Middle School students thirsting to make a difference
Just after sunset, 25 Middle School students emerged from classrooms into the darkening outdoors. Gathering on the lawn, they were glowing—literally. Their faces were decorated with neon paint, they wore glow-in-the-dark clothing, and they were geared up to run.
The event was the Glow-a-thon. Organized by the Making a Meaningful Difference Club, students signed up to run, dance and skip laps to help raise money to build drinking water wells in South Sudan.
"This Glow-a-thon will help make a difference in the world that they live in," said Gwen Giek, Middle School Spanish teacher. "It was all the students' idea. It was totally student driven."
It's just one activity in a yearlong study of the global concerns involving water.
Annually, the Middle School faculty choose a major global issue—last year's theme was hunger—as a focus for lessons that span the curriculum, from social studies to art and foreign language to math.
This year, students in Grades 6, 7 and 8 examined everything from water chemistry, usage and conservation, to the political, social, economic and cultural implications of this essential resource.
Early on, they turned their attention to the impact of bottled water on the environment. Students in each advisory class competed to see which group could collect the most discarded plastic bottles and then vied to create the most elaborate water bottle sculpture.
"Middle School advisory teachers worked to keep the issue of plastic bottles and the global impact of bottled water extraction and packaging at the forefront of our thinking," said Dan Lang, Head of the Middle School. "One advisory even created a functioning fountain from discarded water bottles."
For students in Grade 7, the learning began with a summer assignment to read "A Long Walk to Water," by Linda Sue Park. The book recounts the true story of Salva Dut, a "Lost Boy of Sudan" who traveled across the desert with 1,500 other refugee boys to escape war.
Salva Dut relates his difficult journey to find water and safe harbor. In his travels, he found many villages did not have access to clean drinking water. When he finally reached a refugee camp in Kenya, Salva Dut was one of the first Lost Boys selected for resettlement in the United States. He was inspired to establish the Water for South Sudan organization to help villages in his home country build drinking water wells.
Many of the Parker students were moved to action by Salva Dut's story.
"Seeing in the book how people had to walk miles and miles just to get water and understanding how we can go to the store to buy a water bottle…and water is always there, interests me to see how I could make a meaningful difference," said Ashley Scott, Class of 2021. She eagerly joined the Making a Meaningful Difference Club to do just that.
Scott Drouin, Class of 2022, said the Water for South Sudan, was a perfect focus for the group's efforts. "It's good to give back. We have so much and we need to reflect on those who don't have what we have," said Scott.
Both Ashley and Scott were among the two dozen students who took part in the Glow-a-thon.
Circling the Middle School courtyard again and again, the students ran a total of 488 laps and raised more than $865 for their cause.