Technology is expanding the classroom around the world for students at Stephen Leacock Public School.
A group of 27 grades 7 and 8 students connected with their counterparts in rural Tanzania over Skype, an online video-message chat program, on Monday, Oct. 15.
“I really thought it was cool to see how they’re different than us and how they’re the same as us,” said Grade 7 student Nick Smith. “I’d really like to see the Third World countries…get more water without having to walk.”
The Skype call was set up by Canadian non-profit WaterCan, which provides the world’s poorest people with access to clean water, basic sanitation and hygiene education. TV personality Ben Mulroney hosted the talk from Engusero Primary School in rural Tanzania. Mulroney is WaterCan’s national ambassador and is one of 22 participants in the organization’s inaugural Kilimanjaro Climb for Life.
“The solution to so many problems is water,” said Mulroney, adding Oct. 15 was Global Handwashing Day. “The simple lack of washing one’s hands with soap can lead to illness…Simply by washing one’s hands with soap can save one-and-a-half million people.”
The average woman must walk six kilometres to find water in the developing world.
A lack of water “is one of the most lethal but solvable” problems in Third World countries, said Andrea Helfer, a WaterCan spokesperson. “Awareness is key.”
“I’m shocked they have to walk six kilometres to get water,” said Grade 7 student Jake Zabel Rorai.
“Not everyone has the privilege of clean drinking water,” said classmate Belinda Xu.
Mulroney discussed ways Canadians can conserve water and spread awareness. The top three were:
* Ban the bottle: it takes twice as much water to make a bottle as it does to fill it. Use a reusable bottle and filter system.
* The power shower: cutting a 20 minute shower to five minutes will save 100 litres of liquid.
* Walk for water: a six-kilometre walk is held on April 27 to raise funds and awareness about the lack of clean water in developing areas.
“With these three things in mind you can save water,” said Mulroney.
Students from the two schools took turns asking questions about daily living over Skype.
When asked what they would change about their daily routine, the Tanzanian students answered “chores.”
“It’s the same here as it is there,” laughed Mulroney.
One thing that isn’t the same is the learning environment. When asked what their number one problem they want fixed is, the students in Tanzania answered their classrooms.
Engusero has an average of 84 students per class. The revelation prompted a shocked “wow” from the entire audience.
“I found this a very moving educational experience for our kids,” said teacher Gaynor Kondric. “I think it was important for them to hear some of those differences.”
Stephen Leacock was chosen to take part in the transatlantic call for being the first school to take part in WaterCan’s Water Drops Banner project.
The group scaling Mount Kilimanjaro will unfurl the Water Drops Banner, comprised of vinyl water drops personalized by students from around the world.
“This activity was a terrific follow-up to the school-wide events that took place here…it was very exciting for our students to see the result of their hard work and to know that their efforts to recognize global water issues were heard and appreciated.”
Using technology to help further the curriculum is a great way to engage students, said teacher Devinder Trehan, who spearheaded the Skype event.
“Forget the textbook and use the technology,” she said.
“This experience has planted in all our minds how we can use Skype going forward,” said Gaynor. “It’s more authentic, it’s more visual. It’s a very valuable experience.”