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Leonard kids learn facts about fresh water

Former second-graders of Mrs. Ashley and Mrs. Schlak of Leonard Elementary raised $360 to go towards a fresh water well in Rwanda as part of ‘The Water Challenge.’ Photo by Trevor Keiser. (click for larger version)
October 03, 2012 - After second graders from Leonard Elementary raised nearly $360 to go towards a well for fresh drinking water in Rwanda last year, second grade teachers Mrs. Sarah Ashley and Mrs. Chelsea Schlak have decided to do it again this year.

As a part of Oxford Community Schools' International Baccalaureate unit "Sharing the Planet" students had investigate humans' impact on earth's natural resources and decide how they could take action to help. When Ashley and Schlak found "The Water Project," which works to provide clean, safe drinking water by building wells in countries where drinking water is limited or contaminated, they thought it would a great way to help their students understand the concepts of the unit.

"We were looking to making a global connection in our unit," Schlak said. "The Water Project was a great way to speak of other countries around the world and have our kids become internationally minded."

Since the actual non-profit is called "The Water Project," Ashley said Leonard called theirs "The Water Challenge." The students were challenged to give up drinking bottled anything, including bottled water to reduce plastic and waste. This was to help them focus on how much water they consume and how readably available it is in the United States.

Schlak said they not only had them chart how much water they drank in a day, but how much water was used to wash their hands, bathe themselves, and cooked with.

"A lot of the videos through the water project, resources we showed them were of kids their age, so they felt like they could relate and connect to them," Schlak said.

"Their eyes were opened to the lack of access to clean drinking water around the world," added Ashley. "It was a great experience for our kids."

The challenge not only opened the eyes of the students, but the teachers as well.

"It was really enlightening to me because I am a bottle water drinker and the water here from the fountains is not very good, even the kids complain about it," Schlak said. "During this challenge it was really difficult for me becasue I'd walk in with a bottle of water and the kids would tell me I couldn't drink out of it. Then I'd be all day without water and be so thirsty, so I had to go out and buy a container to hold water in for my faucet at home."

With a goal to raise $200, which would provide two families with clean water, they raised a total of $358.17 in just the two weeks they promoted it throughout their school. This year Ashley and Chelsea are hoping to make the project a month long and challenge other schools and as well as the community as a whole to become involved in the project as well.

The $358 along with 24 individual donors, and 12 companies and other schools donations went towards building a well to give an entire community fresh water in Rwanda. A community well costs $7,000. The well is expected to be completed in Feb. 2013.

"The school really came together and we were really blown away by how much we raised," Ashley said. "We were just thrilled to contribute."

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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