This fall, a new contest will enter Canadian classrooms to raise water awareness in students from 7 to 18 years old. Waterlution has launched “Young Water Speaks,” a nationwide storytelling effort that hopes to engage young people through creativity.
Waterlution is a not-for-profit organization focused on water awareness and youth leadership. The contest was developed in collaboration with professional storytellers of various backgrounds and heritage, and will be delivered by a Youth Advisory Board (YAB) of 46 volunteer leaders.
YAB members are students in the fields of environmental science, education and the arts, ages 19 to 29, and based throughout Canada. They will receive leadership and professional development training while delivering the Young Water Speaks contest.
Teachers and youth groups can book a workshop with YAB volunteers on the Waterlution website throughout the fall. The workshop is participatory and educational, including fun activities as students learn more about storytelling and their own relationship to water.
Students will be invited to submit their stories in the month following the workshop, and a jury composed of Waterlution team members will select prize winners for each age group, all of which will be part of a national exhibition in 2021.
Storytelling has been a key part of learning in a large number of cultures, including Indigenous peoples. Canada is a land of stories that are intertwined and inspired by its natural splendors. Its plentiful forests, mountains, lakes and rivers are rich with memories old and new, and tales of the realistic and magical. A story is a powerful tool, which can be transmitted in words, art or music, and has incredible potential for linking science and spirit into a deeper understanding of the world we live in.
Encouraging students to create their own water world, or tell a story that connects them personally with water, will hopefully build a strong foundation for action toward protecting and cherishing this elusive, wonderful resource that is at the core of all life. Though stories can be magical and fictional, contest entries must be inspired by a real Canadian waterbody.
The power of storytelling for environmental education purposes is being rediscovered. In 2020, National Geographic organized a Storytelling summit in Washington, D.C., asking explorers of the world to share their stories to reconnect audiences with the reality of nature. In Canada, storytellers such as Quebec-based Boukar Diouf, Ph.D. in oceanography, are using their words and creativity to tell exciting water stories to children with tremendous success.
Finding a way of connecting that is intimate and creative is at the heart of all art forms, and its effectiveness as an educational tool has been proven countless times throughout human history. All workshops will be delivered virtually due to the pandemic. This is a special opportunity to bring the contest to remote regions and students at home.
Helena Vallée-Dallaire is the youth program coordinator for Waterlution. She is an artist and educator who loves to create spaces for discovery and connection between people of all ages and backgrounds, and believes in the power of storytelling to awaken deep care and understanding toward all forms of life. She is based in Montreal.