MANILA, Philippines?Whenever the day?s rains reach 100 millimeters on their gauges, students in the mining town of Monkayo in Compostela Valley immediately send word to local authorities, who issue the appropriate warning.
In this town on the foot of Mt. Diwalwal, taking chances can mean life or death.
For their diligence in monitoring rainfall and providing critical data to authorities, students of the Monkayo National High School were recognized as this year?s best team in the Rain Watchers? Awards, the first for the three-year-old project initiated by telecommunications firm Smart Communications Inc. and the departments of education and of science and technology.
Forty-two Monkayo students are active in the club of volunteers for Project Rain Gauge, a project integrated into the school?s science curriculum where students measure rainfall and record data like professional weathermen.
The project is currently being implemented in 68 public schools nationwide, increasing from 17 pilot schools in 2007.
?When there?s heavy rainfall and we measure it at 100 mm in 24 hours, that?s a sign that the soil is already super-saturated with rainwater. So it could be a triggering point ... that will lead to landslides,? Jacqueline Bete, the school?s Rain Gauge Club head, told the Inquirer during the awarding rites in Manila on Wednesday.
?Those in the sloping areas are warned. That?s the use of the information we get for the locality,? she said.
Bete, a teacher for 24 years now, knows all too well how heavy rainfall can easily inundate the villages lying along the Agusan River. In 2004, her own village was swamped by 4 feet of floodwater after long hours of rain.
?Our area is a valley. There are municipalities on higher ground, there are others on lower ground. So every time there?s heavy rainfall in our area, we warn [the authorities] or else they will be surprised [to see] the water is already rising,? she said.
Learning by doing
Introduced as a science project in hazard-prone schools in 2007, Project Rain Gauge is evolving into an activity beyond the classroom.
Born in the aftermath of typhoons that triggered landslides in the provinces of Quezon, Aurora and Southern Leyte, the project now hopes to engage local officials and communities in the early warning effort.
?On the one hand, we?re thinking of expanding on the school side; on the other, we?re also looking at how we can now connect this with the community,? said Mon Isberto, head of Smart?s Public Affairs Group.
?We?re hopeful because at the end of the day, it?s learning by doing. That?s the education part. What?s more that?s good is community outreach. That?s another dimension,? Isberto said.
The hands-on activity has proved an effective way of making students relate to lessons they are supposed to learn, especially emerging issues on climate change and environmental preservation.
Bete said learning had become ?more meaningful.?
?When we talk about climate change, we can integrate rainfall data into the lesson,? she said, adding that the students drew graphs using the data, and then ?make inference and interpretation.?
Said 14-year-old Gift Anne Clarion, one of Monkayo?s rain watchers: ?We become aware and we are able to help our school and our community, because we know that we are flood-prone and landslide-prone.?
The project has also become an exercise of determination, with the students patiently recording rainfall data at 8 a.m. daily then plotting periodic report charts and analyzing the data during science class.
?The value that we get is persistence, because you really have to do it every day [including measuring] the rain at 8 a.m. It should be continuous,? said Clarion?s classmate, Pamela Denise Engalan.
As the topnotcher, the Monkayo team received a trophy, a school computer, P25,000 in cash, mobile phones and broadband units.