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Blog 4/5 (delayed)

posted Jul 3, 2013, 7:45 PM by Ethan Shirley   [ updated Jul 3, 2013, 7:47 PM ]

We have arrived at the camp site in Porto Jofre! Tomorrow morning, the team and I will take a 20 minute boat ride along the river to our school in Sao Bento. We will only be here for four days instead of five, so we will be teaching a condensed lesson to the school with a total of 9 students who range from 5-12 years old. In the night, we also plan to teach a two hour English lesson to the 12 adults who work at the local hotel in Porto Jofre. 


Today is our last day in Sao Bento and we have had an unbelievable experience! Sao Bento is a located within the Pantanal and the environment has been really breathtaking.  We are teaching one class in the morning and one class at night. Transitioning from a school of 250 students to a school of only 9 students and 12 adults, has really allowed our team to tailor our lessons to what the community wants to learn. The Porto Jofre and Sao Bento area heavily  rely on ecotourism to sustain their local economy, so during the night classes we have tailored our English lessons to benefit the adults who work at the local hotel. Last night’s lesson focused on translating the names commonly spotted animals that live in the area, such as jaguars, caiman, …etc. In addition, we also went over basic questions, such as What is your name, How are you, and Do you need help. This, will hopefully allow the adults to interact and communicate more efficiently with the tourists.

Blog 3

posted Jun 24, 2013, 9:44 AM by Ethan Shirley

We have just finished our first week at Chumbo and Cangas! Phew. Teaching three classes in the morning and four classes in the afternoon was a bit more exhausting than anticipated. At first,  it was a bit difficult at first because many of the students were very shy and hesitant on the first day.  But luckily as the days passed, students warmed up to us.  Actually, by the end of the week any time we passed any of the students outside of school  they would all say hi to us!

With the help from the Alternative Energy Team, we were able to successfully install the bio sand filters at both schools. It took longer than expected because we underestimated the amount of sand and time that would be needed to fill a 200 liter tambour. Now all we have to do is wait for the biological layer to form (3-4 weeks) and the filter will be ready to use for everyday use!

During this entire week, we have made incredible relationships with the students, teachers, and staff. Even though our water sanitation workshops are almost over, they have invited other members of the Pantanal Partnership (who arrive later in the summer) to conduct CPR and music workshops! We are very excited to be able to extend our stay at the two schools! All together, I think our team was very successful! Next week, we are headed to Pantanal to teach at Sao Bento, right outside of Porto Jofre!—more news to come soon!

Workshop planning week - 5/18

posted May 18, 2013, 9:46 AM by Ethan Shirley

For the past week, one of the biology teachers at the Cangas School has graciously allowed our team to stay at her house. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday we met with the principal, Cibele and the education coordinator, Julice to go over our lesson plans. In addition, we observed the classrooms in which we will be teaching next week. Our team has noticed that the classes in Cangas are more flexible than a typical class in the US. The teachers at the Cangas have welcomed us into their school are more than accommodating and helpful to work and plan with.  

We ran through a few of our lessons with a small group of students at Canagas on Friday as practice for the lessons we will be teaching next week. Starting on Monday, we will be teaching three, hour long workshops in the morning at Chumbo and four more workshops in the afternoon at Cangas. 

This week we will be working with the older, high school students. When we return to the schools in two weeks we will have the older students help us teach workshops to the younger students.  

In addition to teaching the students about the water filters, we will be building a permanent biosand water filter for the two schools. The students will be helping us build every step of the filter. We plan on building one functional filter out of a tambor (plastic barrel), while also having students build 2-3 small (nonfunctional) filters out of water bottles as a learning activity so they can see each layer and its functions.

This morning, we went back to Poconé to buy the materials. We bought two 200L tambors, comparable to a plastic rain barrel. In addition to the tambors we bought plastic tubing, silicon to seal the filters, wood and nails to build the sieves, tarps, and buckets. We will get sand and gravel when we return to Cangas on Monday.  

