Renfroe 6th Graders’ Hands On Experience with the Global Water Crisis

A great story and wonderful photos courtesy of Cheryl Nahmias, CSD’s International Baccalaureate Coordinator…

On September 8 and 9, Renfroe sixth graders participated in our fourth annual Aqua Vita (“water for life”) interdisciplinary unit in which they studied the global water crisis in countries like Ethiopia, Peru, United States, Australia, Germany and Haiti. The unit included an empathy walk to Oakhurst Community Garden where students carried gallons of water in solidarity with world citizens–especially women and children–who walk to gather their water daily. The culminating event for the two-day unit was a design and engineering challenge where country teams collaborated to build water transport systems that could move five gallons of water (enough to keep a citizen of their country minimally hydrated and clean for a day) over and expanse of twenty-five feet. Depending on their country’s wealth and geography, students had to contend with variable resources and terrain to meet the challenge. Their human ingenuity and collaboration skills were put to the test, and all teams rose to the challenge with enthusiasm and left with a heightened awareness and understanding of one of the greatest crises facing global citizens in the 21st Century.

Also, don’t miss this excellent – and cleverly written! – report from the scene by students Mai Allison and Cassidy Attick.  More photos after the jump!

The last part of Aqua Vita, the design segment, was a very challenging one, but also one with many benefits and fun parts to it.

In the beginning, each country was given a budget; and two shoppers from each country went to retrieve the necessary items from the store. I observed the shoppers from afar, and I’m glad I did. It was a hectic experience where the rules were first come, first served. “Shopping was stressful,” said Aireana, a shopper from gold team’s Ethiopia.

As soon as the shoppers got back, the teams started to build. Their goal was to build a structure that could transport five gallons of water twenty-five feet so a citizen of their country could live for one day. Mountains and other terrain was used to some countries’ advantage. Some countries had terrain that was flat, so they couldn’t build off of another surface. To better support the structures, most students covered their chairs in an endless amount of duct tape.

Haiti, with the least amount of money and very tall mountains had high enthusiasm about the success of their structures. Molly said, “Haiti may have the least amount of money, but our enthusiasm level is high.” It seemed that enthusiasm was one of the most helpful things a team had.

The teams ran into some structural problems when supplies didn’t work as well as expected. Grace from blue team USA said, “Our bamboo isn’t working as well as we hoped.” Occasionally, countries would loan money or supplies to other teams. Most commonly loaned were money, and duct tape. Countries also sold or traded their unneeded supplies. All of the ideas were really creative and good; but some didn’t succeed.

When time was called, it was almost impossible to resist supporting the falling structures. A few structures fell, but most of them stayed standing.

Enthusiasm during the difficult task was a main part of the success of these countries. Most people had high hopes that their structure would stay standing and transport the water. The ideas didn’t always work, but we learned some great teamwork skills. In conclusion, teamwork, cooperation and optimism are key to success, along with duct tape.

Collaboration and Teamwork Keys to success
Empathy walk carrying one gallon each
Empathy Walk
Team Australia working to build a water transport system
Engineering a water transport structure
Proud Ethiopian Team Successfully Moves 5 Gallons of Water
Five gallons of water is heavy



Cheryl Kopec Nahmias

9 thoughts on “Renfroe 6th Graders’ Hands On Experience with the Global Water Crisis”

  1. Fantastic to see so many levels of learning going on in in this activity. Nice job kids. Thumbs up to the teachers!

  2. I’m a proud papa of one of the report writers featured in the thread above, so perhaps I am biased in proclaiming this the greatest DM post ever : )
    Thanks for supporting the kids and the schools, DM.
    Great work as always.
    Our schools are something to feel good about!

  3. Great photos 🙂

    Glad to hear Aqua Vita is still going strong. It is one of those events that the students remember fondly for years to come. It crosses all core subjects and classes. And is another fine example of our fantastic teachers and schools.

  4. Great activity, and I know from having children come thru RMS, the pre-teaching that our teachers do to prepare for this. It is a truly great activity. One of many. My children loved the activities they experienced in 7th grade with Mr. Calhoun and Ms Brooks. They loved the Georgia State Neuro-science activities. Especially the dissecting a sheep’s Brain! They also loved the zoo trip that culminated with the GA State crew setting up stations for the kids that focused on brain functions. These events were thanks to Ga State’s Laura Caruth, and her collab with Ms. Brooks. They also loved Ms. Daniel’s class and talked about “The Giver” at the dinner table each evening. I know I have failed to mention some great activities and learning opportunities my children had along the way. I also know I am “guilty” of joining posts when I feel a need to critique our schools and wanted to take the time to praise all the wonderful teachers and learning experiences my children had at Renfroe. I know our teachers are busy and don’t have time to post on Decatur Metro, but it would be great if we had posts that highlight the many activities at RMS.

  5. I love this post! We need to remember to submit the wonderful things are students are doing more often. Thanks, Cheryl!

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