2014 Grants Challenge

The 4Liter Classroom Challenge

We'll use an online challenge and a teacher-created curriculum to help LA students better understand and protect their water resources.

Please describe yourself.

Proposed collaboration (we want to work with partners!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

We'll use an online challenge and a teacher-created curriculum to help LA students better understand and protect their water resources.

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

Central LA

East LA

South LA

San Gabriel Valley

San Fernando Valley

South Bay


What is your idea/project in more detail?

The 4Liter Challenge is a fun, multidisciplinary education platform designed by Southern California teachers around a key global issue: water.

It's part online challenge, daring students to limit their water use to just 4 liters a day, and helping them share moments from that experience online. It's part interactive curriculum, bringing the Challenge into the classroom and helping students tackle issues like consumption, conservation, and human rights.

4Liters is flexible, social, and Common Core-aligned. Each lesson can be taught with or without a computer. With Los Angeles County in the middle of a severe drought, there's no better time to learn why water matters and what we can do to protect it!

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

The 4Liter Challenge has already come a long way, and DIGDEEP is ready to accelerate the project into LA County schools!

In 2013, we worked with local educators to draft the 4Liters Curriculum, which has been given a foreword by Catarina de Albuquerque, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation. Then we piloted the 4Liter Challenge in two LA classrooms.

In 2014/2015, we'll work with LA County teachers to plan 4Liter Challenges in their classrooms. We'll design and mail program-funded kits to educators, and we'll visit local schools with a custom pop-up exhibit. We'll also reach out to student participants and their teachers through our social media channels and a traditional email campaign.

Finally, we'll train a dedicated staff at DIGDEEP HQ in downtown LA. They'll maintain and improve our online tool (at 4liters.org/teach), work with educators to streamline implementation, visit local and national conferences, grow partnerships, and develop new resources like lessons, videos, and infographics.

Having developed and piloted the 4Liter Challenge, we're in a unique position to scale quickly!

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to LEARN today? In 2050?

We believe that by 2050 LA students should lead the nation in understanding the value of our freshwater and how to conserve it.

LA is the largest city in California and the epicenter of an historic drought. But LA is also a national leader in conservation, technology, media, and entertainment.

By bringing the 4Liter Challenge into LA classrooms, we'll help young Angelinos stop taking water for granted. We'll make water - as a nexus of science, economics, and well-being - a focus of public and private education. We'll prepare LA to deal with future water challenges while building support for populations without reliable water access.

Together, we'll change the way Americans think about water.

Whom will your project benefit?

The 4Liter Challenge will primarily benefit students in grades 6-12 in LA county schools - private, public, and charter. By changing the way students think about water, 4Liters will also positively affect water consumption at home.

The 4Liter Challenge will benefit teachers, by providing a flexible, easy-to-use tool that meets new Common-Core standards.

Finally, the 4Liter Challenge will benefit water-poor communities in the US and abroad. Just like a runner uses a marathon to fight breast cancer, 4Liters classrooms can choose to use their Challenge to raise funds for water access projects. Many of these funds will stay right here in the US, where DIGDEEP is the only global water non-profit working in affected communities.

Not only will 4Liters change the way LA students think about water, it will make a real impact in communities the world over.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Factors critical to all proposed collaborations include: securing funding, maintaining the non-political and non-religious nature of the program, responding effectively to teacher feedback, and sharing a common vision for water education and sustainability.

Educators for Excellence (confirmed)

E4E provides direct access to teacher-activists committed to improving LA education. Though they focus primarily on policy issues, E4E also promotes issue-area learning. We have worked together in the past.

LA Unified School District (unconfirmed)

Collaboration with LAUSD would give us direct access to educators in over 1200 schools and a seal of approval to ease adoption. This collaboration is by no means necessary for the success of 4Liters, but we think it's a smart step. LAUSD Associate Superintendent Al Cortes and Health Education Programs Coordinator Lori Vollandt have expressed interest in the program.

Archdiocese of Los Angeles (pending, unconfirmed)

The LA Archdiocese operates one of the largest private elementary and middle-school systems in LA County. Collaboration with the Archdiocese would give us direct access to educators and a seal of approval to ease adoption. We are in talks with their Director, Msgr. Pilato.

California Department of Water Resources (unconfirmed)

The CADWR is the agency responsible for managing and protecting California's water. They have direct links to educators, policy-makers, and funders that could benefit the program. The CADWR also has a direct interest in changing Californian water attitudes.

Office of the Mayor (unconfirmed)

Mayor Garcetti has expressed an interest in improving the way Angelinos care for their resources. Collaboration with the Mayor's office would provide public visibility for the project and open the door to funding from LA institutions.

Once a year, DIGDEEP opens the 4Liter Challenge to the public, uniting organizations like Take Part, One.org, Hurley H2O, and teams from major corporations, faith communities, and college campuses. All of these partners are confirmed, and their participation provides national exposure to new teachers.

How will your project impact the LA2050 LEARN metrics?

HS student proficiency in English & Language Arts and Math

Academic Performance Index scores

STEM Proficiency, Environmental Education, Drought Resilience, Service Learning

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

1. HS Student Proficiency in English and Language Arts and Math:

By 2050, all LA students should enjoy English proficiency - a key preparation for professional life. The 4Liter Challenge curriculum is Common Core-aligned, and most lessons meet one or more CCR anchor standards in Reading, Writing and Speaking/Listening. 4Liters is an excellent way to incorporate these new standards into non-English classrooms.

