To kick off 2024, the 7th grade delved into its annual Water Unit—an interdisciplinary experience using English, history, math, science, and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) to grapple with the global water crisis and the obstacles people may have in accessing clean water.
“I’m hoping the students build their skills of thinking empathetically about the lives of other people, identifying problems, and collaborating to develop solutions; and I hope that they experience first-hand the impact each of them can have in the world outside our school,” said Middle School Science Teacher Barbra Chabot, who collaborated on the unit with Middle School Teachers Gigi Bizar (history), John Cross (English), and Jamie Linton (math).
Students participated in study and activities over the last two weeks centered on questions such as:
*what can be done to increase safe water access,
*what impact clean water access can have on communities and,
*how communities can work together to ensure sufficient access to clean water.
This included learning the history of the global water crisis, the science of water organisms and diseases, and researching statistics, while also flexing their empathy through literature such as “A Long Walk to Water” by Linda Sue Park and their creativity with a special music lesson with Upper School Choral Director Dr. Angelica Brooks and the Upper School Glee Club. Students took their learning outside of the classroom by walking the Arroyo Seco in Pasadena and hearing from John Travis, co-founder/director of the NGO Drop in the Bucket, and Angela Rashid, a Westridge parent and civil engineer whose focus is on Los Angeles water and the Colorado River.
Another component of this unit (now in its 11th year!) involved service learning. This year, the 7th graders are raising awareness about the millions of people who lack access to clean water and raising funds to help build a clean water well and rehabilitate an existing borehole at Ugandan schools (read more on the H2O for Life website, the organization collecting the funds to distribute). They have so far raised $18,054 for the cause!
And earlier today, the unit came to a close with presentations, in which groups of students shared with peers imagined solutions to real-world issues. These innovative solutions, accompanied by 3D models, include a solar-powered system using local materials that captures evaporated water free of chemicals in just a few minutes, a large UV light filtration system to serve a whole town, rain-capturing roofs and storage/filtration containers for houses, a private space with a shower and filtered water to clean reusable pads so girls can continue going to school during their menstrual cycles, and so much more!
-Story provided by Westridge School, Pasadena, CA