We got pretty positive feedback from the students on Friday and are very excited to start teaching after all this preparation! Our first real test will be on Sunday when we visit a rural ‘satellite classroom’ about an hour away to give a condensed version of our filter lesson to the adult students there. Starting next week, we will be joined by Mirian, a Brazilian college student who will be helping deliver lectures on microbiology.

Back in Brazil! 5/11/2013

posted May 11, 2013, 12:20 PM by Ethan Shirley

All of the members of the Water Systems Team have arrived in Brazil. We are staying at Nazaré, the boys' school and orphanage just outside of Poconé where we built filters last year. We are finishing up translating our lesson plans, making a list of the materials we will need for the filter, and making a plan for the schools we will be working at over the coming weeks. 

Cangas and Chumbo are the schools we will be working at first. Each school has about 200 students, both boys and girls, split into a morning group and afternoon group. Our plan is to lead hour long workshops, 4 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon. Then we will return to the schools the following week and have the older students help teach the younger students what we taught them the previous week.

In addition to having the students help build the filter the workshops will focus on the importance of clean water to public health and the prevention of waterborne illnesses.

The students and teachers at the schools have expressed interest in learning more English so we plan to include English in the filter and health lesson plans.

At each of the schools there are some students that travel up to several hours each morning from more rural areas. These students are who we are most trying to target with our lessons as they are less likely to have easy access to clean water at home. It is our hope that we will be able to visit some of these student’s homes next weekend to either help them actually install filters for their families to use or at least get a better idea of what sort of water systems are in place in the more rural areas of the Poconé municipality.

At the end of the two weeks working with the students of Cangas and Chumbo, we will be packing up and heading deep into the Pantanal to a small school called São Bento. We will stop by and visit PCER on our way and then set up camp in Porto Jofre. We will travel down river by boat each morning to get to the school and then deliver more concentrated versions of the lessons to the nine students there.

After São Bento, we will be taking a couple days off to visit Graziela and her family on their ranch in Nobres, a shining oasis of warmth, relaxation, excitement and fun!

The last week will be spent following up with Cangas and Chumbo, helping the kids test with filters that we previously installed and reiterating the public health lessons.

5/30 Update

posted May 30, 2012, 2:30 PM by Ian Fitzner   [ updated May 30, 2012, 2:30 PM by Ethan Shirley ]

Oi Tudos,

Sooo, here in the Pantanal things are kind of at a standstill as our beloved Kombi is currently broken down. Our team was trying to get down to PCER one last time to finish up the filter we started there, however, when the first group, myself included, were driving the final 5 km, we heard a terrible clunking sound.  Pulling over we found one of the rear hubs broken and the bearings pulverized.  Unfortunately it has taken Ethan a while to find the needed replacement parts.  Right now he is headed back, with hopefully the right part to repair it.

Meanwhile our team has been as productive as we can be.  The three of us who actually made it to PCER finished the filter there and got back by catching a 3:00 am ride with one of the guides.  At Nazare and Cotia our team finished installing the final filters, painted them, and gave maintenance lessons.  So really, we are pretty much finished with everything that we needed to get done on this trip, which is an awesome feeling.  We can spend the rest of the time relaxing, enjoying the countryside... and keeping our hopes high that the Kombi comes rolling up the Pantaniera in one piece.

Ate Logo,

BSF filter maintenance and operation

posted May 27, 2012, 3:39 PM by greg ewing   [ updated May 27, 2012, 3:39 PM by Ethan Shirley ]

Filter maintenance and operation is a huge aspect of our project.  Without the students' understanding of how to maintain the filter that they built, the filter will be rendered useless.  In order to ensure understanding and continued - accurate - education on down the information chain, we have made a single page flyer and given it to specific students and their teachers; we are also leaving them at PCER and a few other institutions in the area.  By doing so, we hope that there will always be information available to any party in the Pantanal that wishes to build and maintain BSFs.  This document is attached in both English AND Portuguese.  Take a look!


