Local News

H2Awesome! Water Matters Conference goes virtual for middle-schoolers

Story by: Kayla Kreutzberg

Photo by: Kayla Kreutzberg

Thousands of middle school students will be connecting virtually for the 2021 H2Awesome! Water Matters Conference.

The conference is a collaboration between the City of Guelph, the Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB) and the Wellington Catholic District School Board.

Elementary curriculum lead with the UGDSB Heather Walker, said traditionally it has been a one-day conference that has engaged Grade 8 students only in a variety of water issues.

“Understanding water from a conservation perspective, understanding their own relationship with the water locally around them, looking at issues that impact communities in different ways, so, looking at Indigenous water issues in the context of human rights,” Walker said.

Walker said because of COVID-19 restrictions organizers made the decision to move the conference online, but this allowed them to expand it to Grade 7 students and make it ten events held over a five-week period.

Walker said the conference is important because firstly, water issues are part of the curriculum in a variety of ways.

“[Secondly], from a personal and citizenship standpoint I think it’s important because our students at that age, and not just at that age, but certainly at that age are quite concerned and rightly so about our climate, I mean if we look at the voices that are getting listened to right now it’s young voices,” Walker said.

She said she thinks for students right now it does help them, inspire them, and really let them know that they have a voice and their voice is powerful.

Walker said the more they learn about the different contexts of water then there’s definitely a greater chance that they’ll find a way to engage that works for them.

When asked what organizers hope the students takeaway from the conference, Walker said although she hesitates to speak on behalf of all the organizers, she does feel they would agree with her in that they just want the students to engage with ideas about water.

“And I’m going to circle back to that student voice piece and I think we would be thrilled if what they took away was that they have power, that their voice is important in terms of issues of conservation, issues about the environment and ideas about water,” Walker said.

She added the conference is engaging with around 4,000 students.

The H2Awesome! Water Matters Conference wraps up April 22 on Earth Day.