Life as we know it owes a great debt to water. We ourselves are comprised of nearly 70 percent water and can’t live without a regular dose. However millions around the world still live without a reliable, clean water source.

As it turns out, our most precious resource is not nearly as abundant in potable form as human demand requires.

In fact, water is so scarce that 780 million people have no access to clean drinking water. In some cases, as with China’s Yangtze River, the poor quality of the water is in part caused by human activity and waste.

Fortunately China is investing in its water security by bringing school children out of the classroom and to the Yangtze in order to promote conservation and sustainable practices.

Since 2008 this experimental school program has focused on education for sustainable development (ESD). The so-called “Water School” is designed to get China’s children active in the protection and safe treatment of their water resources.

UNESCO and other international organizations are praising the program as a revolutionary and fundamental step for the protection of our vital resources. These organizations hope to sponsor similar programs across the globe by spreading awareness of the positive effects China’s water school has produced.

The program has already involved approximately 130,000 students and 200,000 community members, creating a new intellectual base that is deeply in touch with issues of conservation and water treatment.

Part of the program is to build children’s sense of responsibility to the Yangtze’s natural resources, and also to provide them with experiential learning. Tasks like monitoring PH levels and the health and biodiversity of local ecosystems aim to create a more secure future not just for the water, but also for the wildlife and vegetation that also rely on the river.

According to the project website, “The Water School for a Living Yangtze provides opportunities for young people living in different parts of the Yangtze River Basin to link their learning with the indigenous knowledge, traditional practice, and belief systems of local and more distant communities.”

The other major development for the water school is the way it uses the Yangtze, which cuts through the interior of the continent, as a unifying structure between the variety of cultures that live beside its waters. In that sense, the river acts as a vehicle for social development and promulgates shared responsibility for such a critical natural resource.

– Chase Colton

Sources: UNESCO, Water School, UN Water