Today B North did some thinking about our plans for our water project. As a part of our research, we contacted the education director of the Georgie Badiel Foundation with some research questions. These questions and the responses from the foundation will help us to frame our action choices for our project. Our questions and the foundation’s responses are below:
Can we mail water to Africa? This is a very good question and the answer is that it would cost too much money to send water to Africa. So we are trying to make it easier for the people who live there to get water themselves.
Can we take a field trip to Africa to dig wells? You are very wonderful to want to go to Africa to dig wells! My own daughter, Megan, has been to Africa many times to help the people. But she went when she was much, much older than you are. I also went to Africa one Summer. BUT, I think you are still a bit young to go there. And Africa is very far away! Your families would miss you much too much.
How can we help you dig a well? What we really need is money for the supplies and workers who can build the wells in Burkina Faso. It costs a LOT to build a well. Money will help us build a well or fix a broken well so the people will have water!
How will we send a well since it's heavy? This is a very good question, but I am sorry to say we cannot really mail a well. In Africa, we buy the supplies that we need to build a well and then we get people to dig the well. It is not that easy because we must make sure there is water in the ground before we dig the well.
How will we know how to dig a well? When we dig a new well, we ask a scientist to help us guess a good spot to dig the well. Once she tells us where a good spot is, we start digging. That is a very good question!
How many wells do you need? We need thousands of wells in Africa. We also need to fix thousands of wells that are broken. It is a bit like when your family calls a plumber and she comes to your house to fix the pipes. That is what we do.
How do we know where to put a well? This is a good question, just like your friend was wondering. We ask a scientist to help us guess where a good spot is and she tells us. So far, she has been right every time!
How do you know that there's water under there? Even in very dry places, if we dig down far enough we can often find water. BUT, it is not always true. So that is why we need scientists to help us guess.
Can we email Gie Gie and ask if we can help her? You are very kind to ask this and I have already told her for you that you want to help.
How do we know where Gie Gie's house is for us to dig a well? She's digging wells to help, but she needs water too! Gie Gie now lives in the United States most of the time and goes home to visit and build wells. I think that she will try to send you pictures of your well this summer so that when you get back to school in September, your wonderful teachers can show you.
How can we help? You already are helping so much! It helps for you to tell all your friends and families about Gie Gie and the Georgie Badiel Foundation. Most people do not know about the water problem is Africa and if you tell them, maybe they will help too! THAT would really help. And we need money to build the wells.
Do you need trees too? We DO need trees! We also use the money people send us to plant moringa trees and mango trees. The trees are good for the people and are also good for the earth!
Can we send a tree? Great question, but you cannot actually send a tree because the kind of trees that grow in Burkina Faso are not for sale here. BUT, we buy them in Africa and plant them.
Do trees help? Trees help a LOT! They give fruit and nutrition to the people, they also help stop the earth(dirt) from blowing away and they also give nice shade for the people to sit in when it is really hot.
After reading these responses, we talked as a class about what this letter told us about our Water Project. We wondered:
So, we have thought a lot about sending some water there. Can we mail the water?
Audrey: No, we can’t. It’s too heavy and if we got a big box and send it to Africa then it would get out. And it’s too expensive.
Shreya: They need wells!
Rosemary: And they need money. But if you want to get money, you need to work. Work is where the parents go when not at the house.
Charlie: Water can be really heavy. At my pool in LA something that was fabric got in the pool and it was so heavy! Like when you have 10 buckets of water, that’s super heavy.
Eleanor: What if they people who work there- they get water and they give everyone who lives there some and go on a little walk or they can drive a car and at home boil it so that it can be clean. They can use something with small holes to get the things out.
Christopher: we can try to give them some money. Like going to the bank. They could try to see if they have enough money to buy water.
Rosemary: If you boil water and put chemicals in it, it will be clean.
Jace: You can’t mail it because you would have to have a job. Then we could get money and we could send it to Africa.
Rosemary: We can send materials to make a well, and let Kathy know!
Then we wondered:
Kathy says she needs help to tell Gie Gie’s story, the story of water in Burkina Faso.
How can we help?
Nyla: Maybe some of the scientists at the science museum could help! I can tell them maybe this weekend.
