Project WET staff are accustomed to traveling the globe to train educators to teach about water. It's more rare that the world comes to Bozeman, home of the Project WET Foundation's headquarters. International teachers from 11 different countries recently participated in a Project WET workshop as part of the six-week-long Teaching Excellence and Achievement Program sponsored by the U.S. State Department and IREX and hosted by World Montana and Montana State University. Project WET summer intern Rosalyn Kutsch—who was herself a State Department exchange participant to Mongolia—took part as a trainer and also wrote an article about the experience for the Bozeman High School Hawk Tawk student newspaper. This success story is based on Rosalyn's article, which appeared in the November 1st edition of Hawk Tawk:
Bozeman High School students may have noticed some foreign teachers around campus recently, but they probably didn't realize that the school was serving as the site of an important international educational exchange that brought 19 teachers from 11 different countries to Bozeman. For one week of their six-week-long stay, they were paired with local teachers to learn new educational methods to bring back to their home countries. Part of that experience included a teaching workshop hosted by Project WET. I assisted in running the workshop and spoke with many of the guest teachers about water education and technology in their countries.
The interaction between Project WET and the international teachers was an ideal way to exemplify the importance of education in shaping behavioral changes. Many countries around the world struggle with ensuring clean drinking water and appreciate the vital linkage between water and the health of a community. To address that, the international teachers learned several games and activities to teach their own students about water quality and water and health.
One of the activities emphasized the importance of handwashing to halt the spread of germs. Another interactive game used beads to demonstrate the water cycle. (Many of the teachers said they couldn't wait to try that one with their students!) Maria Yanett, an English teacher from Nicaragua, said she plans to use the educational materials to help improve awareness about safe drinking water in her community, where many rivers are polluted by nearby coffee plantations. Project WET's practical, interactive activities are easily adapted to nearly every culture and play an important part in educating children about the importance of water.
Yanett works in a school with 2,500 students that, until recently, lacked access to the Internet, computers and technology capable of projecting lessons on the board. She sought out an NGO in her area and worked with them to find a grant for technology within her school. Now classes share a single computer lab and projector, which she said is better than nothing, she said. In fact, Yanett estimated that only 10 schools in Nicaragua have access to advanced technology. So far her favorite experience has been learning about online tools like Prezi and Animoto to bring back to her classroom and inspire her students into using technology to enhance learning.
As we discussed Bozeman High School, cultural differences and water education, it was clear that every teacher had a passion for teaching. Despite the cultural barriers present, these teachers were motivated to find new methods of education and provide their students with the best resources possible.