Speaking and listening: Participation and dialogue

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Reclaiming rights

A growing number of schools are incorporating perspectives on rights and responsibilities through the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child. If you are moving in that direction, then Water for All should provide some rich opportunities. For instance, children might compare a selection of UNCRC articles with the positive action being taken in the case studies. Which rights are being reclaimed (including those to do with participation)? What are the likely consequences for children’s lives – in particular for girls who are likely to carry the main burden of water collection? As a rights-respecting school, how far have you come in comparison?

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Building dialogue: philosophical enquiry for children

Handling issues in the classroom has traditionally involved the frequent use of adversarial debate in one form or another. Philosophical enquiry for children is an alternative approach designed to hone thinking skills while building a dialogue of reasonableness among the ‘community of enquiry’ in the classroom (see Recommended resources). Water for All throws up many questions for shared investigation, not least questions of behaviour and responsibility, and the nature of evidence.

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Maps and photos for discussion and awareness

These resources can help reveal how things happen in the school and locality – who benefits, and what the environmental and social impacts might be. For instance, devising a thematic map of water use and access in the area can stimulate an analysis of costs and benefits.

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Futures education

Some of the most empowering classroom activities for children involve developing their thinking and visioning of more just and sustainable futures. In suggesting preferable options for handling issues such as causes of water shortage, simple diagrams can be fertile stimuli to higher order thinking [click here for sample diagram]. Equally, there is a role for raising awareness of the local situation and seeing what can be done.

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