Science of Water Art: Children's Perspectives on Water and the Environment in Guatemala

Sunday, 15 February 2015
Exhibit Hall (San Jose Convention Center)
Hannah McAtee, Center for Biology and Society, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Tempe, AZ
Children’s drawings are increasingly being used to assess understanding and diagnose misconceptions about water issues and the environment. As part of Arizona State University’s Global Ethnohydrology Study and Community Health and Medical Anthropology Field School, 315 pieces of artwork from 158 Guatemalan schoolchildren, ages 9-10, were collected using ethnographic field methods. The children were asked to draw two pieces of art: one showing how they saw water being used in their neighborhood today and one showing how they imagined water would be used in their neighborhood 100 years from now. Using content analysis, the drawings were coded for the presence of vegetation, scarcity, pollution, commercial sources, existing technology, technological innovation, domestic use, and natural sources of water. The study finds that (1) boys are significantly more likely than girls to draw more negative depictions of water (i.e., pollution and scarcity), and (2) boys are significantly more likely than girls to depict the natural world (i.e., vegetation and natural sources of water). Additionally, (1) students’ drawings of the future contain significantly more pollution and scarcity than those in the present, and (2) both boys and girls depict existing technology significantly more often in the drawings of today than the drawings of the future. Through examining gendered perceptions and future expectations of climate change and water issues, this study explores possible areas of intervention in environmental education in a developing country.