Sunday, August 29, 2010

Painting 'us' as the rain

I didn't want the kids to paint random things on the tank. One of the objectives of doing this was for them to have a 'space' for themselves on the tank, for them to feel the connect with the rainwater so that they would treat it like 'theirs' and drink it and help maintain it as well (though I hear it doesn't really need too much maintenance once its fully built). So, the previous day, I had handed out sheets to them and told them to imagine that they were rain. So the theme was "If I was rain, what would I do?" They had to think about it and come back with a drawing which they would paint on the tank the next day. The responses varied from falling into peoples mouths to going into rainwater harvesting tanks to becoming honey and falling on the flowers.

Translation of what is written above:

If I were rain,
I'd be life to plants.
I would rain on flowers,
By drops; sitting on them.
I pour from the sky and hide at the bottom of buckets and pots.

I am rain.
I don't have any colour, shape or smell.

If I am rain,
I'd come dancing from the sky.
Drop by drop, I fall from the sky,
laughing as I come to the earth

- Sushma

Translation of what is written above:

If I were rain,
I would jump from the sky and join the wells, seas and other water bodies.
If I were rain,
I'd be a lot of help to the people.

If I were a rain drop,
You can see me only during the rainy season.
Now it is summer!
So you can only see me in the tanks.

- Manjula

Aim: To bring about a feeling of connect and ownership for their water tanks and water

To get the community interested in what the students are working on by doing something novel that attracts their attention

To get the larger school community involved and feel a sense of ownership for something they are part of and have to maintain

Activity: All the students in school could come together with interested teachers and parents to just paint their water tank. An act like this allows them to personalise their plain, boring looking tank and also make them feel like it is a part of them, their work. Working together, with the community might give the community a feeling of joint ownership. They all can come together and help each other maintain the tanks that are going to provide them with clean water to drink.

Lokesh laying his foundation in chalk! Then they went over it using the paints.

Their own rainwater harvesting system

Sushma is falling as rain into containers that can hold her.

All done with Gopal falling down as honey!

Manjula getting drenched in the rain

We even got the principal to come and paint his rain! The next day, people in the neighbouring village asked me if I had painted the tank and mentioned that they had seen it as they were passing by the school. I felt so happy! I told them that it was all done by the students and they appreciated it. The students even marked their sectors with their initials and showed their 8th and 10th standard friends what they had drawn. They kept re-visiting their art work through the day.

Started building!

They have started building the rainwater harvesting tanks at the school! The students help already by watering the cement structure everyday. We all poured buckets of water to keep the tank wet. It will take another month to be fully done, then they get clean water! This tank's capacity is about 32,000 litres.Thanks to the students from Trinity college who decided to give their grant to build tanks in schools in this area. It would have been ideal to paint this tank, but while waiting for it to get done, we painted the other big water tank at the school.

Let's test

Using the fluoride testing kit, we went around a village (Killarlahalli) and tested various water samples and stamped the source, depending on whether the water was drinking-worthy or not.

Aim: To spread awareness about fluoride and the amount of fluoride in different water sources.

To make facilitators and students work together (Could even be an informal data collection activity)

To get the community interested in what the students are working on/doing

To get them to realise that rainwater is a good alternative and that they should drink that instead

Activity: The students could be split into 2 groups, or more- depending on the number of facilitators available. They get one fluoride testing kit each. They can walk around the village and neighbouring villages and test various water samples with the kits they are provided.(The previous exercise would have helped them identify various sources where they get water from). They could draw from this and test water from the taps in their homes, the kere’s, the well water that they all drink and even the water in the tank in the school. They can compare the fluoride levels in each of these water sources and see how much higher than the permissible levels it is.

To leave a mark and make it slightly more interesting (drawing from guerrilla art), each time they test a source, they can leave a smiley or a sad face sticker near the source, depending on weather the fluoride level is above or below the permissible level. This might be a small way to get the larger community attracted to this as well. If someone sees this, they might react to it and ask around what this is about. This might lead to in-direct awareness through the children and also create dialogue.

These are the water smiley stickers that I am going to ask them to stick on the different water sources, depending on weather they have permissible amounts of fluoride or not.

I first started a conversation on permissible fluoride levels (to see if they remembered- some of them did and some didn't!) and ask them what the positive and negative effects of fluoride are, and what they can do about it. I then quickly showed them how the kit worked.We tested the water that one of the students got from home, with had 2mg/l fluoride. So, they stuck a sad face on the bottle. (The symbol of thumbs up and down was new to them! So I had to keep pointing up and down with my thumb initially to say good and bad! Soon, the picked it up though and at end of each test pointed their thumb up or down accordingly!) Then I told them about the exercise and we set out to the neighbouring village.

