The Secret Handbook of the Blue Circle is now available! The perfect title for #FutureWaterProfessionals!
The book was inspired by the scientific work carried out by the research group of Nireas International Water Research Centre (Nireas- IWRC) at the University of Cyprus, led by Dr. Despo Fatta-Kassinos. The group worked together with Antonis Papatheodoulou, one of Greece's best children's storytellers and developed an educational adventure which invites children to become new members of the 'Eternal Blue Circle Society.' As members of the society they can help protect water quantity and quality and raise awareness on the topic themselves!
We wanted to find out more about where the ideas for this new book came from - so we spoke to Dr. Despo Fatta-Kassinos about the motivations and concept behind the book.
Find out more or order the book here.
Q&A with Dr. Despo Fatta-Kassinos:
Could you give a brief overview of the scientific work that inspired The Secret Handbook of the Blue Circle?
Nireas International Water Research Center of the University of Cyprus is the first Water Research Center in Cyprus, established in 2011. It was created by a team of professors with the vision of leveraging scientific and engineering expertise in order to tackle important water-related problems, through a competitive national funding program for establishing strategic research units in Cyprus. The Center is active in various water-related fields including water and wastewater treatment, management and reuse, management of urban water supply networks, socioeconomic analysis of water-related issues and currently, our multidisciplinary group includes 25 researchers who are all passionate about scientific research and continuous learning.
The focus of my own team is on water/wastewater quality, monitoring and treatment, the investigation of the capacity of advanced chemical oxidation processes and biological processes against contaminants of emerging concern including antibiotic resistance, their effects after these are introduced into the environment through wastewater discharges or reuse practices, etc. During the last five years I had the pleasure and honor to coordinate two important European projects: the ANSWER project (H2020-MSCA-ITN-2015/675530), titled ‘Antibiotics and mobile resistance elements in wastewater reuse applications: risks and innovative solutions’ and the NEREUS COST Action ES1403 ‘New and emerging challenges and opportunities in wastewater reuse’. The Secret Handbook of the Blue Circle was inspired by the scientific work performed in the framework of these two projects, in which a big network of experts, senior and junior scientists, coming both from the academia and industry, participated.
What was your motivation behind working on this Children’s book?
Writing an educational children's book about water has been in a personal goal for many years. From a very young age I loved chemistry and this led me to become a Chemical Engineer. Since water scarcity is a historical problem in my own country, I developed research in the field of wastewater treatment and reuse so I could contribute to the exploitation of new water resources, to closing the water cycle and enhancing the concept of circular economy for a sustainable future. Educating the young generation and increasing awareness on various aspects of the water cycle and wastewater reuse was the motivation for the development of ‘The Secret Handbook of the Blue Circle’. I strongly believe that scientific knowledge becomes more valuable when it is conveyed to the society in a simple way and everyone is informed about interesting to our daily lives issues, for example ‘water issues’, that concern all of us. It is very rewarding to be able to engage children and transfer some of your knowledge to them in a simplified but scientifically correct way. There is an increasing recognition of the power of children for early thinking and learning. I agree with the belief that science is of particular importance in early childhood, able to contribute not only to the children’s future scientific understanding, but also to building important skills and attitudes for learning, leading to high scientific literacy and strengthening scientific inquiry. We hope that via this book we will contribute to the encouragement of the new generation to adopt science and research as a future career.
How did you go about creating a concept and story that Children could enjoy and understand from scientific research?
I have to admit that it was not easy to create a scientifically sound concept and story that children could understand and enjoy, for the topics we chose to focus in this book. Antonis Papatheodoulou, one of Greece’s best children’s storytellers and Iris Samartzi a very talented illustrator, immediately understood my wish though and managed to convey everything technical, complicated and maybe generally incomprehensible about ‘waterology’ to this book you are now holding in your hands. We decided to divide the book in eight Secret Chapters, which include knowledge on what water is, its chemical structure and properties, its cycle, its uses and its significance, water scarcity, a historical retrospective of a city's water supply from antiquity to date, the typical treatment processes applied for the production of drinking water, the water pollution caused by traditional pollutants and contaminants of emerging concern (with special emphasis on antibiotics), the treatment processes applied in wastewater treatment plants, and the presence of such contaminants in the environment. Finally, the last Chapter of our book describes the mission of the members of the ‘Eternal Blue Circle Society’, including also interactive activities (i.e. organization of classroom presentation and/or a party about water, preparation of a poster and/or a press article and/or a documentary about water) that children could do and send to us, in order to receive a certificate that they are now defenders of water and members of our Society.
What was your favourite part of working on the The Secret Handbook?
It was the whole journey, I loved all of it… from the very beginning, meeting and discussing the idea with my inner circle of scientists at Nireas-IWRC, discussing the idea within the Nereus and Answer projects’ consortia, and of course discussing the idea with the two talented people that crossed my path, Antonis and Iris, to finally seeing our published book being sold in bookstores in Greece and Cyprus and now published by IWA Publishing, in English. Although, I have authored various scientific books and book chapters, this was the first time for me working on a children’s book and it was a unique experience. The final product of this endeavor, this book, brings great satisfaction to me and my colleagues, Dr. Irene Michael-Kordatou, Dr. Lida Ioannou-Ttofa and Dr. Costas Michael, who have also devoted much time and effort to it with so much love and enthusiasm. I personally feel great joy and satisfaction that one of my dreams has been fulfilled.
Why should everyone become members of the ‘Eternal Blue Circle Society’?
As you can read in the eight Secret Chapters of the book, six Water Scientists, who are defenders and protectors of the most important substance on the planet (i.e. water), Dr. Tom Atom, Dr. Celia Circle, Dr. Scot Water, Dr. Glow McCrystal, General Claire Clean and Dr. André Antib, are looking for helpers to become new members of their ‘Eternal Blue Circle Society’. The mission of the members of the ‘Eternal Blue Circle Society’ is to carefully study contaminants of emerging concern and protect water and nature. With the contribution of all of us to this family, the ‘Eternal Blue Circle Society’, can grow even bigger. It can grow to become a real community; a community that cares about water. This is how we like to picture every scientist in our sector, as well as all children, parents and teachers, whose awareness we aimed to raise through this book. We picture them as the members of a society that takes care of water and protects it so that there is always enough water of good quality for everybody: the “Eternal Blue Circle Society”.