RCE Hangzhou - 2019


United States
River Angels: Youth Water Protection Program
Basic Information
Title of project : 
River Angels: Youth Water Protection Program
Submitting RCE: 
RCE Hangzhou
Contributing organization(s) : 
Green Zhejiang, Zhejiang International Studies University, Alibaba Foundation, Hangzhou Xuejun Primary School, German Hanns Seidel Foundation
Focal point(s) and affiliation(s)
Hao Xin
Organizational Affiliation: 
Vice Director of RCE Hangzhou
Format of project: 
Series of Activities and Courses
Language of project: 
Chinese, English
Date of submission:
Wednesday, October 30, 2019
At what level is the policy operating?: 
At what level is the policy operating?: 
Geographical & Education Information
Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China
Address of focal point institution for project: 
Rm 401, Bldg 2, Dream Town, Yuhang Dist, Hangzhou
Socioeconomic and environmental characteristics of the area : 
Hangzhou, the ancient capital of China, is the place where the Qiantang River and the Grand Canal meet. The river network is interlaced and economically developed. Since China's reform and opening up, high-pollution and high-energy-consuming industries have gathered in the Qiantang River basin, bringing environmental pollution to downstream Hangzhou. In 2013, after the launch of the water control operation in Hangzhou, the river's water quality in the city was comprehensively improved and the economy further grew, becoming the first demonstration area of beautiful China.
Description of sustainable development challenge(s) in the area the project addresses: 
- The public is not does not understand aware of the the sustainable development goals and does not know how to contribute to sustainable development. Civic engagement, despite government policies, is low.
- Schools in primary and secondary schools lack connectivity with society, and education lacks the ability to solve practical problems faced by society. Teaching is still largely based in class room and teacher-centered.
- The education sector cannot distinguish between education for sustainable development and environmental education. The socio-economical aspects of ESD are not integrated into teaching and teaching materials.
July, 2018
- Alibaba founder Jack Ma started the River Angels program. Before establishing this program, he had seen environmental education for elementary schoolers in a few different countries. Through those programs, students would get connected with their local rivers and become “River Angels”: they would observe their local rivers, take records of changes, and learn about the value and importance of the environment – also regarding to its socio-economical standing in the society. Once they became “River Angels”, these kids’ dedication and spirit could fully be put to use – they become ambassadors and spread the learned knowledge also in their families and develop campaigns for the surrounding communities – some of these kids become even more responsible than adults. I hope that in China, our schools can also have such a group of River Angels.
- The implementation of ecological province construction Province of Zhejiang has many provincial programs like the, “five-water joint governance” progam., Nevertheless these are government initiated and do not usually reach education providers. Awareness rising and the river chief system in Zhejiang Province all need to further promote capacity building among adolescents and youth is neglected.. The “River Angels Program” should be seen complimentary to it.
- Bring the involved Youth “ River Angels” out of the class room to interact with the nature and with the societymore new places in and out of Hangzhou, increase cross-boundary learning and collaboration, and develop interesting and engaging STEAM curriculaum through interdisciplinary and out-of-classroom learninginnovation.
- Create a theory, laboratory, and data-based curriculum system that has assessment standards, can provide effective feedback, is sustainable and replicable, and can spread awareness as well as achieve noticeable results in society.
- Train students to identify and solve problems while also giving incresing students environmental awareness and increasing their sense of social responsibility.
Activities and/or practices employed: 
Idea: The River Angels program unites international professional institutions, government departments, non-profits and social organizations, and middle and elementary schools, inspiring youth groups such as student clubs and young pioneer teams to select a river section and become its “River Angels”.

