How Clean Water Boosts School Attendance

Seventh-graders Dina Khattoi, Logan Verlinde, Caleb Dabaja test the unit they assembled for leaks

Alex Kaufmann and Sofia Debano joined their classmates in the Central Woodlands 5/6 school gymnasium recently to culminate a service learning project centered on the essential role water plays to those in developing countries. They are also putting into perspective how, save for the Flint water crisis this year and the resulting spotlight on how lack of clean water even in a developed country such as the U.S., can have devastating effects.

“We’ve been keeping water usage logs, where we make a tally mark every time we wash our hands or brush our teeth,” Alex said. “It’s a lot. It’s not what I expected.”

Lowell Middle School seventh-graders held a bake sale recently to raise money to build a well in South Sudan. They are, from left, Sierra Hieschetter, Rachel Lezin, Summer Hurt, Gavin Kelly, Ethan LaMore and Emily DeBoer

Added Sofia: “It’s just really sad how much people use without thinking about it.”

To do what they can, Central Woodlands Elementary sixth-graders teamed up with a group called S.W.I.M. (Safe Water International Ministries) to assemble, test and wrap for shipping more than 50 chlorine-producing units. The units will be sent to Nepal.

The seven-step process involved teams of three students working together to solder electrodes to screens, apply adhesive and assemble the units, check each one for leaks and proper operation and make labels and shrink wrap for shipping. All the nearly 300 sixth-graders at the school took part in the project.

To understand the need for CPUs, sixth-graders read the book “A Long Walk to Water” by Linda Sue Park, about a Sudanese boy and girl living decades apart, and how crucial water is to their survival. Lessons in geography and science also were integrated into the project.

Meanwhile, at Lowell Middle School, seventh-graders there also read “A Long Walk to Water.” They hope to raise $15,000 to have a well dug in South Sudan. Projects so far have included bake sales, a silent auction and visits to community groups to talk about their efforts.

“It’s very dry there, and they have to walk eight miles to get water, so some kids can’t go to school,” said Sierra Hieschetter. “With a well, they would actually have an infrastructure for clean water right in their village.”

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See a video of how CPUs help those in developing countries

Read about the Flint water crisis

Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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