Audrey: The scientists at Cape Town could help- like Russell.
Kerem: At Africa there’s just some water.
Thomas: Trees would work to help because there’s water inside trees
Eleanor: I remember that, a long time ago, we got some money. Dana and Betty didn’t know who we should give it to, or what we could do with it. And maybe we could give it to Gie Gie and Kathy to dig some wells!
This letter from the Georigie Badiel Foundation is packed with information. We will keep working and processing this research over the week, as it informs how we take action in the final stages of our project.
Gustavo Carrera, US History & Social Sciences Department Head and Teacher
One student reflected.....
"The synagogue was about to begin renovation on the main worship space in order to better suit the modern needs of the people, while the Islamic center was built fairly recently but was carefully designed to blend traditional and modern elements. Both religions place importance on their religious texts. Both seemed to value reading the text in its original language, instead of or in addition to reading in English."
Over the past weeks we have continued to pursue our work on water, considering both the scientific process of cleaning water as well as the issue of water accessibility. On Friday we will have the opportunity to Skype with Russell Stevens, the Director of Education at the Cape Town Aquarium. We are using these connections to develop our understandings about water in the world.
In preparation for our Skype, we prepared some questions so that Russell will know what we are wondering about. As we were talking, we looked at a big map of the world, noticing our location and the location of Cape Town. We began by asking:
What do we know about Cape Town?
Jace: They don’t have enough water to survive.
Eleanor: Somebody said that they needed to have a little of water every day so they don’t run out of water this year
Christopher: They get a little water and we get a lot
Thomas: I’m going to draw a picture of how much water I drank and how much water they drank.
Who knows alot about Cape Town?
Christopher: The fifth grade! They know a lot about Cape Town!
Nyla: And you guys. Cause you told us about it and we wouldn’t have known.
Sydney: We can FaceTime him [Russell] in Cape Town and then we can talk about water and ask him about water.
We began by posing the question:
What do you want to know about water in Cape Town? What are you wondering?
Nyla: What do they have so little water?
Sydney: How can you clean water?
Christopher: Do you boil the water?
Sydney: How can we clean the water?
Rosemary: Can we clean water with soap?
Dana: Can you take a bath in Cape Town? Or is that too much water?
Eleanor: Do they have pools there? If you have pools there, could you just get some water from there?
Thomas: Can you boil pool water to kill the chemicals?
Rosemary: Did you have a lot of water a long time ago? What happened?
Audrey: How do you get to water to get it to your home?
Eleanor: Why doesn’t it rain there?
Christopher: Do you have cars?
Joe: Do you have trucks?
Dana: Can you water your flowers?
Audrey: Do you have a washing machine? Can you use it?
Rosemary: Can you wash your clothes in a lake?
Joe: Can you use water balloons?
Christopher: Do you have water bottles at stores?
Rosemary: What about your toilets? When you flush it, is there water?
Tom: Can you use sprinklers?
We then learned that Russell had a job at the Cape Town Aquarium and we wondered:
What about working at the aquarium? What are you wondering about water at the aquarium?
Eleanor: How is there animals there that need water if there’s not a lot of water for them?
Nyla: Why do you have aquariums if there’s not enough water?
Rosemary: How much water can a fish use? And also, how long do the fish live?
Jace: Do you use all the water for the fish? Is that why there’s not enough water?
Thomas: If you release the animals, will they have any water to swim?
We will be Skyping with Russell on Friday morning. We look forward to the ways this connection will ignite new questions and understandings.
Gustavo Carrera, US History & Social Sciences Department Head and Teacher
As part of the class’ work on exploring modern society and the tensions between modernity and tradition, the class is visiting religious institutions in the greater Boston area. In the winter we visited the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC) in Roxbury.
In their reflections the students remarked:
I enjoyed hearing Barbara’s perspective on the subject of religion and modernity….People assume that religion is stuck in the past, but she repeatedly emphasized that the conflict between religion and modernity is in reality non-existent.
I thought the visit to the mosque was a really interesting …The architecture there was very complex, but also simple at the same time, and I like how they used features from both the Islamic world and Boston within the mosque. Going to the mosque provided a small glimpse of the Islamic world …
I thought it was interesting how we talked about the degrees to which one could practice a certain religion. You could be a devout Muslim and pray five times daily, you could be Muslim "in name only", or you could fall somewhere in between. I would guess that the "degrees" of religiousness would start to become more apparent as modernization occurs and people adopt new ideas. I enjoyed watching the prayer and learning about the Quran.
