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Educate. Empower. Act. The mission of Project WET is to reach children, parents, educators and communities of the world with water education. We invite you to join us in educating children about the most precious resource on the planet — water.
We often hear about the strong feelings people have about Project WET's flagship Curriculum and Activity Guide. First published in 1995, the Guide has reached hundreds of thousands of educators—many of whom have a fierce loyalty to the book. Last week we received an email from the director of the Van Buren Youth Camp in Michigan who described how her "beloved Project WET Curriculum Guide" met an ignominious—if nature-inspired—end:
"Sadly, over the winter a raccoon decided to break in to our nature hut," Becky Pasman told us via email. "He consumed two boxes of rodent poison, played havoc on our supplies and then threw up all over the hut. One item hit in all of his mayhem was my beloved Project Wet Curriculum Guide. I've made an attempt to clean up the traces of his indigestion, but I cannot begin to get it all."
Pasman—a former eighth grade earth science teacher—included a very sad scan of her book as proof of its demise:
"My poor book...it has been well loved and has many project notes in the margins. It will be missed!"
She was writing to purchase a new Guide, but we figured that kind of devotion had to be worth a free replacement. We hope this won't cause a flood of Project WET educators to allow woodland creatures unfettered access to their Guides, but that's a chance we're willing to take.
The Curriculum and Activity Guide is (normally!) available for purchase only through workshops conducted by the Project WET USA Network. Please contact your local coordinator to learn about upcoming workshops.
Murat Sahin is the adviser responsible for the WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) in Schools program at UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, a position he has held since 2009. The Call to Action for the WASH in Schools program is to support global efforts to make the vision shared by WASH in Schools partners a reality: a world where all children go to school and all schools provide a safe, healthy and comfortable environment where children grow, learn and thrive.
Sahin holds a master's degree in Business Administration and a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering. He has fourteen years of experience, 10 of which were spent with UNICEF WASH and Education programs in Turkey, Tajikistan and North Korea. In North Korea, Murat managed a WASH program that addressed the needs of semi-urban settlements through environmentally friendly and energy-independent solutions, including gravity fed water supply schemes and decentralized waste water treatment systems. In Tajikistan, Murat led UNICEF's child development program. In Turkey, Murat served in the Emergency Response and Recovery Programme during the 1999 earthquakes. Before joining UNICEF, Murat worked as a loss reduction engineer in water supply system rehabilitation projects in Turkey. Murat is a Turkish national and speaks Russian and English.
In the first of a two-part interview, the Project WET Foundation asked Murat Sahin to elaborate on the importance of involving children and the challenges of available data around the topic.
Project WET Foundation (PWF): One of the hallmarks of WASH in Schools has been the effort to involve children in decision-making around the programs to be implemented. Why is this an emphasis, and how is it affecting outcomes?
Murat Sahin (MS): Children are fast learners. Compared to adults, children can more easily change their behavior or develop new long-term behaviors as a result of increased knowledge and facilitated practices. Children and youths may question existing practices in their households, and by demonstrating good hygiene, they become agents of change within their families and communities.
Ensuring that children are healthy and able to learn is an essential part of WASH in School programs. The emphasis on WASH in Schools programs is not only to equip every school with an hygienic school environment but also to teach children how to prevent diarrheal diseases and other water and sanitation related illnesses and diseases through the widespread adoption of safe hygiene practices as well as through an interactive child-centered and participatory approach that builds their life skills and empowers them to make good choices.
When children understand and think together about their situations and practices, they can plan and act to prevent diseases, now and in the future.
Involving children during the design and rehabilitation process for facilities at school is critical. Children have a different view of the world than adults and therefore experience the use of facilities differently. Children can be frightened in situations that adults consider to be safe. Getting their views and ask them to jointly look into appropriate and acceptable solutions, will increase success of the WASH in Schools programs.
Involving children in operation of WASH facilities sustains the facilities: Members of youth hygiene clubs or adolescent school children can also actively participate in meetings, assessments to monitor and evaluate programme. This keeps the facilities used and maintained well.
Children are role models. What they learn at school is likely to be passed on to their peers and to their own children if they become parents.
PWF: One challenge that you have identified is the lack of available data on current access to water and sanitation in schools. Is that situation improving, and if not, how do you address the problem?
MS: The Call to Action campaign incorporates six key action points, one of which calls for improved monitoring of WASH in Schools programs. National monitoring systems for WASH in schools are often weak; many countries do not have even basic data on the WASH situation in schools. This lack of information on the status of WASH in schools hampers planning and resource allocation decisions, and makes it difficult to ensure accountability and evaluate progress.
