Water wise

My first thought when reading this week’s flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch: in 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about water, was of the street on which I had hoped to open an alternative to school twenty years ago. I thought I could write about the property which, located on the corner of Water and Love Streets, seemed ideal. I thought I could write about the vision of our group “The Centre of Learning Opportunities” with its focus on the children’s program “Kids First” and how our centre would cater for children and families. I thought I could write about how we would implement our motto “Create the possibilities” which I have also adopted for my blog. But just like the centre itself, it didn’t eventuate.

Instead I thought a little deeper, considering how water is the substance of life, how fortunate we are in developed countries to be able to turn on a tap and access clean water whenever we want. According to the UN almost 8 million people do not have access to clean water and more than 2 million do not have adequate sanitation. Millions of people die each year from diseases related to water. The projections of water availability and access are quite alarming.

I thought about the use and misuse that is made of water in our rivers and streams and of a local issue that was reported quite recently.

I decided to write a poem about the journey of a river, from its beginnings high up in the mountains down to the sea; how it starts out crystal clear but picks up toxins as it wends it was down. You can probably guess that my next thought was of education; of how children begin full of wonderment and creativity but, as they are subjected to years of schooling, collect toxic thoughts and attitudes.

That may seem a bit harsh I know, and I have written a poem before comparing what I consider Education is to what I think schooling is.


However I thought I’d try to write a poem as an allegory of the schooling process; likening the way we are polluting our waterways to the way we are polluting and muddying the minds of our children. I’m not very happy with my first (fifth!) attempt, but I have met the word requirement and Charli’s ‘deadline’ is fast approaching.

Let me know what you think.



It started way up

In the highest of hills     

So crystal-clear pure

With a life to fulfill


It babbled through forests

And danced in the streams

Marveling  at wonders

Before never seen


It passed through the valleys

Irrigated the farms

Taking the runoff

And doing no harm


Down past the villages

Watered them too

Acquiring their discards

Now murky like stew


Passing by factories

Spewing out waste

Picked up their burden

And left without haste


Weaving its brown trail

Way down to the sea

From its mouth vomited out

A poisonous mix

Deceiving all living things

Expecting a gift

However I don’t want to leave you on a negative note. I’d rather acknowledge that there are many wonderful things happening in schools around the world. There must be, or we couldn’t be making the advancements we do.


I have shared many great things with you before like some of these great articles on edutopia.org. Just last week I shared information about a prize for innovation in inclusive curricula being awarded for a program, Big Questions teaching philosophy to children. Listen to any TED talk to be amazed at advancements and innovations.

I value your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of the article or my flash ‘poetic’ fiction piece.








21 thoughts on “Water wise

  1. Caroline

    What really caught my attention in this post was the education/school contrasts. During my time working with schools I was influenced by thinking about the differences between in-school and out-of-school learning that we experience as children, with much the same outcome. But even now I am no longer involved in schools (except to collect my grandson) I believe it can be better, we can move schooling to look more like education. And must not forget that so much that can go on in children’s lives outside school is educative. Ever an optimist.
    Not sure where the huge issue of water fits in. Thanks for the provocation (again) Norah.


    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Caroline. Like you, I favour optimism. I think that’s where I felt this post failed me. It didn’t have the same positive feel that I usually try to create. While I could see how to use water for an allegory for children’s minds/learning, I was unable to effectively express it in 99 words.
      I agree with you about out-of-school experiences being educative. Our whole lives are educative, aren’t they. We are always learning something!
      How lovely for you and your grandson that you are able to collect him from school. What wonderful conversations you must have on the way home!


  2. Bec

    Great poem and article Nor! I agree, a bit critical though I always appreciate your balance between critique and optimism in your view of education, schooling, teaching, learning and life. Much like when you mentioned a while ago that you feel torn between defending the hard work done by teachers, and wanting better in education having seen poor practices – I think this piece demonstrates that while there are great things happening in the world, there is still a way to go. And sometimes we need to look at the big picture with education and with water. Just as you demonstrate in your poem, the impacts which matter are cumulative. It’s not important how many different point sources of pollution there are, what matters is the health of the river. But rather, we manage water by assessing the impact of each point source. Using this as an allegory for a child’s learning life, maybe sometimes the impacts are a whole lot of small events, but they accumulate – and it is that ‘big picture’ we should be concerned with, and it is also that which you always discuss so deftly.


    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your lovely comment, Bec and for finding the positives in my post.I certainly agree with the need to look at the big picture, and sometimes one needs to step outside the box to be able to do that. You discuss the small events and their cumulative effect. I guess that is part of what makes it scary. Each little bit on its own can seem rather innocuous, but put together, the effects can be devastating. On the other hand, each little positive can add the ripples of good things that happen, and I’d rather see the effects of those!


  3. Morgan Dragonwillow

    Norah, the poem is beautifully crafted and stated. I am listening to music on YouTube and I found it quite wonderful that it started out lovely like the poem and then changed and sounded quite ominous toward the end. Accidental I’m sure since I randomly chose the music but added so much to the reading of your poem.

    I feel the same way about schooling as you do and I’m sure so many other parents do as well. I just wish more parents would stand up and say “This isn’t acceptable for our children and they deserve better!” I really enjoyed your creation for Education is vs Schooling is.

    Peace to you.


    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Morgan, and for your wonderfully supportive comment. I’d be interested to know what music you listened to while reading my poem, if you can recall.
      I appreciate your call for parents to unite in demanding more for their children, and am pleased to know that my statements about education and schooling made sense to you. 🙂


  4. Pingback: Deep Water « Carrot Ranch Communications

  5. writersideup

    LOVE the poem, Norah 🙂 So true, including your analogy with the toxic attitudes and behaviors kids pick up, just like the river. And the truth is, between pollution and climate change, fresh water is going to become a huge issue for the world, not just the areas we typically know of as arid 😦

    Also, if you’ve never read the book by Linda Sue Park, you must! A Long Walk to Water 😀


    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your comment. I agree that water is a big issue for the world!
      I haven’t heard of A Long Walk to Water. I’ll check it out! Thanks for the recommendation. 🙂


  6. TanGental

    I like the concept embodied in the poem though I know you see the process as far more subtle and complex – less black and white I suppose – the ice trickle of the one inspiring teacher that gives the pupil a taste for learning would be a good response! But well done for approaching this restricted task in tis way. I kind of know I’ll have to have a go myself sometime. Another challenge….


    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Geoff. I know I didn’t achieve what I was hoping for and wondered whether I should or not post. Prefer to be more solution-oriented.


  7. Charli Mills

    My first thought as I began reading your post was that possibilities do not always eventuate. But the importance is in the creation–the pursuit of possibilities. And that led me to think of water as an element in constant flow. Then you took us deeper into how that flow can be poisoned from its most pristine to what it dumps into the sea. Comparing that to schooling is set up well, though a sad state of affairs. But you leave us with verse to ponder and the happy notes illustrated on TED.


  8. Annecdotist

    The parallel between the water and schooling is a complicated concept to get across and I might not have got it without the preamble but, in context, this is a lovely piece and very moving. And congratulations on your persistence!



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