#everybodypoops: Exploring Affordable Sanitation in Developing Countries

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The most effective use of Project Based Learning that I have ever been a part of occurred in my Biology II, The Great Diseases course where the students were studying inadequate access to sanitation around the world. The students were asked to acknowledge World Toilet Day put forth by the World Health Organization in February of last year. The purpose of this day is to bring awareness to the 2.6 billion people around the world who do not have access to adequate sanitation methods. The students were asked to observe this day by only using one toilet facility on campus, and this facility happened to be a 5 – 7 minute walk from the majority of their classrooms. The other stipulation was that the timing of the use of this facility could not be disruptive to any of their classes or their teachers. They needed to plan out when they would be able to go to the bathroom so that it was convenient for them without being obtrusive. The students commented that they originally thought that the day was going to be amusing or even fun, until it became a nuisance. This simple activity allowed the students to develop empathy for the many people in the developing world that also have to plan out the proper time to find and use the bathroom facilities so that it is convenient and more importantly, safe, for them.

In reflection of the toilet awareness activity in the following class, a discussion ensued about the injustice of the inadequate sanitation issues around the world and the students indicated at that time that they wanted to learn more about this issue. It was at this point that I could see the beginnings of a project that I had not planned. I asked the students to do some preliminary and independent research on areas around the world that suffered most significantly from inadequate access to sanitation and to be prepared to report out on that research in the following class period. The students discussed their findings and decided that they were most interested in learning more about inadequate access to sanitation of the squatting communities in urban India. The students were moved by a recent reporting of two young girls in Uttar Pradesh, India who had gone into a field at night to relieve themselves and were followed by two men who proceeded to rape and murder these young girls. It was a devastating and tragic story and the students were outraged and decided that they wanted to help.

In my own preliminary research about toilets in developing nations, I came across a TedTalk, Innovation to Sanitation Through Empathic Design, by Jasmine Burton. Burton, a recent graduate of the University of Georgia, majored in Empathic Design. I felt that Jasmine would be an interesting connection for my students because of her geographic location and her age. So, I found her email address on her web page and reached out to Ms. Burton to see if she would be willing to respond with some information about her toilet design and the implementation of her design in Africa. Ms. Burton replied that she would be very excited to speak to my students and asked to Skype with them if possible.

wishforwashskype

The Skype session took place the following week with Ms. Burton, who, unbeknownst to us, was currently living in Zambia and working on the implementation of her own empathically designed toilet into rural villages there. Prior to the Skype session, the students read about Ms. Burton, her business Wish For Wash, and her toilet design. The session lasted approximately 50 minutes with the students leading the discussion through their questions.

After the Skype session with Ms. Burton, the students told me that they were very interested in moving forward with their research and wanted to design a toilet for the squatting communities in India. The students used the next few weeks to research existing designs, created their own toilet designs, and then made prototypes of their design in the Maker Space of their school out of cardboard and plastic materials. Ms. Burton had asked to Skype with the students again after they created their prototypes so that she could offer suggestions for modifications that would help make the design of their toilets more functional.

During the second Skype session, Ms. Burton told the students that she thought that their designs were creative but that they would not know if they were feasible until they created them out of corrugated cardboard (which many life-size prototypes are made from, apparently) and made the toilets true to size. At this point, I just looked up Corrugated Cardboard in Richmond, VA and reached out to a local corrugated cardboard company, Richmond Corrugated Box, that agreed to allow my students and me to come to the factory for a tour. While there, the students were able to work with Richmond Corrugated Box’s Graphic Designer to import their prototype designs onto the software and print them on corrugated cardboard.

The experience was beneficial to students as they were able to see their designs in real time, make modifications in the moment, and then have them printed so that they designs were an adequate representation of what they wanted for their field toilets.

The final aspect of this project was a Skype session with Ms. Burton to show her the student designs and discuss the pros and cons of each design. Ms. Burton suggested reaching out to various NGOs to discuss the possibility of adopting the toilet design to have them mass-produced and shipped to India. The students were not ready for this step however because there were many unanswered questions that needed to be addressed before the designs felt sufficient and useful enough for the students to move forward with production.

This project was extremely in-depth and the students were exposed to multiple facets of learning that they would not have if they did not take on this project. They were tasked with designing a toilet that would be light enough to move, sturdy enough to withstand multiple uses, to weigh the pros and cons of a sitting vs. squatting toilet, the financial burden of mass-producing a product such as this, the logistics of finding a way to deliver the design to India, the environmental impacts of the dumping of these toilets which would inevitably happen on the streets and in the drainage run-off areas. The list is endless and though this project took longer than expected, the depth and breadth of learning was also more comprehensive than expected which lead to a feeling of successful learning of the students and myself. A number of the students went on to write their college entrance essays about this project, entitled #everybodypoops (which you can follow on Twitter).

Project-based learning is a tool used to develop 21st-century skills and to put content knowledge into practice in an authentic way. PBL is not a new tool but it is the only tool that this career educator has found that can accomplish these goals of skill development, content knowledge enhancement, and problem-solving prowess.

