If your calendar is like the one on the wall at my home, in November it has Veterans Day and Thanksgiving. I don’t have a bad thing to say about either of those days, they are both well worth us celebrating. But your calendar probably left Sunday, November 19 blank. I’ll wait right here while you go get your Sharpie. You need to add to your calendar. November 19 is #WorldToiletDay.

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Anyone who participates in #worldgeochat knows that water issues are my thing, so I can forgive anyone who wasn’t aware of this day. But we need to change that.

My students have been investigating the Sustainable Development Goals this year and Goal 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation is always my go to example.

Two billion people around the world don’t have access to proper sanitation. Trying to explain exactly why this is a big deal to 7th graders is always an interesting experience. It is more than a comfort – a toilet is a tool for survival. I’ll let the United Nations explain.

 

So, when my students and I do our annual Walk for Water, and someone asks why we

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Construction of new toilets at Mangani Primary School in Mozambique. They were one of the projects our 2017 Walk for Water funded.

are raising money for toilets instead of water pumps, I tell them. I tell them all about why so many of the projects on H2O for Life aren’t about wells, pumps, or water containment systems. I tell them all about poo, and where it goes if it doesn’t go in a toilet, and what that means for the community around. When they think about the pests that show up around their dog’s poo in the backyard, and how if everyone was leaving their poo outside, it gets them thinking. Thinking about the bugs, thinking about the smell, thinking about the general grossness that would come from that much poo.

So what can you do to celebrate #WorldToiletDay with your students this year?

  1. Start by visiting these sites:

http://worldtoilet.org/

http://www.worldtoiletday.info/

http://www.un.org/en/events/toiletday/

2. Talk crap – literally.

Literally, talk about poo. You know that kids talk about it all the time, so join the conversation and steer it in a powerful direction. Talk about where it goes (or doesn’t). Talk about why they need to care. Talk about the statistics – that every 20 seconds a child dies from a water related issue, and often that issue came from drinking water from a contaminated source.

3. Challenge your students to TAKE ACTION!

Taking action can happen in so many different ways. You could have students raise awareness on social media. You could have students write letters to local governments about public toilets throughout your community. You could write to businesses to encourage them to make their toilets open to anyone who needs to use them – not just paying customers.

Or, you could challenge your students to redesign the toilet. The toilet we use today is fundamentally the same design that has existed since the end of the 18th century. It uses a lot of water every time you flush the toilet. Someone, at some point, is going to innovate the toilet and make it a lot better (and that person will make A LOT of money). Might as well be one of your students!

 

Who is with me? Who is willing to CELEBRATE #WorldToiletDay? November is a month to show we are thankful – let’s be honest with the world, and be thankful for something that each of uses multiple times a day! Your life definitely would not be the same without it!

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