posted May 26, 2012, 9:12 AM by greg ewing   [ updated May 26, 2012, 9:20 AM by Ethan Shirley ]

We're almost at the three week mark of our team's trip.  Our time so far has been filled with many exciting adventures, challenges, and unique experiences.  The time with the students at both Cotia and Nazareh have been by far the most rewarding experiences of the trip.  They have been so engaged and interested in the project; always willing and excited to learn about the science and building.  As well, they have practiced the utmost of patience with our team's slowly developing Portuguese skill.
So far we have:
  • Reinstalled the filter at PCER from last year
  • Built five filters: 1 at PCER, 2 at Nazareh, and 2 at Cotia
  • Installed two new filters: 1 at Nazareh and 1 at Cotia
  • Taught lessons on water quality and waterborne diseases
  • Taught lessons on building and installation of the filters
  • Taught lessons on the basic concepts of sustainability and its importance within this community
With one week left our plan is to:
  • Install the filter at PCER
  • Finish installing the two filters at Cotia and Nazareh
  • Paint the filters with the students
  • Do final lessons with the students on maintenance and operation of the filters
  • Visit schools for next year
  • Continue to enjoy our futsal games with the boys of Nazareh
  • Do boat tours on the river Cuiaba
  • Explore the country north of Cuiaba, including Chapada dos Guimaraes and Nobres
The trip so far has been an incredible learning experience for all of us; at times we have all felt as though we've been sent here to learn and not to teach.  This feeling of intercultural exchange has been incredibly powerful, and best of all there is still more to come!
Check out our photo album on facebook to see the students and our work:

May 24th

posted May 24, 2012, 2:03 PM by Ian Fitzner   [ updated May 26, 2012, 6:15 PM by Ethan Shirley ]

Things are winding down in Pocone. yesterday we sucessfully installed one filter and tonight we will have a party celebrating our success at the school. Today at  Cotia  we made diffuser plates and lids. We had an english lesson and counted bacteria with the kids. We plan to install at least one filter, however small leaks in our originial pours and wet sand may hinder our progress. To make matters worse, it is forcasted to rain the next three days, which may hinder our trip back to PCER. Never the less, we continue to move forward with a positive outlook.

May 22nd

posted May 24, 2012, 1:52 PM by Ian Fitzner   [ updated May 24, 2012, 1:52 PM by Ethan Shirley ]

Today was our first day at Cotia, the girl’s school outside of Pocone. There are 30 girls split up into a morning and afternoon group. We brought the molds pre-assembled to save time. The girls helped us to oil the molds, mix the concrete, and pour the casts. In addition to the day’s activities we lead a lesson with the girls, an intro to the filter, waterborne illnesses and simple English phrases. Although everything went well today we gained new appreciation for taking a day before beginning work on the filter to play with the kids and get to know them like we did at Nazare.


Nazare Update

posted May 21, 2012, 2:00 PM by Ian Fitzner   [ updated May 21, 2012, 2:00 PM by Ethan Shirley ]

Over the past two days much has changed in the Pantanal.  We now have plans to attend Nazare’s sister school Caetano, for four days next week. At Nazare we are making exceptional progress at Nazare. We have poured both filters and sieved and washed sand for each of them. The initial pour for each filter went fairly well. During both the morning and afternoon sessions the children thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Initially the pour looked good, however the next day, when we removed the outer mold there were large holes or cracks on each of the filter bodies. To patch these we used a combination of cement, water paste and concrete. To compensate for the addition of Caeano to our schools we decided to sieve and wash the sand over the weekend. Even when it was voluntary, the kids very excited to help, which made quick work of the cleaning and sieving.

                In non BSF Brazil news, on Thursday night Ethan’s friend Christy stopped by on her way to PCER The next night we  all attended a churrasco at Fabrisio’s house the food was delicious! The next day Ethan and Christy left for PCER. While the rest of us went to see Cory play in a scrimmage, where he scored two goals and was a crowd favorite.

Boa noite


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