Bronx High School for the Visual Arts
July 6th 2011
By Linda Stern- Art Teacher
This year the school has a cross-curriculum initiative to explore the themes of social justice and sustainability. In partnership with World Savvy and with funding from National Self Government I designed a curriculum that would promote a sustainable lifestyle change in our school environment. The design class started by looking at the role of advertisements in our society; their impact on what we buy and use. After watching a short film, “The Story of Bottled Water,” the students reflected on the impact of bottled water on the environment.
Studies charted plastic bottled use and created a campaign in the form of their own water labels that addressed some of the issues they learned about the bottled water industry.
Upon completing their designs, students brainstormed ways we could make a positive change in our school. It was agreed that drinking from school water fountains was undesirable for hygienic reasons and because the water was warm coming out of the drinking fountains. There was also an underlying issue that many thought that tap water did not taste as good as bottled water. The students decided to see if the water was the same temperature would there be a difference in taste. Together the design class partnered with the environmental science class and did a blind taste test in the cafeteria during lunch and upon school night.
The findings indicated from the 191 participants, 82 preferred bottled water with 77 indicating a preference for tap water. Thirty two (32) participants indicated no preference for bottled or tap water. Since only 5 more participants (2.6% of the total number) indicated a preference for bottled water over tap water, the blind taste test concluded that there was no clear preference for bottled or tap water.
Upon receiving a grant for the National Self Government group, the school has purchased two new water fountains that have refrigeration and a spigot for filling reusable water canteens to replace our existing fountains. The graphic design class created the artwork for the aluminum sport bottle, and will create signage to hang above the refilling water stations to promote awareness. Students will receive the reusable canteens after watching an educational film on the impact of plastic bottles on our environment. My design students are hoping that the use of these canteens in conjunction with the new filling stations will initiate a decline in bottled water within our school community.
Art and media are powerful tools for expression and problem solving. Using them in my Graphic Design classroom teaches students that they can make a difference. The partnership with World Savvy and the generous grant from NSG empowered BHSVA students to take steps that will create positive social change.