We first tested the main water tank in that village which had 1.5mg/l, which is not too bad. So we stuck up a happy smiley. The whole village crowded around to see what we were doing and the kids explained to the community what they were testing and that their water had 1.5mg/l, which was good.

Lokesh sticking up the happy water smiley

Then, while walking around, we found a house which had a rain water harvesting tank! They decided they wanted to test the water the family used to drink before, in the open tank, as well as the rain water that is pumped out from this pump, which they use for drinking now.

The rainwater had no fluoride in it

This is the open tank the family used to drink from earlier. This had 2mg/l

The maximum amount of fluoride we spotted was 3mg/l in a water sample from a household. We told them about the importance of drinking rain water.

After we tested many household samples, two tanks and two rainwater samples, we went back and on the way, discuss the different levels we found.

Inference: Through this activity, the students were able to see for themselves how much the fluoride levels are in the water bodies they see every day. Since they are the ones testing it, it might have had a bigger impact on them (more than when it just spoken about in class). It also added a layer of fun to it as they imagined it to be a mini treasure hunt where they were little scientists and tested the water themselves and leave marks for other people to talk about. It also made it a novel idea around the village and was discussed by people who spotted these water smilies, thus spreading awareness. They asked the kids what they were doing and what it was for. It is also an activity that involves the teachers and the larger community, thus bridging the gap.

More images of this activity can be viewed in this slide show

Fluoride Testing

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Something to look forward to : Health clubs

Here is an interesting proposition made by the Government. They want to set up health clubs in schools in Bangalore, just like they did Science clubs last year. These clubs will consist of students from Classes 8, 9 and 10 and it is set up to create awareness amongst students about physical and mental health, and cleanliness.

It is a great way to go about spreading awareness on health issues, involving the students themselves. This will get them to engage with the subject much more than if they were told to mug it off a textbook. There is scope for peer learning as well as practical application of this learning while they conduct health camps and invite psychiatrists for counselling sessions. Students can set up workshops for themselves and other students and help each other understand health issues and see what creative solutions they can come up with to battle it by themselves. Here is the link to the article in DNA, Bangalore which talks about these health clubs.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

What next?

Finally, after about nearly 20 days, I am visiting the school again. Thanks to Mr.Vishwanath and Ruchika, I have managed to procure two fluoride testing kits, something I desperately needed for my next big activity. They both work a little differently.

The Jal Tara kit has a sample bottle and glass tube which needs to be filled with the water sample. A chemical reagent called Zirchonyl Arilazine is added (2 ml to 50 ml of water) and the glass tube then needs to be shaken and left aside for an hour. The change in colour can be compared to the ones given in the chart by looking at the chart through the test tube and the mg/l of fluoride can be detected and noted down.

This is simple enough for the students to do by themselves, but since my activity involves testing many water samples around the village, waiting an hour to do so might not be the best way to do it :P

The second kit I have is more instantaneous. I thought we could use the one above to test samples in school, go out to test lakes and wells and come back to have results of the water in school the school. In the second kit, a similar process is followed by adding a few drops of reagent to a sample of water. The solution changes colour immediately to indicate the mg/l of fluoride.

In the second post above this, I have explained the aim of the activity and what I would like to do with these kits.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Art and design in Education

'It is sometimes helpful to make sure we are aware if the two major strands of this whole experience. First is expressive, which links art with the other arts, giving opportunity for a variety of human expressions, and interrelating naturally when the idea requires; second, the design aspect, which links it with curriculum areas concerned with planning, crafting, making and evaluation processes.'

'Art and design experience in an education context is essentially practical, making use of the clear logic of visual and tactile language, while also taking into account the intuitive modes of approach. At the heart of this experience lies how the discovery of how materials are reshaped and reformed to make statements of personal expression.'

Art in practice- Margaret Morgan

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Re-thinking the device

I was just trying to re-think the handwashing bottle and wrote down its plus and minus points to see what I could do about it. Here is the list.



Easy to made and handle

The soap that is hanging gets wet at times

Cost effective (Rs..3-4/piece)

Easier to use if two people help each other out

Recycled materials

Doesn't have a cover , so cant be kept inside bags

Portable/Carry able

Exposed soap rubs against the bags and clothes

Easily replaceable parts

This is how the bottles I made with the kids looked

Here is a sketch I made to solve the problem of the soap being exposed. It is easy to make and cheap too. The soap can be stored in this pouch and if not soap strips, even a small sample piece of soap can be cut up and kept inside. It can even be attached to the cap using a piece of thread.

