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Best Project WET Activities for Outdoor Learning: Honorable Mentions

Tue, 2019-08-13 12:43

(Read Part One here.)

(Read Part Two here.)

Note: Most of the activities below can be found in the Project WET Curriculum and Activity Guide 2.0, which is available through your local Coordinator. However, some are from other educator guides for sale on the Project WET store in hard copy or download. Activities that can be purchased are linked in the text.

Learning outdoors benefits students and educators, which is why we want to help educators get out! Here's the final set of Project WET's best outdoor activities, as chosen by Project WET USA Coordinators and Project WET Foundation staff:

Project WET's early childhood education guide contains several options to take young learners outside Living Water (Getting Little Feet Wet)

Project WET’s VP of Networks Julia Beck nominated the early childhood education activity Living Water from Getting Little Feet Wet, which has children go outside and look at examples of thing that are living and non-living and talk about water being in all living things. Then children can do a leaf or flower pounding to see the water inside a plant. “It’s a great way to get kids thinking about nature and understanding water is life,” Julia says. Michelle Darnell of Texas says she uses Our Blue Planet from Getting Little Feet Wet for her younger learners as well.

Healthy Habits/Surface Sanitation Solutions

Both Project WET International Projects Manager Allison Howe and Maryland’s Cindy Etgen nominated the Guide 2.0 activity Healthy Habits, a tag game about germ transmission that was adapted for the Clean and Conserve Educators Guide as Surface Sanitation Solutions. Cindy explains that it is much easier (and much more fun) to take Part II Healthy Habits outside, “especially when trying to explain population density and how germs move more quickly through a denser population than one that is more spread out.” Allison says of Surface Sanitation Solutions that in addition to being useful for teaching about science, “it could be a fun activity for a health/PE class, too”.

Whole-body movement and other engaging teaching methods are critical for retention and comprehension Life in the Fast Lane

Project WET VP of Projects and Programs Morgan Close went into the archives to nominate the Guide 1.0 activity Life in the Fast Lane. She describes the activity as “a scavenger hunt through temporary wetlands”. The activity teaches the benefits of and challenges to organisms living in temporary wetlands.

Didn’t see your favorite Project WET outdoor learning activity? Email us with your nominations. If you have questions about how best to bring the outdoors to your students, feel free to contact your local Coordinator or Project WET staff.

Best Project WET Activities for Outdoor Learning: Part Two

Tue, 2019-08-06 15:41

(Read Part One here.)

Note: Most of the activities below can be found in the Project WET Curriculum and Activity Guide 2.0, which is available through your local Coordinator. However, some are from other educator guides for sale on the Project WET store in hard copy or download. Activities and Educator Guides that can be directly purchased are linked in the text.

Learning outdoors benefits students and educators, which is why we want to help educators get out! Here's the next set of Project WET's best outdoor activities, as chosen by Project WET USA Coordinators and Project WET Foundation staff:

8-4-1, One for All requires teamwork and compromise, all in a whole-body activity that gets learners moving 8-4-1, One for All

Take eight water users, four common water needs and one water source to serve them all and you have the hugely popular 8-4-1, One for All activity. Representing eight different water users, learners must cooperate to carry their precious water “downstream” while navigating through floods, droughts and other water management challenges. Pennsylvania Coordinator Jessica Kester says she likes 8-4-1 because “not only does it have kids working together but gets them thinking of all the people and industries that all need water in different ways.” Project WET VP of Publications Megan Regnerus agreed with Jessica, saying “8-4-1 is my favorite outdoor activity because not only does it get students active and having fun, but really allows them to think about deeper questions regarding water and access.”  She added, “It is a great teamwork activity that brings awareness to the many water needs in our communities.” (Water user tags for 8-4-1 are also available on the Store.) 

Related activities also nominated

Michelle Darnell of Texas notes that Sum of the Parts also tackles the important idea that we all live downstream, saying the activity “really brings home how properties upriver affect others”. Blue River, which was nominated by both West Virginia’s Tomi Bergstrom and Cinde Thomas-Jimenez of Texas, is another whole-body simulation activity, this one demonstrating the movement of water through a river and its watershed. Seeing Watersheds, which was nominated in Part One, is another activity that works well in combination with 8-4-1.

