Mrs. Loeffler likes to start out the class with a quote. The students read it, write it down, and then she asks them to interpret what it means in their own words. The kids get practice speaking to each other, and it’s a relatively safe topic, since they are saying what the quote means to them personally.
Usually, the quotes are tied to the lesson of the day. The quote from this past week was from Jay-Z. I didn’t write it down, and I thought, ok… greatest rapper alive… she’s just trying to relate to the class with this one. But it was more than that. The topic of the day was about water around the world. We started off with some scenarios. Something like this (I’m paraphrasing): “A girl in Africa walks 3 miles every morning to collect water for the day.” This was followed by a relatively innocent question: “How long did it take you to get your water before school today?”
Now some of you may know this next part, but I didn’t. It turns out that in 2008, Jay-Z approached the United Nations and asked if he could help them promote water issue awareness on his world tour. They were all for it. Well, I don’t know that all of the UN was all for it, but Kofi Annan seemed quite pleased in the video. Anyway, one thing that came out of that joint effort was a series of videos called “Water for Life: The Diary of Jay-Z.” These short videos follow Jay-Z as he visits a family in Luanda, Angola and as he visits a primary school in Mid-Illovo, South Africa. The videos are available at http://www.archive.org/details/Unworks-MTV-WFL. A web search should turn them up if this link doesn’t work.
Overall, I thought it went very well. Most of the kids were into the videos at the beginning. Jay-Z caught their attention. After some trial and error, we found that the kids stayed more engaged with the videos that followed a girl their age through her typical day: 4 hours of water gathering in the morning and then to school, walking over open sewers to do both. The girl, Bela, lives with her five family members in a little shack in urban Luanda. There were quite a few kids who seemed to really connect with the reality that Bela is living day to day. In discussion afterwards, the kids seemed to realize right away some of the things that most of us in the developed world take for granted, like clean water and proper sanitation. Using these bits of revelation as a jumping off point, we’re hoping to build a context for studying water issues throughout the year.