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Education Agendas and Resistance With the Teaching and Learning of Freshwater and Extreme Freshwater Events

  • Alison Sammel (a1), Dena McMartin (a2) and Katherine Arbuthnott (a3)


Despite the essentiality of freshwater to all life on the planet, the populous has inadequate understandings of water. Formal education plays a key role in shaping how individuals and communities make sense of water, its accessibility, management, consumption, and hazards. This article seeks to bring attention to the influence of cultural framings of freshwater and extreme freshwater events (such as flood and drought) in government-mandated school curricula in two water-vulnerable geographical regions of Australia and Canada. We seek to identify and respond to hegemonic social constructions that become naturalised if left unexamined. By examining the agendas and language around freshwater and extreme freshwater events in formal educational curricula, we gain a better understanding of the perceptions and assumptions made about freshwater. The results highlight that freshwater and extreme freshwater events are minimally conceptualised within these curricula as ‘nature-based’, rather than being part of a dialectical relationship with societal agendas and practices. This article discusses the implications of this framing and the psychological barriers that may affect the acknowledgment and investigation of extreme freshwater events. We conclude by offering curricular suggestions that invite community-based understandings of the dialectic relationship freshwater has with communities and regional ecosystems.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Dr Alison Sammel, Griffith University, Gold Coast campus, School of Education and Professional Studies, Southport QLD, Australia. Email:


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