Activities: Through participating in water resources protection action, communication, research, and innovation, students are trained to become local waterway protectors, environmental interpreters, and water resource protection solution innovators. On the policy level it brings together decision makers in local schools so that they can see and feel the engagement of the youth.
Size of academic audience: 
Currently, there are 42 elementary schools and middle schools in Hangzhou that have entered the “River Angels” program. 17,000 students have been registered as “River Angels”.
- 17,000 students from 42 elementary and middle schools have been registered as River Angels. Media reported the program 100 times and through it it has indirectly impacted more than 700,000 people.
- 360 kilometers of river has been cleaned or protected.
- River Angels (by Hangzhou Primary School) won first prize in China’s Youth Innovation and Technology Competition, Zhejiang Provincial Youth Innovation and Technology Competition, and Zhejiang Volunteer Service Competition.
- Vice chairman of the Zhejiang Provincial Political Consultative Conference , Guohui Zhou, commented that River Angels (“Little River Chiefs” if translated directly from Chinese) aren’t “little” at all, nor are the problems that they are working to solve, nor is the level of enthusiasm of these students, nor is the importance of what they are doing in regards to their overall educational experience, nor are the new methods that we have at hand thanks to the constant development of technology. Indeed, “River Angels” in itself represents a societal force that is not small whatsoever.
Lessons learned: 
- Platform development > curriculum development. The program provides a platform to bring social resources into school STEAM education.
- Joint creation > simple execution. The program is designed by teachers from the member schools. The organizing committee is composed of teachers and parents from multiple schools. The program brings actors together.
- Connections with the real world. The program connects schools with local governmental agencies, corporates, NGOs, international intuitions, media, etc.
- Storytelling. Good stories need to be delivered to encourage others. Media us utilized for this.
Key messages: 
The River Angels program inspires youth groups such as student clubs and young pioneer teams to select a river section and become “River Angels”. Through participating in water resources protection action, communication, research, and innovation, students are trained to become local waterway protectors, environmental interpreters, and water resource protection solution innovators.
Relationship to other RCE activities: 
RCE Hangzhou has developed ten-module ESD Curriculums, including teaching and learning materials, based on local characteristics and school needs are completed by the teachers under the guidance of German experts. We recruited these experimental schools into River Angels program. Additionally, RCE Hangzhou published a book titled “Education for Sustainable Development in Primary Education: Curriculum Design based on Sino-German Research” with the support of the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF). Some related courses are used in River Angels program schools.
The main funding source is the Alibaba Foundation. Partial funding is provided by the local government including Zhejiang Provincial Qiantang River Administration. Expertise and guidance is provided free of charge by local universities and by the HSF.


File Name Caption for picture Photo Credit
Image icon 1.JPG (7.79 MB) Hangzhou Xunjun Primary School students show the River Angels story Hao Xin
Image icon 2.jpg (143.44 KB) Hangzhou Qiantang Foreign Language School performs at the River Angels chorus competition Hao Xin
Image icon 3.jpg (138.33 KB) Hangzhou Anji Road Experimental School and Xuejun High School student delivers her River Angels painting to top famous TV emcee Shen Tao, who became the River Angels Charity Mentor Huanzhuang Shen
References and reference materials: 
UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
(https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs) and other themes of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
SDG 1 - End poverty in all its forms everywhere 
SDG 2 - End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture 
SDG 3 - Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages 
SDG 4 - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all 
SDG 5 - Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls 
SDG 6 - Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all 
SDG 7 - Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all 
SDG 8 - Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all 
SDG 9 - Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, and foster innovation 
SDG 10 - Reduce inequality within and among countries 
SDG 11 - Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable 
SDG 12 - Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns 
SDG 13 - Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts 
SDG 14 - Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development 
SDG 15 - Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss 
SDG 16 - Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels 
SDG 17 - Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development 
Disaster Risk Reduction 
Traditional Knowledge  
Curriculum Development 
Plants & Animals 
Global Action Programme (GAP) on Education for Sustainable Development – Priority Action Areas
Priority Action Area 1 - Advancing policy 
Priority Action Area 2 - Transforming learning and training environments 
Priority Action Area 3 - Building capacities of educators and trainers 
Priority Action Area 4 - Empowering and mobilizing youth 
Priority Action Area 5 - Accelerating sustainable solutions at local level