The Long Haul teaches about history, math, water conservation and teamwork The Long Haul

Cindy Etgen of Maryland says it best, “The Long Haul…need I say more? Sloshing water on a hot day and getting wet!” This relay-style activity can be used to teach history, math and water conservation—all while learners work as a team. Educators can also use the activity as a springboard to discuss water scarcity and gender issues, since women and girls spend an estimated 200 million hours — daily — collecting water. As UNICEF reports, water gathering steals time from education and play for girls and “can even make school impossible”.

Related activities also nominated

Another excellent history-related Project WET outdoor lesson is Water Crossing, says Maryland’s Cindy Etgen. “Water Crossing is a great STEM-meets-history-meets-geography lesson.” She adds, “If you are using natural materials (which is what we do) it is much easier to run the lesson and clean up if you run it outside.” For other social studies options, Michelle Darnell of Texas likes Poison Pump, which she says she uses in conjunction with A Grave Mistake. “The older kids really get into the history,” she says.

Coming next, the Honorable Mentions! If you have questions about how best to bring the outdoors to your students, feel free to contact your local Coordinator or Project WET staff.

Project WET Joins AccessText Network to Provide Resources to Students with Disabilities

Tue, 2019-08-06 13:31


Bozeman, Mont. — To better serve college and graduate school students with visual impairments or other print-related disabilities, Project WET has joined the AccessText Network, a conduit between the publishing world and colleges and universities across the country. AccessText's mission is "to ensure students with disabilities have equal access to their textbooks in an electronic format and in a timely manner."

The Association of American Publishers, in conjunction with leading textbook publishers, founded AccessText and continue to support it. The service works with its members to ensure its services meet the needs of students, publishers, colleges and other stakeholders.

College students in the United States or Canada who have disabilities that impair their ability to read printed text can visit their school's Disability Support Services office to request accommodations. Once a student is determined to be eligible to receive textbooks in an alternate format, the school's Disability Service Provider (DSP) can use the AccessText Network to request electronic files from member-publishers, including Project WET. Requests are placed on the AccessText Network portal.

Disability Service Providers that are not yet a member of AccessText can sign up for a free membership at www.accesstext.org.

Administered by the Center for Inclusive Design & Innovation at the Georgia Institute of Technology, AccessText operates under the auspices of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. Learn more about the AccessText Network team. 

Questions about AccessText can be sent to membership@accesstext.org.

About the Project WET Foundation: Since 1984, the Project WET Foundation has been dedicated to solving critical environmental challenges by teaching the world about water. Project WET ("WET" stands for "Water Education for Teachers") is active in all 50 U.S. states and more than 70 countries worldwide. Follow @projectwet on TwitterInstagramFacebook and LinkedIn.

Best Project WET Activities for Outdoor Learning: Part One

Wed, 2019-07-31 10:50

Note: Most of the activities below can be found in the Project WET Curriculum and Activity Guide 2.0, which is available through your local Coordinator. However, some are from other educator guides for sale on the Project WET store in hard copy or download. Activities that can be directly purchased are linked in the text.

Learning outdoors benefits students and educators, which is why we want to help educators get out! Here's the first set of Project WET's best outdoor activities, as chosen by Project WET USA Coordinators and Project WET Foundation staff:

Macroinvertebrate Mayhem is a tag game that simulates the effect of environmental stressors on macroinvertebrate populations Macroinvertebrate Mayhem

Nominated by six people, Macroinvertebrate Mayhem is the perennial favorite tag game that simulates the effect of environmental stressors on macroinvertebrate populations. Drew Hopkins from New York says it gets the highest reviews from educators he trains, while Colorado’s Scott Williamson says it was “a hit for educators at our most recent training because it got everyone moving their whole bodies and folks were having fun with a little friendly competition.” Macro Mayhem is also the favorite of Project WET SVP and Chief Operating Officer John Etgen, who says with a wink that it has “nothing to do” with his love for fishing.

Related Activities Also Nominated:

Project WET Ohio’s Dennis Clement says that Water Quality? Ask the Bugs! and Benthic Bugs and Bioassessment (Healthy Water, Healthy People) “get kids in the stream collecting macros and assessing the water quality.” Invaders! also gets high marks for keeping kids very active, according to Pennsylvania’s Carissa Longo. 