As part of the Call to action for WASH in Schools campaign, UNICEF contributed to global efforts to improve monitoring of WASH in Schools through the development of regional tool kits to help countries incorporate WASH-related indicators into national EMIS, the institutionalisation of national monitoring systems, and the completion of major school WASH facility inventories. Several countries (i.e. Belize, Ethiopia, Gambia, Myanmar, Rwanda, etc.) undertook WASH in Schools assessments and evaluations and used the newly released WHO/UNICEF Guidelines on Minimum Standards for WASH in Schools and the EAPRO WASH in Schools monitoring toolkit. This has streamlined the use of similar questions and indicators at WASH in Schools programming and also has helped to bring in the gender dimension of access to facilities in Schools.
A new WASH in Schools monitoring package was released in April 2010 which consisted of three modules:
• The EMIS module: a set of basic monitoring questions on WASH in Schools to be incorporated into national Education Monitoring Information Systems (EMIS), usually administered annually;
• The survey module: a more comprehensive set of questions, observations and focus group discussion guidelines for use in national WASH in Schools surveys as well as for sub-national, project level or thematic surveys;
• The children's monitoring module: a teacher's guide and tool set for the monitoring of WASH in Schools by students, including observation checklists, survey questions and special monitoring exercises.
The modules are designed to gather key data on all components of WASH in Schools programming, including water, sanitation and handwashing facilities; hygiene knowledge and practices; waste disposal; and operation and maintenance systems. The modules focus on data collection in schools, with supplemental tools for gathering complimentary information from communities (within the children's module) and from government officials responsible for WASH in schools (within the survey module).
In 2011, we have initiated a global WASH in Schools mapping exercise with WASH in Schools partners. There are 50 countries where WASH in Schools practitioners on the ground came forward and joined at the WASH in Schools mapping exercise. The Mapping exercise will be finished by end of April 2011 and will help us to document available information on coverage and know-how on WASH in Schools.
Coming up: Sahin describes how WASH and gender equality are linked and why monitoring has to be more than a numbers game.
Other Sustaining the Blue Planet interviews: Danielle Nierenberg of Nourishing the Planet
The "One World, One Water" sculpture was installed Tuesday at the Bozeman Public Library. Installation of the 3,000-pound, 14-foot-tall sculpture by crane took a surprisingly short amount of time! Below are pictures of the installation. (Video of the event can be seen on YouTube or Vimeo.)
The west side of the Bozeman Public Library can be seen through the center of the sculpture
Tony from Art Castings of Colorado waits for the hook to come down to attach to the sculpture
The height of the crane is visible as it prepares to lift the sculpture
Tony attaches the hook and readies the sculpture for transport
The sculpture is carefully transferred from the truck to the concrete pad
Artist Rik Sargent and Tony adjust the placement on the concrete
One of approximately 100 different animals sculpted on "One World, One Water"
A plaque on the sculpture names the artist and sponsor
Project WET CEO Dennis Nelson, Bozeman Library Foundation Director Paula Beswick and artist Rik Sargent
Organic food producer Cascadian Farm has announced the "Change Flows" initiative, a program celebrating the company's nearly 40-year commitment to sustainability. A pioneer in converting conventional farms to organic, Cascadian Farm is asking Americans nationwide to join the company in an effort to restore and preserve our most valuable resource.
From now through April 30, consumers can help make "Change Flow" by visiting the Cascadian Farms website to "like" the U.S. region they think is most deserving of a river cleanup. The region with the most "likes" will receive a river cleanup. Cascadian Farm is contributing $50,000 to American Rivers, a leading environmental organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the nation's rivers, a mission that aligns with Cascadian Farm's commitment to water as an important resource for crops, farms, communities and the environment.
"If we want healthy communities, we need to invest in healthy rivers," said Andrew Fahlund, senior vice president of conservation for American Rivers. "More than 65 percent of Americans get their drinking water from rivers, so it is vital that we protect and restore our rivers and streams. We are excited to work with Cascadian Farm, a company that shares our passion and dedication to protecting rivers and clean water for future generations."
A recent survey by Cascadian Farm revealed additional insight about Americans' understanding of water conservation and the availability of clean water. Eighty-six percent of Americans overestimated the percent of water on earth available for everyday use, and nearly all Americans underestimated the water usage of a family of four. The survey also revealed that less than half of American adults are aware that nearly 40 percent of America's rivers and streams are too polluted for basic uses such as fishing or swimming.
With water being such a precious resource, Cascadian Farm hopes to inspire consumers to think differently and learn more about the importance of water. In addition to voting for a river cleanup, consumers can visit the Cascadian Farm website to learn simple ways they can make a difference for and contribute to sustainability.