Teaching Indian schoolchildren shared a common method I use in the U.S. – collaborating with other teachers builds the best classroom projects!
What did these 6 yoga teachers-in-training have in common: an Ohio Environmental Educator, a musician, college student, and artist from Louisiana, a high school teacher from Arizona, and a former IT tech from India? We each had unique skills to contribute to a make a good water conservation lesson a great project!
Louisiana musician, Brian Sivils, instantly wanted to contribute his talents to a water conservation project. So together we wrote a song refrain about water as a global shared resource! (Music video coming soon.) The refrain of the Water Song became a springboard for breaking the ice of a language barrier. We visited Arjunabittahalli’s village school daily during our 21 day teacher training at the awesome Shrimath Yoga. We would start and end each class session with this song, and we used it as an attention grabber for other water activities. Several days when we walked away from the school, the kids watched us and would shout the Water Song so we could hear it down the street. We even held a community concert on our last night at Shrimath, where Brian played his Louisiana blues AND the kids sang the Water Song to their families! Their voices were heard – loud and clear!
There’s no school on Sundays, but the kids came to our yoga school instead. They were so excited for this field trip day that they even came an hour early. By the way, we didn’t need parent field trip permission slips or waivers for this activity – a bit different than teaching in the U.S. The schoolchildren grabbed our hands and proudly walked us to the village’s water sources: Abhalli Lake and a deep bore well. Well, we actually saw two bore wells. The first was dried up when the water table was depleted (see village water blog entry). The updated well was drilled by the government about 500 feet deep into the ground, below a granite table.
After the field trip, we walked back to Shrimath Yoga’s garden and sat in a circle – adults with chai tea and kids with juice. We discussed the local environment and how our choices link to the water source. Topics included listing native and invasive species, where the village’s water comes from, and environmentally responsible choices to conserve and protect the local water. With the help of Vonitha (Indian yoga student) and the older village kids to translate, the discussion was successful in connecting the students to the importance of their water source.
The next few days at school, the children generated their ideas on what was special about their village and how they get their water. Their thoughts were turned into a verse about their water! (Again, music video coming soon!) With the help of the amazing Lousiana artist, Caroline Youngblood, the young learners illustrated the Water Song on the chalkboard and in their notebooks. By now several learning styles had been tapped into through art, music, physical and visual activities. The students even enjoyed seeing their participation documented through photography by biology student Samantha Clark.
The students’ attention was very focused on their local water issues and they were very conscious of water usage (see blog on water usage in India). The next learning objective to make global connections regarding water usage. Considering National Geographic’s concept of geographic literacy, I hoped for the students to think about how locations determine ways of life. Also, I hoped they’d understand that every human – rather every living thing – on the planet is all connected by one common need. We all need access to clean water to survive!
To achieve this global perspective, I led a few mapping activities, brainstormed with Michelle Griffin of Arizona. The students located their village, their state, and their country on a map. They also located their watershed and the large system of tributaries of the Ganges River, which eventually flows into the Indian Ocean, and into all oceans. Similarly, we traced on a world map how my water source is from Lake Erie, which eventually flows into all oceans. Finally, I grabbed their attention with my pictures of polar bears from the Arctic Ocean setting. They saw how the Arctic, The Great Lakes AND their country are all connected – through water!
This series of water conservation lessons can be taught anywhere in the world. I am planning on creating a forum where other students can also write a verse to the Water Song, discover their water source and its issues, and compare and contrast it to other sources in the world. I have high hopes that this project will inspire people to connect with and care for their local – and global- water source!