Wednesday, July 21, 2010


I visited on the 20th, sadly to find out the next day was a holiday due to a festival that was happening in the village. I had many adventures on the way thought! The list included a bus strike, getting stranded in the Andhra border in a random village without knowing the language and travelling at the back of a shared auto holding on to my dear life, just to get there on time so that I could at least spend an afternoon with them! It was a good experience none the less :)

View from the back of my auto

From the three schools I visited earlier, I decided to work with the private school, as it had students from 7th to 9th grade, older ones who had been introduced to this subject at least a little bit and many girl children as well. Some of these children's homes have had rainwater tanks as part of the government's Sachetana project, yet they don't drink rain water as the tanks are not being maintained properly. A little tour of the school before I begin.

School building with the 3 classrooms

Front yard which is used as their sports field/play area

Toilets- one for the girls and one for the boys with no supply of water

Tank in the school yard where children collect water to drink, wash their plates after their meals and to the toilet as well.

Students running to grab their cycles and go home as it was raining after classes ended

This was the first time I was interacting with them. I had only just spoken to them for a few minutes the previous visit. As an ice-breaker, I told them who I was and what I was doing and started off with a simple mind-mapping/drawing activity for both of us to understand what our associations with water were.

Aim: An activity to see what the students associate with water. Their perceptions of the water they are exposed to and how much they know about it and what they feel their immediate needs are.

Activity: To mind-map, write or draw associations with water that they might have on a big sheet of paper (This could be done in small groups). Stories they might have heard from their family and their current connections with water. Colour, objects they associate with it, anything on one side of the given sheet. Once they are done, they flip to the other side, where they would fill in what they think is an ideal scenario. What the situation would be like if there were no problems and if they had clean water, like they are going to, soon. What does this mean to them? This will give an idea of the future they are envisioning for themselves.

After doing this, the different groups share it with the whole class.

Inference: Through this, I might get to know how much these children know about the water they are exposed to, how much it actually affects their lives and what they are willing to do about it as well as what they feel is ‘ideal’ and how much we can actually cater to actually fulfilling that.


> They will be able to link water directly to their problems

> They will understand what I am trying to say

> They will work together in groups effectively

> They will participate enthusiastically

The above was what I had in mind when I went there. I divided them into 4 groups and they started off. Paying so much attention to being neat, some of them refused to write or draw without using a ruler or drawing lines and writing on that. They would first write in pencil and then go over it with sketch pens and crayons. I sat with them and drew my associations on a sheet, like a mind map, and they looked at me like I was doing something wrong :) Maybe they were wondering why I was being messy and not using a ruler! Then they started getting fascinated and wanted to copy what I did. To stop this, I stopped drawing and sat with each group to help them out individually.

Initially they were really apprehensive about what they wrote. They tried to copy a poem from their text book, one on water. I then took the books from them and told them to write or draw what came to their mind when they thought of water. What they see around them in the village etc. Then slowly they started with the general 'textbook' matter like the properties of water and that it boils at 100 degrees Celsius and that it is used for drinking, bathing, cooking, washing clothes, for plants and trees, birds and cattle, to construct houses for making bricks and farming. With this, they also mentioned that we need it more for plants and trees as they supply us with oxygen which we need for survival.

Just from these few words, there is a sense of being connected to certain daily activities, being sensitive, without being aware of it. I would never have thought of water for cattle, birds and trees and for construction work, even though it seems obvious now.

After the uses and properties, they went on to write songs that they have heard, sources of water in their village (taps, tankers, wells, lake and bore wells)

They also talked about water pollution and how people wash their clothes near the water bodies in the village and how that pollutes it. They also mentioned that waste water from factories is let out into the river and seas in the cities and since the seas are the main source of water, lots of water is contaminated.

They were aware of diseases spreading trough water. How pools of water get collected near the tanks they use and how they get diseases because of this. (Shown in the chart above) So, they say that one should always boil water before they drink it. Now, the real question is, how many of them actually do it? If they know it and yet don't apply their knowledge, how can I facilitate that process?

There was a section on rainwater as well. They said one must harvest rain water and filter and boil it before drinking it and store it in their houses. How the rain water helps the farms as they need lots of water to grow crops and how the lakes get full because of the rains.

An interesting part to look at was also what they thought was an ideal scenario. These were some of the things that came up;

Rainwater being harvested properly

Water tankers should supply near school

Daily supply of water at home from taps

Taps in bathrooms

Plenty of water for farming

Drinking water for patients in the hospitals

Drinking water near bus stops and railway station.

Clean water for cooking food at home

Clean water for drinking

Water for the cattle

One that truly made me laugh and think at the same time is when a child in one of the groups wrote in her ideal scenario that she wanted clean water to wash the God's idols at home. I would have thought that would be last priority considering they do not have access to clean water for drinking and washing up for themselves! It is hope though, shows that some cultural practices are still top priority!

One of the teams ended with a neat quote, “We are from water, without water we are nothing. So, conserve water, its our duty”

Besides looking at the positive side, one group had attempted to look at the negatives as well. They said that if there is too much rain, it causes floods and if too less, draughts. Hence we need the right amount of it.

After they finished, we discussed each group's chart with the whole class and led the discussion towards the fluoride in the water that they drink and how they should help maintain the rain water harvesting tanks that are going to built in the school so that they can drink clean water and avoid getting fluorosis. Many of them did not even know what fluoride was and how it was harming them. We also told them what they could eat, to reduce fluoride content in their body (tamarind, ground nuts etc.)

A student presenting her groups chart

A song on water, sung by one of the students

Mr.Umesh, the person who makes the students understand what I am trying to tell them!

Insights after the workshop

> Even though water is something that they have problems with everyday, they were initially unable to relate the word itself to the fact that it was a problem, or anything associated with it. As soon as I said 'water', they were stuck and didn't know what to write except for the facts that they had learnt from their text books.

Things could/should be drawn from their personal experiences and what they see around them and not from factual matter.

> They were happy working in groups as all of them had something to contribute and helped each other out when they were stuck. Without me giving any orders, they nominated one or two people within their group (probably the ones who have best writing/drawing skills) to translate what they said onto the sheet.

> They need to move beyond their text books and be exposed to a practical way of learning and thinking. Using audio-visual aids might be helpful in this case.


Saakshita Prabhakar said...

aaju great work. i like this. was ti successful and satisfying trip?

Aajwanthi said...

Thanks Saakshi! Well, I am trying to work on that. It was a good first session, but I hardly got to spend time with them. Will be re-visiting this week to stay longer to interact with them! Hopefully should get somewhere.