This post was contributed by Patricia O’Donnell, M.Ed., M.S, principal at St. Patrick School in Malvern, Pennsylvania.
St. Patrick School planned and implemented a STREAM unit based on the topic of water. The backbone of the unit is twofold; Catholic Social Teachings: To Care for God’s Creation and Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si. From these two sources, students were immersed in water: its life-giving qualities, its spiritual meaning, its expression through the arts, and its scientific manifestations.
Highlights included 7th and 8th graders reading and discussing the papal encyclical, and how it related to taking care of the earth’s water. The lessons were tied into a fundraiser to benefit Water.org, an organization that provides solutions aiming to change lives through safe water and sanitation.
Several activities revolved around that fundraiser. For two weeks, the children drank nothing but water, and there was a dress down day during which all the kids wore blue. They also studied areas of the world where clean water is scarce. The 7th graders also made rain barrels from which water they purified can be used to water plants.
Among the books the students read as part of this unit was “Long Walk to Water” about a boy named Salva Dut, the only member of his family to survive while escaping from war-torn Sudan. Another book told of young girls in Africa who walk all day in the hot sun just to get some water.
Two fourth-grade classes completed hand-on activities to help them understand pollution and water. The students learned how to make purifiers using soda bottles, cotton and coffee filters. They were surprised at how much cotton and filters they went through before the water they were using looked clear.
Some lower grade classes focused upon how water is used in the sacraments. Children went to church to put water from the baptismal font into small containers which they used to bless their families, pets and homes. They also put some of the water into a vessel, and now bless themselves with it whenever they enter the classroom.
Ideas from this presentation can be taken back to your school and implemented right away – why re-invent the water unit – just take St. Pat’s and adapt it to your school setting.
The Water Project is one of many exciting featured STREAM projects that will be presented at the NCEA 2016 STREAM 2.0 Symposium being held June 27-29th at Neumann University in Aston, PA. You can find registration information here: https://www.ncea.org/events/stream-20-symposium