-16) at Verbier International School, during each school term. Each challenge was designed to increase their understanding of how they could take action as global citizens, using design thinking as a process to connect with creativity and come up with innovative ideas.
From January – March, I asked students to focus on SDG6 and World Water Day 22nd March, to deepen their understanding around sustainability and climate action.
I set them the challenge of designing a water carry to put to the test on the 22nd March on the mountain; when they would walk to a set point to collect 20 litres of snow (or near enough) and then back again.
World Water Day connects to Sustainable Development Goal #6 which sets out targets for all people to have access to water and sanitation. Water poverty is a growing issue globally and with mountains playing a key role in our water ecosystems, we need to take action to protect them.
Additionally, WHO, the UN and other organisations such as WaterAid, indicate the nearly 1 billion people – mainly women and children – still must walk a minimum of 6km daily to collect water for drinking, cleaning and washing. Time spent collecting water also means it is often impossible to school or work, keeping people trapped in the cycle of poverty.
We started the challenge with an ideas download, working in groups to come up with ideas for their water carry. Over several weeks, ideas were refined in class, miniature prototypes from recyclable materials were built to test the concepts; and then each group put together their full size prototype to be tested on the day.
The students’ walk and water carry experience equated to a distance similar to the typical 6km walked, where they would collect 20 litres of snow per team – although the norm in a developing country is 20 litres of water per person - and carry this back to the starting point. (They were NOT expected to drink the water that they collected.)
Accompanied by mountain guide, Cherries from Cherries Walks, students also developed their understanding of the mountain and its water systems.
Class E were totally rocking it yesterday building their first prototype designs for their water carry on the mountain on World Water Day 22nd March.
Not to be outshone, Class F also totally rocked it yesterday building their prototypes of their World Water Day - Water Carry designs.
I work with young people this way, to build their critical and creative thinking skills as they design within the parameters of the challenge, encouraging them to collaborate. This challenge was also an opportunity for them to raise awareness within the local community about World Water Day, giving them a sense of purpose through their own creativity.
Working in this way, gives the time and space to build their resilience and entrepreneurial mind-set. Each group collaborates to create their prototype and on the challenge day, it is not about a winning concept but about adapting in the moment to the conditions, reframing failure into reorganisation as invariably the prototypes being tested respond to the test conditions!
Solution: Innovation & Impact Challenge
Topic: SDG 6, World Water Day, Creativity, Innovation
Commissioned by: Verbier International School
Date: Jan/March 2018
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