During 2020 – a year in which hygiene has become a central theme in our lives – the Vivalys School has given priority to the theme of water for 5th grade students aged 8 to 9. The philosophy of this very special school challenges traditional school curricula by introducing real challenges into the educational path of its students. Result: it gives kids both the pleasure of learning and the foretaste of the challenges to come.
According to this advanced pedagogy, operative and iterative approaches are combined, meaning the knowledge acquired in the classroom is directly validated in real life – through real case studies, experimentation, and meetings with professionals. Then, these practical experiences are brought back to class to analyze them together and share, and to draw lessons that will remain engraved throughout life.
This was also the case of the “Water Challenge” week that took place in January 2020 under the lead of their teacher, Pascal Lopez. The challenge summarized the learnings around the theme of water. Among the ten challenges, Race for Water or managing your own wastewater station as well as the challenge of launching a startup on a mission to make water matter to people with Ramzi Bouzerda, CEO of Droople. In this workshop, children explored our mission and our technology, then discovered some issues related to water in Switzerland. Following this action, the Smart Sanitation solution from Droople was installed at the school, which not only made it possible to establish best hygiene practices among the students, but also to include the analysis of their behavior as a daily approach to the use of water.
Starting from their experience of discovering water infrastructure, the children reflected on the environmental challenges linked to water: the pollution generated by the globalized industry and the greenhouse effect caused by CO2 emissions. Through discussing the impacts of these changes, such as melting of glaciers and the reduction of the freshwater supply on Earth, solutions are coming together: encouraging organic gardening initiatives, increasing the share of renewable energies, and making energy storage technologies even more efficient…. One of the children concluded: “For sure, I prefer to give up modern gadgets so that I can live in good health and have access to clean water at all times.”
Education has a role to play to help to raise the awareness that water is the origin of all life, including our own. Even though some complex environmental issues can be difficult for kids to grasp, the school’s responsibility is to raise the right questions at a young age, whilst the young generation will gradually take the responsibility to find the right answers.
Interview with Olivier Delamadeleine, Managing Director at Educalis Group, and Pascal Lopez, Teacher at the Vivalys School, Ecublens, Switzerland
Droople Platform as an Educational Tool
Olivier Delamadeleine – The collaboration with Droople has already brought many results, in the short term as well as in the longer term. The first direct benefit is the notable improvement in hand hygiene, as the initial goal of the collaboration was the prevention of COVID spread. However, the installation has proven to be useful in the long term: since installing the Droople sensors, we have seen a drastic drop in all cases of childhood illnesses commonly encountered in school settings.
The ecological and educational aspect of this tool is just as important. It helps prepare children for the world of tomorrow, where water will be of central importance. The fact of immediately seeing the result of your action on a display gives meaning to the adoption of good practices. In addition, the data collected by the platform is then used in the learning of other school topics. For instance, in mathematics, children use a variety of Droople data to draw statistics, construct graphs, or compare water consumption levels from different time periods.
By giving meaning to our water usage patterns, the Droople solution creates a direct link between our daily actions and the continuous visualization of their consequences. This approach is an integral part of our pedagogical philosophy: theoretical notions related to water are directly validated in practice and vice versa, lived experiences are analyzed and put in relation, which helps students to acquire new transversal skills.
Good practices for life
Olivier Delamadeleine – Giving children good reflexes for life from an early age is part of the role of school. The Droople application makes it possible to make children aware of their behavior and of the importance of acting in the right direction: by measuring the time to wash hands and the energy used to that effect, Droople makes it possible to reduce our consumption of water in direct relation to our vital needs. By using Droople tools daily, children naturally learn that water is not available endlessly, as it seems to them when it is always flowing from the tap. They understand in practice the need to take care of it and use it in reasonable amounts and in the right way. In their daily school routine, they get into the habit of valuing this precious resource and using it as best they can.
Preparing the new generation to solve the global water challenge
Olivier Delamadeleine – We notice that today’s youngsters are much more attentive to the issues that await them in the future compared to the previous generations, because they were born with these challenges. They fully realize that they will have to deal with various interdependent issues such as fossil fuels, the global water crisis, waste management and other areas that affect our environment. The role of the school here is to give them the right tools. Through knowledge, awareness, and intellectual agility, we prepare them to tackle problems as “challenges” and form the ranks ready to find solutions to the global water problem.
Children Facing Water Challenges: the Future Begins Today
Pascal Lopez – In the school curriculum, water is widely discussed in Geography classes – through the study of lakes, oceans, rivers, the water cycle and much more. Next to this essential knowledge, the aspect of citizenship may be even more important – considering all issues related to water as interconnected.
One of the challenges the children faced in the last year was, for example, to discover how water systems are managed in practice. Here, the task of a team from my class, aged 10, was to investigate where the drinking water comes from and where the wastewater goes. Through personal research, on-site visits, various phone calls and meetings with water professionals from the municipality of Ecublens and scientists from the Swiss Federal School of Technology Lausanne, students discovered the many processes and professions involved in the water ecosystem. They also had a grasp of its complexity as well as the high costs of maintaining water infrastructure.
This experience allowed kids to actually bridge the gap between issues that transcend their understanding and in contrast, those that affect them every day. Indeed, they realize that water is omnipresent in our life: at school, at home, at work: it ultimately concerns everyone.
Water and hygiene: education put into action
Pascal Lopez – The use of the Droople platform has raised students’ awareness of water use and its relation to hand hygiene. Indeed, children now wash their hands a lot more and they do it well – the proof is that the Droople results are very good: the charts read 10 out of 10 almost every day. Children are also aware of their water and energy consumption: the display of CO2 emissions helps them to understand the connection between the generation of hot water and the need for fossil fuels. The Droople platform helps us educate young people that the waste that happens when someone uses too much water or forgets to turn off the tap, is not a correct gesture in relation to the global water shortage which risks to arrive.
Droople technology for digital natives
Pascal Lopez – Faced with new technologies, today’s children are extremely receptive and easily integrate new tools. Installed in the 2020 health context, the Droople tools were quickly adopted as a benchmark for saving water, but also to bring their attention to the CO2 emissions generated by daily hot water use, and of course, to the hand hygiene. Which also means the adequate hand washing time – rather high in the actual pandemic context. The Droople results are thus integrated into the daily routine: students analyze them every day and compare them to the results of the day before. This database is then exploited in mathematical activities, through the creation of graphs, diagrams, calculations of mean, percentage and so on.
Switzerland in the context of global climate change
Pascal Lopez – In the context of global climate change, the role of schools is also to go beyond curricula to achieve environmental and civic education that makes young people aware of their responsibilities. In some countries like Switzerland, where water is still plentiful, not every adult gives it a second thought when turning on the tap, let alone the kids. How many people have paid a visit to a wastewater treatment plant? How many of us know how the wastewater that goes into the pipes is treated? The youngsters that took up our Water Challenge learned a lot about the many processes and human efforts it always takes to be able to drink clean tap water. We believe that when stepping in adult life, these kids will be able to find the answers to the world water crisis.