Blue Planet, like Just Passing Through, is a whole-body activity that gets students actively learning Just Passing Through

In second place among respondents was Just Passing Through, a whole-body activity that allows students to investigate how vegetation affects the movement of water over land surfaces. Sue Quincy says the activity works well “especially if there is a natural hill,” which makes it perfect for her home state of Connecticut.

Related Activities Also Nominated:

Get the Groundwater Picture introduces students to how water moves through soil. Carrie Merson of the San Antonio River Authority mentioned The Thunderstorm, The Incredible Journey, Drop in the Bucket, H2Olympics, Blue Planet and Seeing Watersheds as ideal activities for students on field trips, because they “are thought provoking as well as require movement.”

Rainy Day Hike introduces urban watershed concepts and stormwater issues through outdoor investigations Rainy Day Hike

Several Coordinators and staff identified Rainy Day Hike, which introduces urban watershed concepts and stormwater issues through outdoor investigations, as a good option, especially for teachers who many not have done much outdoor learning. Day Hike. Maryland’s Cindy Etgen says she uses it to encourage educators to use state parks as outdoor classrooms for their students. “We will have them do Rainy Day Hike Part I, discuss Part II, and then ask them what differences their students would see if they did the lesson first at a park, and then on their school grounds.  And usually there are a lot.”

Related Activities Also Nominated

Cindy says she pairs Rainy Day Hike with Rain Garden: “After doing Rainy Day Hike, we use Rain Garden to have them discuss problems they might find on their school grounds that would have an impact on water quality and what the students might be able to do to help fix the problem.” Tomi Bergstrom of West Virginia says that she uses Blue River, “usually after doing Seeing Watersheds inside”. 

Stay tuned for Part 2—coming soon! In the meantime, if you have questions about how best to bring the outdoors to your students, feel free to contact your local Coordinator or Project WET staff.


Water Education and the SDGs: Strengthening the “Blue Thread”

Mon, 2019-07-29 11:15

Related: Check out Project WET's story about the water education and the SDGs on Impakter.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals that make up the 2030 Agenda range from concrete problems such as hunger and poverty to more abstract concepts like peace and justice. Still, separating one from the other is nearly impossible. How can gender equality be achieved without quality education? Can good health and well-being co-exist with hunger, or when clean water and sanitation are unavailable? How can we power sustainable cities and communities without making progress on affordable and clean energy? The examples of interdependence are nearly endless.

Recently, the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) released its Policy Brief for July 2019, “Connecting the SDGs through resilient water management,” in preparation for the 2019 High-Level Political Forum on the 2030 Agenda. The authors acknowledge how intertwined all 17 SGDs are but also go a step further, identifying water as the “blue thread” that runs through the 2030 Agenda:

“Water resources, and the wide range of services they provide, underpin poverty reduction, economic growth and environmental resilience. From food and energy security through decent work, cities and production, to human and environmental health – water improves social wellbeing and inclusive growth affecting the lives and livelihoods of billions.”

We couldn’t agree more, and that means water education does not just connect to SDG6 (Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all) but to all 17 targets.

Water’s relevance to so many aspects of the 2030 Agenda makes water education critical for moving forward. Citizens must understand the basics of water—the water cycle, water’s role in health, water quality—to be effective water managers, personally and as part of their communities. As SIWI explains, “Water is a master variable for life on earth and if we fail to consider water management within our broader development plans and actions, we will fail to reach our targets.”

SIWI’s brief highlights several specific ways in which improving water management and awareness can reduce poverty, inequality, hunger, aquatic and terrestrial environmental degradation, economic disparity and injustice, including:

  • improving the effectiveness, fairness and transparency of water governance from the local to transboundary level;
  • recognizing water’s value when it comes to social, environmental and economic prosperity;
  • taking a human-rights based approach to water and ensuring that women, youth, indigenous populations and vulnerable groups are empowered to take action and become right holders as well as duty bearers.

