The “Our Water project – knowing and adopting urban micro watersheds” is developed in eleven metropolitan micro watersheds and fifteen elementary schools of Belo Horizonte. The Manuelzão’s team runs this project whose main goal is to promote better understanding about watersheds among students. Children learn to identify in which micro watershed they live, the importance to preserve environment, how to avoid water pollution, what the main problems are concerning their watershed, and how they can contribute to preserve the rivers.
Initially, the project team promotes a qualifying course for teachers and community leaders in order to engage them in the project. The idea is to improve students’ knowledge through what the community already know about rivers, hydric issues, and environmental problems.
The course comprises at least two main themes: geoprocessing and participative mapping; as well as environmental health. The first one is devoted to explain to teachers how to use geoprocessing basic notions and tools in Biology and Geography classes. The second theme is environmental health, which is central to Manuelzão’s project. Issues like hydric resources, environmental degradation, perception, and preservation are discussed with community leaders and teachers. The idea is to prepare them to help students in their empowerment processes related to environmental matters.
So, after this first part, the team makes the recognition of micro watersheds. The project team needs to know the degraded parts and the preserved sections in each one of them. This process helps them when they must lead students to have experience of the watershed. They did this work in eleven micro watersheds, such as: Cercadinho stream, Jatobá creek, Pampulha creek, Navio-Baleia stream. The next part of the process starts when Manuelzão’s team invites some school teachers to work with them while teaching.
Adriana Carvalho, coordinator of “Our Water” tells us what happens from then on:
The Manuelzão’s team stimulated students to produce a set of questions about creeks and streams at the Das Velhas’ watershed. The aim was to promote the historical redemption of the watershed. Students held interviews with dwellers using a set of questions, asking elder people what the streams were like twenty or thirty years ago. The idea is join all interviews and codify them as historical characterization of each micro watershed. Manuelzão’s team and students discuss the results in order to produce a final document containing the discoveries made through that action.
Now, Manuelzão’s team is starting a workshop with students to create a large poster containing three views of micro watersheds. First, they will build the real watershed on the poster, with its potentialities and problems. After that, they will build an ideal watershed, with all desired things students want to see there. Then, to summarize both, they will create a possible watershed. So, the goal is to discuss how to plan the urban space around the creeks. Manuelzão’s team first called that workshop “environmental perception workshop”. Soon, they realized students were making urban planning, since they had to choose where to pin the green areas, waste treatment, and buildings on the poster. Then, they changed the name of the workshop to “urban planning workshop”.
The next step will be driven by another workshop as a way to preserve the dialogical space between specialists, community leaders, and students. In that action, the team will show students how some public agencies could help solve common problems occurring in the watershed. Students would be able to identify which public agency deals with each type of public issue, or demand made by inhabitants. It is very important to join teenagers with local leaderships because the latter usually have some experience dealing with this type of issue: to whom we have to appeal in order to fix some public issue related to the watershed, for instance.