Bathroom Lesson Planning – Why I Was Talking About Toilets in Singapore

It was fitting that my first stop after arriving to Singapore was a restroom in Changi Airport. When exiting, I noticed a touchscreen survey on the wall. I rated my restroom experience “excellent” and went on my way to the baggage claim.

Singapore is home to the World Toilet Organization (WTO). Jack Sim, founder of WTO, visited my school last spring as part of our World Water Week festival.

To prepare for his arrival, my students got everyone in our school talking about toilets.

While in Singapore last week for the 3rd Global Cities Education Network conference, I had lunch with Jack. We reminisced about his visit to Seattle and he shared his plans for the launch of World Toilet Day this November at the United Nations in New York. (The UN declared last summer that November 19th would be an official UN day starting in 2013.)

My interest in toilets first began while I was researching for a unit on water scarcity. I read an excerpt from Rose George’s 2008 book, The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters and learned that 2.6 billion people in the world do not have access to sanitation. I was shocked. Almost 40% of the world has no outhouse, no hanging latrine, not even a cardboard box. I decided that my students needed to understand this critical global issue.

Over the next couple of years, I collected resources for teaching about toilets and wove them into my Global Leadership curriculum. Now, asking students to think critically about sanitation is my favorite lesson to teach each year.

To learn more about how I teach about toilets, please check out my article in the Fall 2013 issue of Rethinking Schools magazine. 

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