In each of these examples, water education has a role to play. Effective, fair and transparent water governance is predicated on stakeholder understanding of water issues. Water education can impart that understanding. Recognizing the value of water, too, depends on individual and collective knowledge about water’s unique physical and chemical properties, as well as its role in making life possible on Earth. Objective, science-based water education can also empower women, youth, indigenous populations and other vulnerable groups to take appropriate local action to solve water issues in their communities and around the world.

SIWI Programme Officer Kristina Johansson makes an apt link to astronauts in a blog post introducing the idea of water as the blue thread:

“When astronauts go to space in search of life on other planets, they first search for one thing – water. All human activity, as well as our environment, are dependent on this precious resource. Today our world is facing large-scale challenges such as climate change, ecosystem degradation, biodiversity loss, inequality and poverty. All these challenges require our urgent response, not in the future, but now. And just like the astronauts, we should be focusing on water.”

At a Maryland water festival this year, NASA Astronaut Ricky Arnold answered questions from elementary school students Her words echo those of Ricky Arnold, a NASA astronaut who spent six months on board the International Space Station. Arnold, who also serves as a volunteer Board member for the Project WET Foundation, has spoken extensively about what being in space has taught him about water on Earth.

Speaking to elementary school students in Maryland on World Water Day this year, Arnold said, “Earth is like a spaceship. We’re all sharing the same resources, and we need to think every day about how we impact these precious resources, particularly water.”

By focusing attention on water—and specifically on educating people about its management, conservation and value—the Project WET Foundation and our network of partners around the world are working to advance the 2030 Agenda as a whole.  As SIWI’s Johansson concludes, “A holistic and resilient approach to water management can tackle our global challenges and provide solutions for several issues at the same time. The 2030 Agenda can only be reached if we accelerate our ambitions with water and ensure that the blue thread that we are all dependent on keeps on flowing.”

New Series: Using Project WET for Outdoor Learning

Thu, 2019-07-25 12:26

(Read Part One here.)

(Read Part Two here.)

Outdoor learning has been shown to positively impact teacher and student well-being and satisfaction Extensive research indicates that taking learning outside the classroom and into the natural environment is beneficial to students. Immersion in nature has been shown to positively impact student “well-being, creativity, brain function and mood”. Cognitive benefits have also been demonstrated, including “improved concentration, awareness, reasoning, creativity, imagination and cognitive functioning”. Other research has shown that an outdoor learning setting encourages skills such as problem solving and risk taking.

However, a new study from Swansea University in Wales is offering yet another reason to incorporate outdoor learning: teacher satisfaction. Emily Marchant, a PhD researcher in Medical Studies at Swansea University and lead author of the study, told Science Daily that while some of the teachers in the study were initially reluctant to take learning outdoors, once outdoor learning was embedded in the curriculum, “they spoke of improved job satisfaction and personal wellbeing.”

One study participant told researchers that they felt “less stressed” as a result of teaching students outdoors. The study also indicated that for some teachers, “the introduction and responsibility of delivering outdoor learning provided them with a sense of increased personal wellbeing and in particular, job satisfaction at a time of extreme pressure.”

Teachers reported feeling "less stressed" and more satisfied with their jobs after incorporating outdoor learning “My feeling is just like, wow, this is just what I came into teaching for,” one teacher participating in the study told researchers.

The study identified teacher confidence as well as difficulty in meeting standards and measuring outcomes as hurdles for implementing outdoor learning. As the study says, “Some teachers found it hard to design lessons with meaningful activities that could both encompass the concept of outdoor learning and meet the requirements of the curriculum.”

Luckily, Project WET is here help overcome all those hurdles! From teacher training to standards-correlated activities, we offer educators around the world access to everything they need to get students outdoors and learning. We asked Project WET staff and USA Coordinators for their favorite Project WET activities go take outside. Most activities can be found in the Project WET Curriculum and Activity Guide 2.0, which is available through your local Coordinator, but some are from other educator guides for sale on the Project WET store in hard copy or download.

In the next couple of weeks, we’ll share the list of nominated activities, including why educators love them. Follow the series here or on Project WET’s social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. In the meantime, if you have questions about how best to bring the outdoors to your students, feel free to contact your local Coordinator or Project WET staff.

