AP Human Geography: Lacey Emphasizes Empathy


Mr. Thomas Daley

According to the World Health Organization, 1.8 billion people use a drinking-water water source contaminated with faeces. The United Nations Water for Life campaign reports that, on average, women in Africa and Asia walk 3.7 miles to collect water, sometimes in amounts less than three gallons. The United States Geological Survey states that the average American uses 80-100 gallons of water a day. In the U.S. humans have a very lavish relationship with water, something that is easy to unintentionally take for granted. One CVU teacher’s AP Human Geography class, however, has decided to put an end to the ignorance.

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During the week of March 13, 2017, Lacey Richards tasked her students with a challenge. The first option was to carry five gallons of water everywhere for a week—something both physically and emotionally stressful. The second was to, over the course of the week, boil all water for 10 minutes before using it; this was designed for students who were physically unable to carry out the first option, or for those who simply could not fit transporting five gallons of water into their schedule. “It definitely made me appreciate the fact that we can turn on the faucet and have running water around here,” explained Ben Stevens, a CVU junior, “Carrying 40 plus pounds of water everywhere I went was not that fun. I think that experience is what made me realize how tough walking to get water is and how fortunate we are to have access to running water.”

An eye-opener

Richards described the emotional journey of the activity as “what it feels like to intentionally build empathy;” thus, she wanted to expand the extensive simulation to the entire student body. On Thursday, March 16, all CVU students were offered the opportunity to carry a bucket of water around around the school during lunch to earn a bracelet with a message about water shortages. “I would totally recommend it,” said Stevens. Clearly, people took his advice, for Richards went through all 200 bracelets, and students still continued to carry a bucket of water without a tangible reward.

An extra mile?

Will the water bucket challenge be an annual event? “Maybe,” Richards told a reporter. Throughout the week of March 13, students were required to keep a video log of the physical and emotional struggle that accompanied the activity. Following the AP exam, Richards would like her class to use the videos to make a documentary, a web page, and possibly even a hashtag; three different outlets for communicating students’ experiential learning with CVU as a whole. Richards indicated that the success of the documentary will be a key factor in whether or not she runs the activity again next year. “[The] project isn’t finished yet,” she stated.

Regardless of whether or not students in AP Human Geography with Lacey Richards will perform this exact activity, Richards would like them to have “some sort of experiential learning.” She hinted at modifying the challenge to have more student ownership and more personal responsibility, acknowledging how easily students could “fall into shadows.” Being the first time the course has been run and the first time that Richards has taught the class, she had freedom to be experimental. Richards indicated that, next year, she will have a new perspective on the course and content.

What happened to the water? It was donated to the Sustainability Hub, managed by Dave Trevithick. After all, it would be rather ironic if students, after feeling the physical and emotional struggles of more than one billion people, bathed in their luxurious relationship with water.