2. Academic Performance Index Scores:

Experiential and cross-disciplinary learning improve educational performance across State and Federal indicators. "The education community has long recognized the benefits of experiential learning. A range of academics have pointed out that one of the most effective ways to teach concepts is through active learning strategies." (Krain and Shadle, 2006) 4Liters was built by LA educators as a tool for experiential learning they could trust.


3. STEM Proficiency:

STEM is a critically under-served educational discipline in LA, especially for girls. The 4Liter Challenge incorporates key elements of STEM like environmental science.

4. Environmental Education:

CA is home to one of the world's richest diversities in plant and animal life, and is more geographically varied than many foreign countries. The 4Liter Challenge is designed to teach LA students the role of water as a critical nexus between human development, plant and animal welfare, environmental sustainability, and economic growth.

5. Drought Resilience:

California is in the midst of an historic drought. Mandatory water rationing and basic awareness campaigns won't be enough to address this problem in the long term. The 4Liter Challenge helps LA students think differently about their water, affecting their use of water in both the home and the workplace.

6. Service learning:

Today, nearly one in seven people lack access to a safe source of clean water - many right here in the US. Most LA students, however, will go their whole lives without meeting one of them. The 4Liter Challenge helps bridge this gap. By choosing to experience water poverty for a short time in a classroom setting, students have a real impact on both their lives and the lives of others.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

Unlike a traditional curriculum, which focuses only on the number of participants, the 4Liter Challenge benefits from an online campaign that provides advanced metrics, both quantitative and qualitative.

Quantitative evaluation will include:

a. number of participating classrooms and students, broken down by age and academic discipline

b. number of "moments" generated by each student during their 4Liter Challenge (videos, pictures, text)

c. website engagement rates, click rates, and interactions between users on the platform

d. teacher evaluations of the program via survey

Qualitative evaluation will include:

a. analysis of user-generated media for key concepts

b. informal feedback from educators

Finally, we will measure the funds raised by participants during their 4Liter Challenges, and the number of people served by water access projects funded by those gifts. Because 4Liters is primarily an academic campaign, however, we consider this metric last.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

Lesson 1: We first began planning The 4Liter Challenge when a board member said, "water poverty is terrible, and I want to end it, but why should this matter to me?" We were surprised to learn that someone so supportive of our work could still feel so disconnected.

Americans have a hard time conserving water and empathizing with the water-poor. That's because we take water for granted. The average American uses over 400 liters of water a day for basic things like cooking, cleaning, drinking, and bathing. Imagine how powerful using only four liters of water a day would be!

Lesson 2: Most home water in LA is supplied by the Colorado River, which Angelinos share with six other states and nearly 40 million people - more than 1-in-10 Americans. Scientists estimate that by 2060 (right after 2050!), we'll run an annual defect in the river the same size as the total water consumption of LA.

We need to change the way we think about water and quick. Measures we've already tried - like mandatory restrictions and water-saving tips - haven't worked.

We've found that even after learning statistics like this one, people are more likely to change their behavior only when they've been empowered to understand just how precious water is to them.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

Having already piloted the project, we're in a unique position to scale The 4Liter Challenge right away!

Our achievements thus far represent over two years of work:

Draft curriculum (14 lessons)

Draft teacher guide

Online portal

Common-Core alignment

Foreword from UN Water and Sanitation Chief

Pilot classroom testing in LA (2)

Partnerships with organizations

Campaign video

Having the tools we need to begin the program means we're way ahead of the game. What we need now are the finances and manpower to reach out to teachers and to support them as they implement the Challenge.

We'll begin the next twelve months of growth by touring LA County schools, starting with the 60 classrooms who have been involved with 4Liters to date. We'll use online and email campaigns to magnify that reach.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

A. Teacher Schedules

Scheduling a lesson that isn't part of the required curriculum is always a challenge, in both private and public schools. Teachers are faced with complicated standards, limited time, and testing requirements.

In order to address this challenge we did three things:

1. We used LA-based educators to plan a curriculum that would work for them. They came from a variety of institutions and disciplinary backgrounds.

2. We planned lessons that were cross-disciplinary, and organized them by theme. This way, educators can pick just a few of the 14 available lessons based on their class focus and the amount of time they have.

3. Finally, we aligned the curriculum to the Common-Core. Since Common Core standards are new, 4Liters is actually a tool to help implement them. A science teacher incorporating Reading and Writing standards for the first time, for example, can use 4Liters to make this easier.

B. Diversity in Achievement and Access to Technology

Unfortunately not all educational environments are created equal. In addition to providing flexibility for 6-12 grade classrooms, we wanted to make 4Liters adaptable to classrooms with varying degrees of academic achievement and access to technology.

Each lesson can be taught without a computer. Digital lessons always have an analog counterpart. If students don't have a computer or smartphone to document their 4Liter Challenge, the lesson plan provides creative ways for teachers to achieve a similar result offline.

Finally, the teacher guide provides a list of suggestions of how each lesson can be adapted to a learning environment without compromising the basic learning outcomes or the Common Core-alignment.

We know we'll have to work hard to overcome these two challenges. As with all of our projects, we'll rely on fostering a positive and tolerant working environment, focusing on human beings, and providing program staff with the flexibility to make quick decisions.

What resources does your project need?

Network/relationship support

Money (financial capital)

Volunteers/staff (human capital)

Publicity/awareness (social capital)

Community outreach

Quality improvement research