Introducing Water Explorers

Written by: Katy Micklewright | Published:
Making a splash: The Springfield Secondary award-winning Water Explorers team (Photos: Springfield Secondary School)

The Water Explorers project sets ‘missions’ for student teams to investigate while raising awareness about water conservation. Teacher Katy Micklewright explains more

I have been running the Eco-Schools Committee at Springfield Secondary School in Portsmouth since September 2014 as an after-school, extra-curricular club once a week.

I started the committee because I feel passionately that schools ought to be educating young people about the impact they have on their environment and the wider world.

As part of the committee, we have focused on topics such as recycling, energy production, water saving and sustainable development. The committee is made up of pupils aged from 11 to 15 and includes a diverse group of students – from those with SEND who have previously found it difficult to socialise to some very high attainers who have a huge amount of confidence and a genuine interest in either community or self-improvement.

Water Explorer, an initiative delivered by the charity Global Action Plan, was an obvious extension to our work. The programme sets students a range of interactive “water-saving missions” with different levels of complexity. The aim is to develop students’ skills and encourage global citizenship – countries from around the world take part including Bermuda, France, Poland, South Africa, Turkey and the UK.

Despite the name, it does not just directly investigate the conservation of water as a topic, but all the wider aspects of sustainability where water may be a component. For example, some of the activities encourage students to look at how we live in such a “throw-away” society, while others invite them to go outside and look at natural water sources. The potential for cross-curricular links is immense, from the STEM subjects and geography to art, drama and English.

The Water Explorer website contains a range of resources, which are suitable and can be adapted to any ability and age-range. The “challenges” are set-up, fully resourced and, most importantly, adaptable. The support available from the experts at Water Explorer has been outstanding – from email support (always promptly provided) to visits to help us plan and deliver events.

Some of the favourite challenges that our pupils took part in were ones where they got to pass on their learning to a wider audience. This of course develops many skills needed for life beyond education.

A specific example would be the focus day that the team ran for our 250 or so year 7 pupils. They designed activities, based on those that they had used at the club, to encourage the year 7s to design and develop ways to conserve water in the future.

In order to do this, they had to involve the drama club (who made a video setting the scene), the IT department (to make 3D printed badges) and they had to raise their own money for resources (they raised the money through another scheme called “Phil the Bag”, which gives money for donated textiles that are then sent to Africa for reuse).

Another highlight was organising a Water Festival. This was a celebration of their work and involved setting up stalls and inviting younger pupils to play games, have fun and learn about water conservation.

They found that asking students to sign up to change one small thing, like having one day of being vegetarian (I couldn’t believe the amount of water involved in making a beef burger!), turning off a tap while brushing teeth or donating an item of clothing, was an extremely effective way of having a big impact.

The students are able to have their own log-in for the website and can choose the challenges they want to do. For each challenge they earned points, which equate to litres of water saved and are then used to fill their “virtual reservoir” – a lovely visual representation of their successes.

As a teacher, I had little to do except to provide a place for them to work and occasionally refocus the group on the task at hand. One of my responsibilities was to input the results and photos to the website at the end of each challenge so that points could be awarded.
The challenges are linked to the Water Explorer values of integrity, care and commitment, awareness, responsibility and empathy.

For this reason, the programme could certainly be an excellent project to take on as part of a personal development and learning scheme, tutor time activity or as part of a drive on spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.

As a mixed secondary comprehensive school in a city setting, we have come a long way in one year with just eight core members of the Eco-Schools team. We have involved thousands of people in considering their use of water and the sustainability of their lifestyles.

The students have also gained a huge amount from the scheme, not least the trip to Canary Wharf to the HSBC building (sponsors of the initiative) when we won the Water Explorers’ UK National Championship in recognition of the students’ work and commitment.

  • Katy Micklewright is second in science at Springfield Secondary School in Portsmouth

Further information

www.waterexplorer.org


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