Hungry Water was one of the ten climate action projects addressing climate challenges in the Mekong Delta, targeting high school students through project-based learning. The project was delivered by a research team comprised of three teachers of Nguyen Quang Dieu and Do Cong Tuong high schools in Cao Lanh, Dong Thap province. In the following interview, Bui Huu Nhan, project lead of this innovative climate action project, tells us more about the project, the learning approach and the impact it can have on students.

Hi Nhan, please could you briefly introduce yourself and the Hungry Water project?

Hi, my name is Mr Bui Huu Nhan. I’m a teacher and a Youth Union secretary of Nguyen Quang Dieu High School, and also a member of the Hungry Water project. 

Hungry Water was a climate action project under the Rivers of Life project, hosted by British Council in Viet Nam in partnership with the Department of Education and Training, Dong Thap province. 

We started the Hungry Water project with the aim of creating experimental learning activities – a type of learning that is not yet popular in Vietnamese high schools – to address issues around climate change on the Mekong River – a topic which sounds familiar but is also relatively new to high school students

What motivated you to deliver this climate action project?

The impact of climate change on the Mekong River and Delta region, as our research team discovered, is an issue that is not just important for Viet Nam but is also a significant topic for global scientists and environmental activists. Given this, I posed a question about why students growing up in the Mekong Delta have so few opportunities to understand, to talk and to write about this topic.

This is also the reason why our team would like to introduce the project learning approach on climate change to the school curriculum. We then worked with teachers of geography and English at Nguyen Quang Dieu and Do Cong Tuong high schools to organise project learning on climate change for all students over two weeks.

As a teacher, I always think students can understand more thoroughly and find education more meaningful through experiments. This is especially important for the topic of climate change, one of the issues with almost daily impacts in the Mekong Delta, but one that young people in this region rarely care about or have the opportunity to understand. 

What is your approach to address this issue?

Project learning is the approach we chose to introduce knowledge of climate change to students. We gave students a task by providing some prompts and making them interested and inspired by the topic and then they start to research further information. So the project team provides real materials taken from the news, research, figures about issues of the Mekong River from environmental scientists. Through this approach, students find learning more closely linked with reality, and more inspiring, especially when we talk about an important issue happening around them. The embedding of experimental learning into the main curriculum for students here is actually a great opportunity for them to understand, to do more research, and to have more concern and empathy about these issues, from which they want to take actions in an attempt to address these issues.

How did your students get involved and respond to this approach?

We prepared teaching materials and a lesson plan with teachers of geography and English, and we then piloted the teaching. As with most young people nowadays, our students were very proactive and innovative. With just a few hints and prompts about research and sources of information, our students proactively sought out more in-depth information and sometimes uncovered new and surprising analysis and perspectives. After a period of time for research, with limited guidance from us, our students reported back on their work, and we have developed young ‘scientists’ who have very good understanding and made effective presentations about issues affecting the Mekong river. That is very satisfying for our project team

We have piloted this teaching approach with three groups with over 100 students, and our students have provided positive feedback about this type of project learning.

Were there any challenges during the implementation of your project?

The project took place as Covid-19 progressed unpredictably and our project team faced many challenges. The original plan was for face-to-face classes, but in the end we had to deliver the classes online. It was fortunate that our students adapted very quickly. The online delivery also gave us the opportunity to connect with experts remotely and allowed teachers to share through webinars. Therefore, students could still learn all the required knowledge. Another advantage of online learning was that we could record and share the recordings or use these for reference later on. In summary, though we certainly faced some challenges with Covid-19, our project team and our students did their very best to adapt and overcome these to achieve the best outcomes for the project.

What impact do you think the project could have on your students in the longer term?

I understand that climate change is a major issue and it definitely cannot be solved in a day. As a teacher, I always believe in actions that help students, and the young generation, to understand such issues more thoroughly. If the approach is meaningful, students will be inspired to really care about climate change, and gradually, later generations will come together to solve climate change issues.

The River of Life project in general and the Hungry water one in particular really presented an opportunity for high school students to approach climate change issues seriously, meaningfully and practically. I believe that this will contribute to addressing climate change issues by raising the awareness of students and young people about such issues.

Hungry Water was selected as the most impactful climate action project by a judging panel including British Council, Dong Thap Department of Education and Training (DoET), and an external sector expert. Mr Huynh Thanh Hung, Deputy Director, Dong Thap DoET said in the closing event for the Rivers of Life project that he would consider cascading this project-based learning approach to other high schools in Dong Thap province for further impact and sustainability.

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