Feed My Starving Children PBL

Last year, I implemented this project-based learning activity, Feed My Starving Children, to accompany my macromolecules unit in 10th-grade biology. Macromolecules can be tedious as they are a bit abstract in nature and the students struggle to find the authentic purpose for studying these, to begin with. As educators, especially science educators, we understand that fundamentally if the students don’t understand what macromolecules are, how they bond, and what functional groups are associated with each, you can’t really comprehensively move forward with cells or cell organelles. So, to make this unit more relevant and applicable to something the students care about, I have created this project-based learning activity to enhance their learning.

Feed My Starving Children is my brain child that pulls in those 21st Century skills that we desperately want for our students to develop. This project requires creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication. This project also enhances the idea of empathic design and responsible global citizenship that I need for my students to walk away with after spending the year in my classroom.

Below I am including a description of the project as well as links to all my materials in the form of Google Docs. If you have any questions about this project or want to try it, please reach out to me as I am happy to help! Good luck!

The outline of the PBL is as follows: (and can be found here)

Project-Based Learning Title: Feed My Starving Children

Grade: 10th

Project idea: The World Food Program is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. On average, WFP aims to bring food assistance to more than 80 million people in 75 countries. Malnutrition affects millions of people around the world. A third of all deaths in children under the age of 5 in developing countries are linked to undernutrition. WFP’s role in fighting malnutrition is not only to treat it but also to prevent it becoming severe in the first place.

The World Food Program is employing you to design a new nutrient-rich recipe that will be used to feed millions of people worldwide. The price of food and fuel has increased exponentially and the World Heath Organization has had to cut your budget by 18%, which means that you have a total of $1.25 per meal per child. Ideally, you will be able to feed each child 3 times per day. A typical serving portion is 1 cup of prepared food.


DQ:
 How can we feed a child all the recommended macro and micronutrients on $3.75 per day?

Content:
macromolecules (biology), micronutrient recommendations (biology), food insecurity (global perspective), developing nations (geography),
Major Products:

  1. Detailed recipe of ingredients and preparation of foods
  2. The food item you prepared from your recipe
  3. Your written proposal should include: receipts, recipe, and nutritional information about your product, why your product should be selected by the WFP
  4. Nutrition lesson meant for the first-grade level to explain what carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids are, where they can be found, and a learning activity for the first graders
  5. Reflection on the project: what did you learn? What did you like/not like? What could I (Mrs. Cooke) do differently next time with this project?

Public Audience: Andy – master chef, Feed More organization, Stop Hunger Now representative, admin/faculty, Collegiate first grade classes, etc…

What I give to the students looks like this (and can be found here):

WFP.jpg

The World Food Program is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. On average, WFP aims to bring food assistance to more than 80 million people in 75 countries. Malnutrition affects millions of people around the world. A third of all deaths in children under the age of 5 in developing countries are linked to undernutrition. WFP’s role in fighting malnutrition is not only to treat it but also to prevent it becoming severe in the first place.

The World Food Program is employing you to design a new nutrient-rich recipe that will be used to feed millions of people worldwide. The price of food and fuel has increased exponentially and the World Heath Organization has had to cut your budget by 18%, which means that you have a total of $1.25 per meal per child. Ideally, you will be able to feed each child 3 times per day. A typical serving portion is 1 cup of prepared food.

DQ: Is it possible to feed a child all the recommended macro and micronutrients on $3.75 per day?

Here is what you need to focus on:

  1. The recipe must include all daily nutritional dietary needs (both macro and micro nutrients)
  2. The product needs to be as dry as possible to limit microbial growth. Workers/recipients in the field can add milk or water to make a paste.
  3. Food base should be easily grown with limited amounts of processing.
  4. This food needs to taste good, period.

 

You will need to make this food for the class and we will have a taste test at the end of the project. Please submit your receipts so that we know what the actual cost of your product encompasses.

End Products of this Project:

  1. Detailed recipe of ingredients and preparation of foods
  2. The food item you prepared from your recipe
  3. Your written proposal should include: receipts, recipe, and nutritional information about your product, why your product should be selected by the WFP
  4. Nutrition lesson meant for the first-grade level to explain what carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids are, where they can be found, and a learning activity for the first graders
  5. Reflection on the project: what did you learn? What did you like/not like? What could I (Mrs. Cooke) do differently next time with this project?

Assessing Student Work

Assessing student work with project-based learning is difficult. If they are invested, interested, and working hard, shouldn’t they all get an ‘A’? Not necessarily. I am still developing my understanding of appropriate assessments for project-based learning and a tie-in with core content. For this unit, the students have a traditional content-based assessment AND they are comprehensively graded on all aspects of the design and presentation of this project. I am including the rubrics and grading tools that I use with this project. If you modify or can think of a different and more effective means of assessment, please let me know.