Making an Impact: 2.5 Million People Educated in 2018

Fri, 2019-06-14 15:00

With support from our partner organizations, corporate sponsors, donors and customers, we educated 2.5 million people about water in 2018! Click any of the images below to view the full report:


Guest Post: Why innovation in water technology is less important than you think

Fri, 2019-06-07 11:04

Will Sarni, Founder and CEO, Water Foundry, LLC This post was originally published on GreenBiz in May as part of "Liquid Assets", a monthly column by Will Sarni that explores water as a business issue and the ways in which companies can manage water-related risks in an increasingly constrained world. It is reprinted here with his permission.

A global thought leader on water strategy and innovation, Will joined the Project WET Foundation Board of Directors last year. Will is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry, which advises companies on water-related risks and invests in digital water technologies that address water scarcity and quality issues.

Over the past two-plus years, I have had the opportunity to work with several water technology startups and growth-stage companies. I’m continuing to learn the world of technology startups and entrepreneurs, as well as how these stakeholders intersect with corporations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the academic community and the public sector. All of these stakeholders are essential in developing solutions to water challenges.

In our race to solve water challenges, it can feel like we’re on a quest to find the best new technology that will be our magic bullet. But we’re not — because it’s an unrealistic expectation. Many startups and entrepreneurs are relying solely on technology for success. That doesn’t work, as other factors are more important than innovative technologies.

One of the more important lessons for me is that technology doesn’t sell itself — success is driven by innovative business models, execution strategies and the team. There is a quote worth remembering when falling in love with technology: Technology is exponential, but people are linear (to paraphrase Jason Silva).

We tend to have expectations of technology adoption that often don’t materialize. An article in Fast Company on "We Need Breakthrough Business Models, Not Breakthrough Technology" by John Elkington and Richard Johnson (March 7, 2018) lays out the case eloquently. To quote Elkington and Johnson:

We favor technologies over business models, imbibing the Kool-Aid a long time before the hard slog to turn the concept into something customers will actually buy has begun. Business models are what connects a technology’s potential with real market needs and consumer demand. Simply put, business models eat the business case for breakfast.

The authors point to the example of the adoption of solar panels.


The price of photovoltaic cells had been falling exponentially since the 1970s. But it wasn’t until 2008 when the concept of "zero-money-down" solar (leased and managed rooftop solar) was introduced that we saw an equally exponential increase in the number of solar roof installations. The new model gave solar power the edge over grid energy.

So, what does this look like in the water sector? Organizations that have found success have relied on disruptive business models over purely new technology. A couple of examples are Fathom (Software as a Service) and Aquaventure (Water as a Service). These business models help facilitate the adoption of technologies in a sector that is and has been historically slow to innovate for several reasons (the responsibility of ensuring public health; the few incentives to pilot new technologies).

So, what does this look like in the water sector? Organizations that have found success have relied on disruptive business models over purely new technology.

As a long-term sustainability and water strategy adviser, I see the most exciting opportunities in innovative business models driven by digital technologies — "digital water." Again, to quote Elkington and Johnson, "As digitalization proceeds at unprecedented speed and scale, the marginal cost of delivering a whole range of goods and services will plummet. This opens up a huge opportunity to create affordable solutions to huge, previously overlooked market needs."

I’ll make one last point about the need to focus business model innovation, teams, etc. There are several water technology hubs and accelerators in the United States. They are good at identifying innovative technologies and promising entrepreneurs. However, to varying degrees (I suspect I will get pushback on this one), entrepreneurs come out of the water tech hubs and/or accelerators without much of the support they need to succeed. They most likely need support in articulating their value proposition, business model, marketing, branding, strategy, execution, etc.

A few things to keep in mind when considering launching a water tech startup:

  • Technology doesn’t sell itself.
  • What is your innovative business model to scale technology adoption?
  • How can digital technologies power the business model (think Uber, Lyft and Airbnb for water — innovative business models, powered by digital)?
  • What team members, beyond technology experts, do I need for success?