Overall, I thought the field trip was very interesting. I always thought that Christianity and Islam were completely different, but they are actually quite similar in some aspects…It was nice to see something that opened my mind to other religions and different cultures.
I thought that our trip to the mosque was very interesting … I wasn’t expecting to be able to watch the prayer so I was excited to see that. I am glad that our class when to this mosque because I would have never gone on my own, and I am always looking to try and learn new things. I learned a lot on this trip and I can’t wait to go to the other synagogue and church.
A rabbi, a reverend, and an Islamic educator walk into room…it may sound like a bad joke, but when those exact circumstance came to pass in the Middle School Big Room this February, the punchline was an enlightening exploration of faith.
Middle School Students examine a Torah during a synagogue visit.
As part of a pilot program undertaken by the Middle School, eighth grade students enjoyed the opportunity to engage in an eye-opening interfaith study and immersion initiative this winter. Over a series of four weeks, students learned about the three Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) participated in field trips to a synagogue, a church, and a mosque, and attended a panel discussion at BB&N with a rabbi, a reverend, and an Islamic educator.
Organized by Middle School faculty Stefanie Haug, Sasha Bergman, Youseff Talha, and Beth Brooks, the pilot program sought to demystify misperceptions about the different faiths, and perhaps more importantly, to underscore how much the three faiths have in common.
Based off of feedback from a two-year, School-initiated reflection and query into BB&N’s cultural competency, the pilot was a groundbreaking attempt to address issues raised by the students as sources of curiosity.
“When we looked at some of the survey results from our cultural competency work, we discovered that Middle School students had many questions about religion that were not being specifically targeted in our curriculum,” says Middle School counselor Stefanie Haug. “We value holistic learning at BB&N…learning about yourself and your relationships to other people is a huge part of teaching. We wanted to find a way to explore the diversity that makes us who we are…and faith is a big part of that.”
After much discussion and planning, it was decided that the pilot would focus on the three Abrahamic faiths (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) due to their similar ancestry and the fact they comprise the three largest religious groups in the U.S. The initiative manifested as a series of discussions with Reverend Matt Carriker, Rabbi Natan Margalit, Ph.D., and Islam educator Barbara Sahli, along with visits to each religious leader’s respective church, synagogue, and mosque.
In their panel discussion in the Middle School Big Room, the guests spoke about their faith and answered questions from students. All three landed on the same point when asked what they love most about being Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, speaking about the importance of being part of a community that guides people to do good, and live up to ideals highlighted by each faith. As students discovered, all three of the religions share very similar ideals.
Particularly poignant was Sahli’s insight into being a Muslim following the 2001 bombings of the World Trade Center. She noted that the first instinct was “put your head down, and hide for fear of anger,” but she quickly realized that outreach, education, and dialogue were more essential than ever to allow people to understand that the attacks did not reflect true Islam.
Middle School director Mary Dolbear considers the pilot and ensuing discussions to be some of the most important learning undertaken at the Middle School in her time at BB&N.
“I am deeply proud of our MS Faith Project pilot,” Dolbear says. “The guest panel was powerful. The focus on people’s stories are always impactful, but for this age group, it was an even more effective format to invite kids into the conversation. A huge takeaway was something we don’t get to hear much about: the similarities between the three faiths.”
Following the fields trips and panel discussions, students met again to study poetry from each faith, and reflect on what they had learned, including a general discussion about the importance of finding common ground in a community comprised of varying beliefs.
The interfaith pilot was made possible through an Urban Connections Grant, a School-funded resource allowing faculty to implement creative programs that connect curriculum with the verdant urban resources surrounding BB&N.
Focusing Our Knowledge, Incorporating New Information: Our Evolving Work on Water
What do we know?
Today in BNorth we began to delve deeper into our knowledge about water, and the need for water in the world.We began this discussion by sharing our knowledge, framing our discussion around the questions:
Who has water?
Who does not have water?
