Dots in Blue Water: Making a Difference With STEM and BrainPOP

Fetching water

Several months ago, we found out that one of our favorite teachers, Michael Baer of the South Adams Schools in Berne, Indiana, was going to be in town. As BrainPOP’s physical science advisor for the past few years, Michael has been a valued member of the BrainPOP family, so we jumped at the chance to meet him in person.

While we dined at a nearby restaurant, Michael gushed about his passion for teaching, and about his love of conveying to youngsters an excitement for science and for helping his fellow human beings. We already knew how inspirational Michael could be in his classes, but we were amazed when he told us of a project he’d spearheaded at his school that married science, humanitarianism—and BrainPOP!

Even before the devastating earthquake that destroyed the Haitian capital of Port-au Prince in January 2010, many areas of Haiti were in dire need of clean water in the aftermath of three fierce hurricanes. One young girl, when asked if she understood that some children had died in the wake of the flooding, responded that yes, they were like “dots, in blue water.” So Michael and his students came up with a plan to devise a water purification system with the physics and chemistry they’d learned in class, and to deliver the system to an area of Haiti that desperately needed clean potable water.

The Dots in Blue Water project started small, but eventually became a district-wide endeavor, with students from kindergarten through high school helping out in all facets: design and production of the filtration systems; fundraising; and raising public awareness. We were honored to find out that even BrainPOP even had a role:

“BrainPOP became a particularly useful resource for us when the classroom project became a community-wide project,” Michael said. “Our high school participants often used BrainPOP videos as a brief overview of what common vocabulary and concepts to include in their presentations of the purifier design to the younger students. The videos also served as springboard starters to our classroom presentations or as follow-up resources so that students of all grades knew a bit about the water cycle, about water contamination, and about the water supply. Our middle grades used the videos as learning resources as well. And we teachers used the quizzes to assess the students’ understanding of the content.” Awesome!

Now fast forward to last month. After well over a year of planning, Michael and a team of colleagues and students finally made their way to Haiti on June 18th to deliver five of the filtration systems they’d designed and constructed. And not a moment too soon: Their visit coincided with a cholera outbreak in a small mountain village, so Michael and a few of the adults traveled over primitive trails to deliver a water purifier there that likely saved dozens of lives!

And so, we wish to congratulate Michael and all the teachers and students at South Adams for undertaking such an impressive and important project. It’s always great to hear that BrainPOP has helped students learn about the science and technology that surrounds them each day, but it’s even more heartwarming to know that Tim and Moby could in some small part help save lives in a time of crisis.