How I Use Project WET: Sharing Clean Water Wisdom With the World

Wed, 2019-05-22 10:40

Junko has trained dozens of educators, including several Miss Japan "Water for Life" award winners Some people who grow up in places with abundant fresh water take it for granted. Junko Kato, a Project WET facilitator in Japan, is not one of them. Born and raised on the Japanese island of Kyushu in Kumamoto, a city known for its exceptional groundwater, Junko recognized her fortune in having access to Kumamoto’s “delicious water”. She took it a step further by seeking out a career in water resources management.

“I want everywhere in the world to have clean water like Kumamoto has,” Junko said. “That thought led me to work at METAWATER, a comprehensive water and environmental engineering company in Tokyo. I am involved in the operation of the water purification plant.”

Junko has trained several other very active facilitators including two on her home island of Kyushu Through her work in water resources, she connected with the River Foundation, which hosts Project WET in Japan, in 2013. Since then, she has become one of Project WET Japan’s leading facilitators, according to River Foundation researcher and experienced Project WET educator Kazunari Sugawara.

“I learned about Project WET six years ago, and it changed my life,” Junko says. “I first helped a facilitator Tomoko Takeda hold a workshop for high-school students in Fukushima in 2013. I was impressed by Project WET’s vision and activities, so I took part in a Facilitator Workshop in 2014.”

At that time, she set herself a goal of training 100 educators, and she is about two-thirds there. Along the way, she has trained several other very active facilitators—including two on her home island of Kyushu, Ryo Sudo and Ayaka Nabeta

She was also the trainer for several Miss Japan “Water for Life” award winners: Sakurako Sudo, Azusa Miyazaki and Risa Urasoko. The “Water for Life” award winner is charged with teaching people how Japan has contributed to the development of water infrastructure around the world.

Junko was part of a videophone workshop that allowed educators from Kyushu and Tokyo to learn together, even when 700 miles apart Junko is active in new forms of Project WET training as well, holding a simultaneous workshop using a videophone system between Kyushu and Tokyo, which are about 700 miles (1100 kilometers) apart.

“In the future, I would like to organize a workshop between Japan and a foreign country,” she adds.

Junko’s work at METAWATER has made her especially passionate about educating the public about infrastructure. She says her favorite Project WET activity is “The Price Is Right”, the classic Project WET role-play lesson that helps students calculate the costs of developing water infrastructure projects.

“I think it is important to be proactive in this line of work because it involves the public, and water treatment infrastructure operations are generally not so transparent,” she explains. “I have made it my mission to educate people regarding the importance of infrastructure through this activity.”

Working at an environmental engineering firm has made Junko passionate about infrastructure education She has also worked to make sure other water professionals are training their colleagues, not only for the knowledge they can impart but also for the employee engagement possibilities.

“Nami Segawa and Hiromi Ikeda are using Project WET activities to train workers in their offices,” Junko notes, mentioning two of the active facilitators she has trained. “Their actions help people understand the importance of water education as well as how Project WET can contribute to human resources development.”

While the subject of water inspires Junko, she also believes strongly in Project WET’s hands-on, engaging education methods.

“I think hands-on water education helps to increase the effect of classroom lectures,” Junko says. “We can exchange ideas and connect various factors through this style of education.These experiences improve the ability of people to think for themselves.”

Junko says that she believes Project WET will continue to make a difference in her life and inspire new experiences She also sees Project WET as a unique option culturally, noting that it has improved her own facilitation skills: “Especially in Japan, hands-on education is very important, because people generally only take classroom lectures to improve memory, and don’t have the opportunity to improve these types of skills.”

Beyond boosting her skills and knowledge, however, Junko says that Project WET has allowed her to meet other people who are passionate about water education—connections that she believes will only grow.

“I believe Project WET will continue to make a difference in my life and cause me to accumulate excellent experiences,” Junko says. “I am sure Project WET has great power to solve difficult issues regarding water for not only Japan but also the world.”


One of Project WET's most enduring international partners is the River Foundation, hosts for Project WET Japan since 2003. The River Foundation is dedicated to preserving Japan's bountiful river and watershed environment and to reconnecting the people of Japan with the nation's rivers. Since beginning its work with Project WET, the River Foundation has trained thousands of educators and reached hundreds of thousands of children with education around a wide range of water and river-related issues, such as flood control, water utilization and other environmental issues. We are grateful to the River Foundation for its longstanding support of Project WET and water education in Japan and around the world!

