The project “Play with Water” is creating hands-on learning experiences for children of European schools, which includes of course the European scientists of the future. There is then no better topic than that of growing concern not only for Europe, but worldwide: the sustainable management of water.
The teenage students of Syddjurs Friskole School, near Aarhus, in Denmark, embark upon an ecology field trip to learn about wastewater and its treatment. Their journey leads them 8 km from the school to Friland, a community where every household treats their own wastewater.
The project coordinator in Denmark, a Spanish research assistant at the University of Aarhus, Carlos A. Arias, is present to explain to the students the different classes of wastewater and how they must all be treated. The practical lessons attempt to raise the awareness of the children to the dangers of re-introducing untreated wastewater into the environment and the importance of water treatment for the preservation of the nature resource.
Students are taught methods for proper management of water. For example, not using fresh, clean water for the irrigation of plants and vegetables, but using wastewater for such matters, assuming that it has been treated to remove dangerous bacteria.
One treatment method at Friland is done with the help of willows, where the roots of the willows can work to filter many polluting particles. The students measure and compare the underground wastewater level and its effect on the growth of the willows. The wastewater that is already partially treated can be brought into a pond, where plants, natural sediments and rain water continue the cleaning process. Here the students measure the water's PH level and, using colour matchers, the amounts of nitrates, phosphates and ammonia. Water samples are taken and used back in the classroom for simple chemistry experiments.
At a school in Alandsbro, about 500 km north of Stockholm, Sweden, 7-year-olds are taught by the older pupils about the scarceness of the Earth's fresh water and that the polluted water must be cleaned before good quality drinking water is so readily available.
The 7-year-olds also run their own recycling model involving dirty water from an aquarium which is pumped into a small vegetable garden. After the water has been cleaned through the natural chemical processes in the plants and soil, it is returned into the aquarium. The children have learnt, very early in their education, the environmental benefits of wastewater treatment as well as receiving their first practice in scientific method through experiments with their recycling model. The children have even shown further curiosity into the cycle of water usage.
This project intends to establish a social focus on nature from an early age on and consolidate an environmental consciousness. Furthermore, the project will bring back an academic focus on natural sciences to rival the more recent trends towards areas like the arts and journalism. Promotion of scientific curiosity today will ensure a stronger scientific community tomorrow.