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Helping Children Become Well Aware

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In the book One Well, author/educator Rochelle Strauss talks about the need to view the worlds water supply as a giant, finite pool from which everyone on Earth drinks. We are all responsible for protecting that well. Included: Ideas for using One Well in the classroom.

Access to clean water is something most people in the Western world take for granted. But in fact, almost 20 percent of the worlds population does not have access to useable water, according to Rochelle Strausss book One Well: The Story of Water on Earth. Strauss also discusses the unequal distribution of water across the world -- North America, for example, has one-third the population of Africa, yet people in North America use three times as much water.

Strauss writes about the need to think of the worlds water supply as coming from one deep -- not bottomless -- well. So how water is used and treated affects everyone -- and can affect people and the environment for years to come.

One Well also outlines the water cycle and the relationship of plants and animals to water.

The book features large, lavish illustrations, and is filled with facts about water that give readers pause, such as only 3 percent of the Earths water is freshwater. The rest is saltwater.

Strauss, who is an environmental educator and an author, travels extensively throughout North America, presenting an interactive classroom program to students. (Teachers who are interested in Strausss program can contact her at Rochelle Strauss or read about her work on MySpace.

Strauss talked with Education World about her interest in environmental issues and her desire to educate students about the need to conserve water and the rest of Earths resources.

Rochelle Strauss

Education World: What prompted you to write this book?

Rochelle Strauss: I have always been very passionate about nature and the environment, but particularly drawn to water. When I was a little girl growing up in Montreal, my mother used to know a few of the trainers at the Montreal Aquarium. One day we were at the show and we were invited backstage to the holding tanks to meet the dolphins. I loved dolphins, so needless to say, I was very excited.

As we walked backstage, I immediately noticed a baby dolphin swimming in a tank by herself. I started to walk towards her, but the trainer steered me in another direction. He told us that the dolphin was very young and she was still fearful of people. Being the precocious child that I was, as soon as the adults turned away, I walked straight to her tank. She immediately swam right up to me and the two of us just stared into each others eyes for several moments. As soon as the adults came over to see what was happening, the dolphin swam away, but that moment was so powerful for me. It was an incredible connection that has stayed with me forever. Ever since then I have been passionate about water and marine life. Writing a book about it was something I have always wanted to do.

EW: How did you become interested in environmental education?

"The fact that I found had the most impact on me was that in North America, we use an average of more than 140 gallons (550 liters) of water per person, per day.
Strauss: After I finished my undergraduate work, I traveled through Europe for several months. Eventually I ended up living in London, and working for the National Rivers Authority (now called Environment Agency) -- an environmental watchdog that protected the waterways in England and Wales. While working for the National Rivers Authority, I became really aware and interested in environmental issues. When I returned to Canada I pursued a masters degree in environmental studies. Through my studies I focused on environmental education and communication because I wanted to teach children about this wonderful world we live in and share the incredible stories found in nature.

EW: How can teachers use One Well in the classroom?

Strauss: One Well was written with the curriculum in mind, so it can be easily incorporated into the classroom. It is cross-curricular, so teachers can use it to assist them with their geography, biology, and life sciences lessons, as well as math, literature, social studies, etc. Its suitable for students in grades 3-8, though I have used it successfully with both older and younger grades, too.

I have also developed several lesson plans and activities for teachers in support of the books content. Again, these lessons and activities cross-curriculum objectives and range from pure science experiments to language arts projects. The lessons are available for free, as downloadable PDFs, from Kids Can Press .

EW: Some educators say that the emphasis on reading and math in U.S. classrooms today is edging out science and other subjects. How does One Well address that issue?

Strauss: One Well crosses curriculum in an easily accessible way. It was written with a strong metaphor, in more of a picture book/storytelling style, so that it is as valid as part of a literature class as it is for science. Equally, the book itself truly lends itself to math -- with a slew of mathematical challenges and potential projects inherent in all the facts and figures found throughout the book. Add to that the educational activities (from language arts, to math, science, and social science) that I developed and teachers will have no problem including One Well in a variety of subjects.

"I hope to help children become well aware -- of how much water there is on Earth, how we are using water, and how all the water we have is all the water we ever will have
EW: There are a lot of facts in the book that really make you think. Which fact about the world's water supply had the greatest impact on you?

Strauss: The fact that I found had the most impact on me was that in North America, we use an average of more than 140 gallons (550 liters) of water per person, per day. Thats about the equivalent of 55 buckets of water each day, which is staggering, considering that less than 1 percent of the worlds water is available for use. In comparison, the average person in Ethiopia uses just under 3 gallons, or a single bucket of water, each day!

EW: What do you most hope children gain from reading the book?

Strauss: I hope to help children become well aware -- of how much water there is on Earth, how we are using water, and how all the water we have is all the water we ever will have -- so that they will ultimately take up the challenge of doing something, even just one simple thing, to protect the Earths One Well. I also hope to instill in children a sense of wonder and awe about the world around them, and leave them with the curiosity and desire to learn more.

This e-interview with Rochelle Strauss is part of the Education World Wire Side Chat series. Click here to see other articles in the series.

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Article by Ellen R. Delisio
Education World®
Copyright © 2007 Education World

Published 04/11/2007


 

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