Get some cycle tube rubber and wash them up

Cut up a small 'H' shaped piece for the pouch

Stitch another small flap of rubber onto the top (to store the soap so that it doesn't get wet or touch the clothes and the bag it is stored in). Since it is rubber, it doesn't matter if the pouch itself gets wet while the children wash their hands.

Attach this pouch to the bottle using some glue or pins or just tie it to the back

It would be ideal to use a bottle that looks like this. With an open-able cap, so that the water doesn't drip on the way and in their bags. I am trying to find one so that I can make a workable neat prototype with that.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Visiting a scientist

I am waiting to get access to some fluoride testing kits so that I can visit C.K Pura again. I have been trying to find the chemicals needed for that, but in vain. Am still contacting people who might have them. I think I might just have found one!

Meanwhile, Mr.Vishwanath calmed me down by suggesting that I visit Professor Kesava Rao at IISc. He teaches in the Chemical Engineering department and works with treatment of drinking water, focusing on de-fluoridation. He was very kind and agreed to meet me right away. I spoke to him about what I was doing and asked him a few questions on effects of fluoride, de-fluoridation techniques and kits and he gave me a tour of his lab to look at projects that his students and himself have been working on.

Professor Kesava Rao

The first one was an M.E students thesis where he has built a device using a simple lunch box and a photo diode. A set of reagents are used to calibrate the resistance it offers which is then plotted on a graph to find out how much fluoride the sample contains. It is work in progress but it works! Something like this is easy to build as well as cost effective. Each box costs about Rs.250 (of course the chemicals and the gadgets apart) but would still work out lesser than testing the sample in a lab where they charge 1500-2000 rupees is what I was told. Here is a video of the professor explaining it to me.

Solar Still
This is another neat device that I was shown. It is a low-tech way of distilling water, powered by the heat of the sun. In a solar still, impure water is contained outside the collector, where it is evaporated by sunlight shining through the glass. The pure water vapor (and any other included volatile solvent) condenses on the cool inside surface and drips down off of the weighted low point, where it is collected in a bottle and removed. It distils and most impurities, I was told, including arsenic and fluorine. Volatile impurities also escape while it is heated up by the sun. It costs around Rs.850 to make a 0.5 sq ft/mt solar still. It has its advantages and disadvantages of course. The sun needs to be bright and out for this to work. It could also, at times be used to harvest rainwater and thus could even be a good idea to have in these villages since it requires low maintenance and cost. Here is a short clip of the one set up in the department terrace. They are soon going to take it to a fluoride affected area to test it and get some field data.

The last method was using activated Alumina (Aluminium Oxide)

The water is passed through a tube filled with activated alumina which absorbs the fluoride in the water to give out pure water. This powder though, gets saturated after a while and needs to be desaturated with some chemicals (which in turn become highly acidic). Thus it requires quite a bit of monitoring and maintenance once in a while. They are trying to reduce the costs so that this can be implemented. The water is stored in a plastic drum as seen in the first image and flows through the pipe, through the activated alumina (the powder in the second image) and comes out through the nozzle.

Sorry for the bad image quality! I wasn't aware that one could take videos inside the lab! Next time I'll make sure I take a better camera, these were shot on my cell phone.

This is a small part of a chart they have put up outside their lab on fluoride and flurosis and various methods of distillation that they are working on.

Design in Education

Akshataa, Priyanka and I gave a presentation to the 2nd, 3rd and 4th years students who have taken up a course on design for education to send their entries in for the Index Design Challenge this year. We spoke about Design in Education, Alternative Learning Methods, and our respective diploma projects in the realm of Design and Learning. Here is the presentation.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Health impacts

