intermediate numeracy project: water crisis in Canada

Posted on: November 29th, 2019 by jnovakowski No Comments

I visited the grades 5&6&7 class at Quilchena for the second time on October 30. Inspired by the students’ interest in youth agents of change around climate change and by a mathematical modelling task created by Dr. Julia Aguirre about the Flint Water Crisis in the USA, we invited the students to think about the water crisis on many of our First Nations reserves in Canada.

We began by showing the students a video of water projector and advocate Autumn Peltier speaking to the United Nations 2019 Local Landscapes Forum about the water crisis in her community.

The video can be viewed HERE.

The students took notes, made connections, and recorded their wonders while they were viewing/listening to the video.

We shared three infographics about water issues in Canada and asked students to discuss the following questions:

We also asked students to consider the sources of the information in the infographics as we nurture the development of critical consumers of information.

More information and the infographics can be found HERE and HERE and HERE.

Much of the information was new to students and lots of questions came up. We discussed different types of water advisories and possible reasons why this was happening.

Students were then presented with a numeracy task. They were asked to consider how much water was needed for children for a year in a First Nations community. The purpose of the task was for students to consider the amount of water we use, issues around access to safe water and to think about an action plan for their “agents of change” thinking about how this problem could be resolved.

In hindsight, we made some assumptions that students would be able to think about all the types of information they would need to respond to this task, and know how to access this information using online sources. This was not the case, and a lot of support was needed to help students consider where they could find the information they needed. We talked about validity of sources, such as using Statistics Canada data rather than someone’s opinion on a blog post. The teachers and I realized that the students needed some mini-lessons on how to use Google as a search engine. I think we made assumptions about the students that they knew how to use technology, and they are savvy with many aspects of tech, but their fluency with accessing information was something we needed to develop. When we were able to find information, many students needed support in how to read the data tables. It became clear as we began the numeracy task, that this was much more complex of a task for the students than we had anticipated but we all persevered and made meaning at various levels and stages. For some students, support was needed with the mathematics and calculations involved.

Over the two hours we had together, students thought through various stages of the task. Some students got to the point of considering recommendations for how to reconcile the water crisis in some of our communities but not formalizing their action plans. Some students wondering what was happening to solve this issue.

We briefly looked at the Canadian government’s current plan. More information can be found HERE. This will be an ongoing conversation as we think about different ways that students can see themselves and act as agents of change.

~Janice

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