Feed My Starving Children Rubric

Taste Tester Opinion Ranking Chart

Team Grading Form

Other Supplementals

Here are some additional documents that I use to enhance the understanding as the students work through this process.

Detailed Budget on Excel

Background Nutritional Research

World Food Program Product Guide

World Food Program Specialized Nutrition Sheet

Article on Food Security in Malawi

Here are some pictures of my students and their work

Globalizing Your Curriculum: Promoting Global Citizenship by Bringing the World into Our Classrooms

Global education allows you to view the world from different lenses; to develop a sense of empathy that is essential as part of the human spirit. The question is, how do we do that? Where do we start? This presentation will give tips on how to incorporate global issues into curriculums with specific examples that have worked in a science classroom. From weekly hot topics to in-depth project-based learning initiatives, globalizing your curriculum exposes your students to life outside the walls of their school and helps to foster curiosity of other cultures and countries. It’s important for our students to develop the perception that there is unity within diversity and give them a sense of belonging to a larger world community.

The powerpoint that accompanied this presentation is here. Please feel free to follow up with me regarding questions about the content found within. I am happy to help!

 

Empathy and Understanding

My students have been working through their latest #pbl in my honors Biology classes. We have been focusing on Mendelian and Non-Mendelian Genetics in class while they have independently been working on their human genetics disorder #pbl outside of class.

The project started with my students doing basic genetic disorder research on the most common human genetic disorders that genetic counselors will see. They were to pick 21 disorders to do very basic, introductory research on so that they could identify possible areas of interest for their PBL activity. From this research, they were asked to identify a disorder that they wanted to learn about in depth. Each student then worked independently to learn about their disorder and plan a presentation for their peers about this disorder. I gave them a detailed rubric of required content that I wanted them to research so that I knew they were going deeply enough into their research, but the way in which they presented to their peers was up to them. While most students will use powerpoint as their medium, I have had students use Prezi, create a digital storyboard, make a brochure, create a video with voiceover, etc…they never run out of creative ways to present information.

The #pbl aspect of this project came into play when I let the students know that they are going to function as genetic counselors who will be counseling their patients through a diagnosis of the disorder that they have each been researching independently. I explained that they will need to write a detailed letter to a family explaining that they have been diagnosed positively with this disorder and present to the family all of the necessary information and options that they will have. I also explained that this is where they need to pull in their emotional intelligence and work from a place of empathy and understanding. A large portion of the disorders researched were terminal and affected children, this is a challenge for them to be able to do in a professional and caring manner.

Dr Kelly Fulk - genetic counselor

I had a local genetic counselor come in to talk with my students about the process of diagnosing someone and counseling them through that diagnosis. The letter written by the students serves as their summative assessment for this unit.I really love this experience for the students and I always receive good feedback from them about the process and what they learn. To make this a true #pbl experience for my student, I am going to ask Dr. Fulk (pictured above) to have some of the counselors in her office review the letters that my students write and ask them to provide some valuable feedback on their writing and the process.

#everybodypoops

My Biology II students are completely immersed in what started as a fictitious PBL about toilet designs and sanitation and has morphed into something much bigger, and so very awesome. Below, is a blog post that was written about my students by one of our library scientists, which discusses their progress thus far. I will come back and add information and photos as we move along, but these kids are going to make an amazing toilet to help solve issues surrounding sanitation and safety with regards to proper access that will make a difference. I am bursting!

#everybodypoops: exploring affordable sanitation in developing countries

It’s true.  Everybody poops.  It’s also true that 2.6 billion do not have access to clean water or adequate sanitation.  In response to that distressing problem, Shayna Cooke’s Biology II students are exploring ways to design an inexpensive, light, and easy-to-use toilet for densely populated regions in India.

Prior to the Skype session, the Bio II students brainstormed potential user groups, researched existing toilet options and developed questions about materials, privacy issues, and cost.

Brainstorming notes

The students talked with Jasmine Burton, founder and president of Wish for WASH, about her experiences and current work with Wish for WASH and the Society for Family Health in Zambia.  Burton, a recent Georgia Tech Industrial Design graduate, considers herself a empathic designer, who places emphasis on getting to know a product’s users in order to design for and exceed their needs.

Bio II students Skype with Jasmine Burton.

Burton talked about the importance of getting to know one’s users before embarking on design.  What’s the point of designing and building something if the product is not going to be used.  Burton also discussed how important behavior change and incentivizing that behavior change can be in getting people to accept and use products.  The students also considered the different user groups designers need to consider.  Not only do designers think about the person using the toilet, but they also ask how they design for the person who may be disposing of the waste and how that disposal affects the population.

Based on their research and the information they gained from their talk with Burton, the Bio II students will now design a prototype of a toilet.  They plan to talk with Burton again once their prototype is finished.  Burton cheered on the students’ desire to build a prototype by saying that research and ideas are awesome, but making something and bringing something into the world matters.  The testing of a physical thing matters and can result in so much knowledge.