Here is a table I found in the CSE site


Physico-chemicals parameters and their significance

ParametersHealth Hazards
ColorThe presence of inorganic and organic impurities imparts colour to the water, decreasing consumer acceptance. Sometimes, the impurities may be toxic.
pHA measure of relative acidity of the water. It is useful in assessing the corrosivity of water to plumbing.
AlkalinityThe amount of bicarbonate, the major anion in water, is related to pH and causes corrosion.
AcidityNot a pollutant, in water it neutralises hydroxyl ions
TurbidityA measure of clarity of water. If turbidity is high, there may be chances of water born diseases
Solids (dissolved, suspended, total)These provide a measure of the suspended solids that can be separated with a filter and the dissolved salts that are present in water.
ConductivityA measure of total dissolved minerals in water. A change in conductivity or unusual ratio of conductivity to hardness may signal presence of contaminants
HardnessA measure of the amount of calcium and magnesium. Hardness is a measure of the capacity of water to precipitate soap. This is particularly important if water softening is considered
Dissolved OxygenThis is a measure of dissolved oxygen in water. Decreased levels of dissolved oxygen in water affect the waterbodies
Chemical Oxygen DemandIndicates the amount of O2(MAKE LOWERCASE) required to oxidise the carbonaceous matter. COD taste is widely employed as a means to measure the pollutional strength of domestic and industrial waste
Oil and Grease
BromideChlorination of water that contains bromide ion may produce bromate ion as an undesirable disinfection by-product. Bromate ion is a carcinogen and nephrotoxin
ChlorideAn indicator ion that if found in elevated concentration, points to potential contamination from septic systems, fertilizer, landfills, or road salt
FluorideExcessive levels of fluoride causes fluorosis, a mottling of the surface of the teeth
NitrateNitrate in drinking water can cause blue baby syndrome in infants under six months old. Blue baby syndrome, or methemoglobinemia, are common symptoms of nitrate contamination. Nitrate contamination in drinking water may also increase cancer risk, because nitrate is endogenously reduced to nitrite and subsequent nitrosation reaction give rise to N- nitroso compounds; these compounds are highly carcinogenic and can act systematically
NitriteThese serve as an indicator of the potential presence of other contaminants, such as pesticides or trace organic chemicals from septic system effluents
PhosphateExcessive consumption of phosphorus may lead to osteoporosis and poor bone maintenance
SulfateIngestion of water containing high levels of sulfate may be associated with Diarrhoea, and other gastrointestinal disorders. Of particular concern are groups in the general population (i.e. infants and transients) that may be at greater risk from the laxative effects of sulfate when they switch abruptly to drinking water with high sulfate concentrations
CalciumWater with high calcium content is undesirable for various household uses such as washing, bathing and laundering, because of consumption of more soap and other cleaning agents
MagnesiumMg has diuretic, cathartic and laxative effects if it is present in high concentrations

Water warrior!

Mr.Vishwanath writes a column in the Hindu and has written about my project in his last week's piece! Here is the entire article. It is great to see so many people working in this zone and I hope I am able to contribute something worthwhile to this.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Zoom out, Zoom in

As my review panel had advised, I decided to take a step back and see what the 'larger than life' picture is. Systems thinking and design is something Rustam had also told me to look at. Wikipedia defines systems thinking as the process of understanding how things influence one another within a whole. In nature, systems thinking examples include ecosystems in which various elements such as air, water, movement, plants, and animals work together to survive or perish. In organizations, systems consist of people, structures, and processes that work together to make an organization healthy or unhealthy.

Systems thinking has been defined as an approach to problem solving, by viewing "problems" as parts of an overall system, rather than reacting to specific part, outcomes or events and potentially contributing to further development of unintended consequences. Systems thinking is not one thing but a set of habits or practices within a framework that is based on the belief that the component parts of a system can best be understood in the context of relationships with each other and with other systems, rather than in isolation. Systems thinking focuses on cyclical rather than linear cause and effect.

Here are some examples of different kinds of system maps.

So, I need to understand the whole system before I can do anything to it.

I read up on this and tried to draw an information flow diagram. An information flow is an illustration of information flow throughout an organisation or system. An IFD shows the relationship between external and internal information flows. It also shows the relationship between the internal and sub-systems. I tried putting in all the factors within this scenario that influence each other. My panel had told me, "If you had all the time, money and resources, what would you do with this project? What are all the possibilities? Put them all down." So, I tried doing just that. Once I did that, I don't know how much clearer it was in my head because it looked like this!

One thing that I could do though, is zoom in. From all these possibilities, I knew what I wanted to work on exactly. This zone was what I wanted to handle. Of course, all of them are linked to each other, as seen in the map.While zooming in, I was told to look at where in this system can I leverage the right amount of time, effort and energy so that it produces a positive feedback loop. Sometimes, even though the intent it right, what we do might produce negative feedback loops, which is just making an already complex system worse. So, I have to step back from time to time and see if I am creating positive feedback loops.

From the zone (green outline) I wanted to work in, the key bubble words were Children, Fluoride, (Rain) Water, Awareness and Behavioural change. So, the next task to accomplish all this through fun methods. Something the children feel for, can relate to and feel like they are a part of. If this happens, then behaviour change will automatically follow. This is probably a better way to go about it (through nudges) than buggering 'change what you do!' in their faces. That on the other hand is probably not going to produce any positive results.

Yes, I am made this on Illustrator so that it is more understandable for everyone :) Here it is

Concept Map

From this, the area I want to concentrate on is

Zoomed in

So, I have make/facilitate or design something that involves children and makes them aware of the seriousness of fluoride in water and how rain water is a possible solution. Doing this in an interactive and fun way might lead to behavioural change. The next chart shows a few ideas on how I could possibly do this.

What can be done?