We began by focusing on our knowledge about the water in our lives:
Jace: I have water. I get them from the pipes.
Joe: I got the water from the pipes.
Christopher: You get water from pipes.
Eleanor: I use the water for boiling and sometimes to drink.
Thomas: I get water from the pipes.
Charlie: Sometimes when I use water to cook when it gets hot it gets to steam and that’s one of the 3 stages. It has 2 more. I think they are …I remember ice but I don’t remember the other. Just regular water.
Rosemary: After steam it’s ice?
Charlie: Umm no. It bubbles when its boiling.
Shifting to the Global
We then refocused the conversation on the broader world, wondering:
Who does not have water?
Shreya: The Water Princess does not have water but I have water and I get water from the pipes and the pipes are in the sink and the sink sprays water in the cup for me to drink.
Rosemary: So you can’t drink water out of a lake because it’s not clean so it’s the people that work at the pipes they clean it out. They clean out the dirty things so you can drink and they put it in the pipes and it sends it to your house.
Sydney: I do not have water because I lost my water bottle and it’s at after care.
Rosemary: Everything needs water. Not like paper and other things but things that are nature and alive need water because water helps nature grow and water people drink.
Eleanor: Well animals that live in the ocean, they need water because they need to swim around or they can’t…
We thought about Eleanor’s comment and wondered,
Can we drink water from the ocean?
Rosemary: No, because it has salt in it.
Eleanor: Or it has chemicals.
Shreya: Animals and everyone needs water so they can shower and plants can grow and sea animals. We cant drink it from the ocean water because it might have germs. The animals might stick their tongues out and the water you get might be the water that touches the animals tongue.
Nyla: And you cant drink ocean water because the animals in the sea can pee in it and that’s why you have to wash it before you drink it.
Water Needs: A Story of Cape Town
We then shared some initial information about Cape Town.We shared that Cape Town is a real city, that has had very little rain in the past years.People need water, and they are running out.We explained that all of the people are only allowed to use a little bit of water every day.We learned that they will run out of water very soon, and that day is called Day Zero.After hearing a bit about Cape Town, we had some questions and comments:
Charlie: Are there big lakes there?
We wondered, Are there big lakes in that part of Africa?
Charlie: No because there is not lakes.
Rosemary: In the jungle there are lakes but they are dirty.
Planning for Action
At this point in the conversation, the children naturally turned to solutions they could provide. They shared their ideas, as well as some concerns they had.
Shreya: You could give them (people in Cape Town) some water since we already have our own sinks we can give them some of our water.
Christopher: But then we’ll waste some of ours.
Rosemary: But we have tons of water and maybe some snow.
Christopher: What if it runs out?
Thomas: Can they just go get some at the grocery store?
We thought about this and wondered, Do you think the stores in Cape Town have a lot of water?
Thomas: I think all the people already took all the water from the store. So, there could also be this shuttle. We could-every time we come in the school, just take a little bit of water. Then we could deliver the water to Africa. I saw these planes that are delivery planes that go all over the world. It has a mail symbol. We can go deliver the water as a field trip!
Eleanor: Somebody can tell everybody that lives in Cambridge to get a little it of water and send it. But we have to put those waters, one part to the other. After we can make a whole cup.
Offering More Information
With the children thinking critically about solutions to this issue, we wanted to offer a bit more information about work that is being done in Africa. We shared a bit more about Georgie Badeil (the Water Princess), and the wells that are being dug in schools. We looked at some images, and shared what we know about wells.
Bennett: You pump it and goes into the bucket and you take it back.
Christopher: You twist the thing and it goes down and goes in.
Rosemary: It comes from the lake.
Tom: I saw this before in a book. The well was so deep you need a bucket and you need a rope to pull, pull, pull.
Shreya: If Africa is so hot, why don’t they have water?
Jace: If water was so hot it dries.
Charlie: It’s so sandy and hot so the water evaporates.
Rosemary: Maybe a long time ago they had a lot and now they don’t.
We have brought in some new texts as resources for better understanding water, and will be exploring some of the outreach projects that are a part of the book The Water Princess. We have also connected with the fifth graders, who are also exploring this issue from different lenses. They will be joining us on Friday to share some of their knowledge and experience. We are excited to see where this work will lead us!