How I Use Project WET: Empowering Children To Learn, Stay Healthy and Share Good Habits

Tue, 2019-05-14 11:26

Andrea Morris, founder of the Bamako Child Support Program and Close to Africa Foundation Andrea Morris’s first trip to Mali ended suddenly. Volunteering as an English teacher at a primary school, she was in Bamako, Mali’s capital and largest city, when a coup d’état began in March 2012. With chaos descending, she fled the country.

Back home in Hungary, she couldn’t stop thinking about the promising students she had worked with in Bamako. The private school where she had been volunteering was in a slum, and it was the only educational option in the area. No government schools were available there, meaning the school relied on parental fees to stay open.

“Kids often drop out of school because their parents cannot afford even a very modest school fee,” Andrea explains.

She wanted to remove that obstacle. She sought out European families who would be interested in paying school fees for talented poor children in the school, launching the Bamako Child Support Program. The program supports some 100 students today, many of whom have graduated and are attending secondary education or even university. 

Mali map (image courtesy of the University of Texas Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection) From this sponsorship arrangement, Andrea grew the Bamako Child Support Program to contribute to the overall development of the school. “I kept returning to Bamako to see the school and the children,” she says. “Among other things, we built four new classrooms, donated computers and organized summer schools.”

The water and sanitation situation at the school was particularly dire.

“In this area of Bamako, there is no running water in the houses,” she notes. “People walk to the city taps, queue up, pay and carry water home. They pay for each jerry-can they fill up.”

She solicited sponsorship from a German-Hungarian company, Xeless, which financed the refurbishment of the school’s toilet areas. At the same time, the program supported the cost of bringing city water onto the school premises. With those resources in place, Andrea began to think about educating students about water.

“There is no need to tell them why it is not good to waste water. They know it,” she notes. “What the children needed more was an education in what to use water for and how to use it hygienically.”

In searching for resources to teach about water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), she found Project WET’s free WASH education resources and online training. Last November, she and a colleague traveled to Bamako and used them with students at the school. They focused specifically on proper handwashing, which has been identified as the single most effective way to prevent the spread of infections.

Students in Bamako learn about proper handwashing using Project WET's interactive activities “The kids were shocked to find out that their seemingly clean hands were not so clean after all,” Andrea relates. “They loved the colorful drawings of microbes that could be on anyone’s hand. For the older kids (grade 7-8-9), the illustrations that explained how soap molecules work to attract water and repel dirt were especially popular.”

Andrea and her colleague left laminated explanatory cards behind for the teachers and prepared larger educational bulletin boards that extended the lessons and decorated the classrooms, using these illustrations. The handwashing song was also very successful. After creating a new French translation, Andrea and her colleague taught students to time their handwashing to the rhythm of the song and for the exact time given by the singing.

“In a couple of days, the whole school was humming the song,” Andrea smiles.

Since many of the children’s homes still did not have running water, Andrea and her colleague used Project WET resources to teach them how to make tippy-tap handwashing stations. With that knowledge as well as the handwashing song and lessons, the students could bring the knowledge and behaviors they had learned home to their families.

Colorful posters encourage proper handwashing with soap Looking forward, Andrea plans to stay involved in Mali. After years of operating the Bamako Child Support Program under the auspices of various Hungarian foundations, she has developed her own umbrella organization, the Close to Africa Foundation, to administer the program. She also wants to continue to use Project WET to educate people about handwashing, even closer to home.

Based on the success of the WASH education and sanitation improvement work in Bamako, the Close to Africa Foundation plans to scale up the program to other schools in Mali. The template would include the refurbishment or construction of toilet facilities, the installation of a handwashing station and education on the importance of handwashing.

“I would use Project WET’s WASH lessons anytime I need to educate anybody—including my own children—on the reasons for and the way to do proper handwashing,” she concludes.

Project WET’s WASH education work started in 2007 as part of a project with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to reduce the spread of preventable waterborne diseases in Africa. The result was the Healthy Water, Healthy Habits, Healthy People series of WASH education materials, originally designed for countries in East Africa. Developed with local education, water and health experts, the materials have since been adapted to other regions of the world and for more specific locations in Africa.