Our vision for Canada is… a country with safe drinking water for everyone in Canada. We were very concerned when we learned that Canada had over 1400 water advisories. Even more concerned to learn FNMI communities had over 135 not including communities in B.C. We created Taps OFF! to raise awareness in our school about the fact the taps were off for so many FNMI communities. The issue of safe drinking water taps into many projects – Blue Dot (Suzuki Foundation); Blue Communities Project (Thank You to Mrs. Picken-Cooper and the Council of Canadians); National water programs – SDWF; Provincial ecoprograms (Ontario Ecoschools); local water programs (City of London and UWO); and we were thankful for support from our local FNMI communities and their leaders! Safe drinking water is essential for everyone in the world. 78H agrees with Prime Minister Trudeau that we have an obligation to do better. We see a time when the taps will run again at Grassy Narrows and other communities. If you want a poster, we will send you one. Taps OFF!
Youth leadership is the key to Taps OFF! It was the students in 78H who cared enough to start making posters. Using the environmental inquiry model we started learning about how to make water sustainable in the future. We gradually connected the dots. Expert support from many sources including Severn Cullis-Suzuki and Woodland Heights staff helped us understand that an awareness campaign was needed. 78H made over 500 hand-made posters. Our office staff printed us pages of effective yet simple pink and black Taps OFF! stickers. Our posters featured the Medicine wheel, the words Taps OFF!, and a picture addressing environment, social and cultural dimensions. Our questions were about cost – is the cost of fixing water advisories higher than the cost of what some FNMI communities are trying to manage? The posters are the youth message. Posters everywhere in the school in 2016. At home. At parent’s places of work. Outside the Mayor’s office. Sent to Saskatchewan to SDWF.org. We participated in the RBC Great Water Challenge. 78H – a class of youth demonstrated they care and their school cares. Presentations to STEAM 2016, to the Council of Canadians – London Chapter, to Ontario Ecoschools, to City Hall of London, to UWO and we even had UWO Community Engagement Learning students working directly with us and sharing the message with UWO! Youth care! Super Six, local pizza store, was the first corporate supporter to display one of our stickers. A beautiful mosaic up in the front hall of our school features a silver tap. It is next to a mosaic of the Medicine Wheel! Environmental teaching excellence is all around our school. WE CAN DO IT Woodland is our environmental slogan. We have earned 8 gold medals. Taps OFF! helped the school win the 2016 runner-up Edward Burtynsky award for environmental teaching excellence! Taps OFF! was created through environmental inquiry, by students for students. 78H could not understand why FNMI students in other communities, especially Northern communities do not have safe drinking water. It was boil water advisories in two communities close to home that really got the ball rolling. Then our trip to City Hall to learn how our water was made and kept safe helped a lot! From there the posters started naturally and the campaign for awareness began. The success criteria for each poster was defined through student conversation. Talk, similar to Math Talk, we call it Environment Talk, really helped. The content and format of the posters was designed by youth for their school and community. We were surprised that the program continued to grow. 78H remains concerned that FNMI communities continue to battle water advisories!