What started as a Grade 2 science unit to learn about the water cycle has grown into a student-initiated fundraiser that raised $6,000 to help people who don’t have access to clean drinking water.

While the concept of social responsibility has been a consistent theme through lessons this year, it was after learning about water scarcity in Canada and around the world that the young students were inspired to help.

“We started with the water cycle and then we went into conservation. That led us to a social studies unit where students learned that there are First Nations communities in Canada that don’t have access to fresh water. We talked about how it’s hard to imagine people in other parts of our country or around the world who can’t just turn on the tap; some have to walk for kilometres to get fresh water,” says Grade 2 teacher Nicole Tripp.

She says students were motivated to help however they could, and collectively the Grade 2 classes decided on a walk-a-thon while carrying buckets of water. Students collected pledges from family members, neighbours and friends for every 500 metres they would walk on the 4.5-kilometre walk.

On Tuesday, May 25 during their outdoor education time, the students walked one kilometre to Chikawich, the traditional Lekwungen name for McNeill Bay, where they filled 12 large buckets with water. They then walked a 3.5-kilometre route up Anderson Hill and back to the Junior School carrying the heavy buckets.

“They started by filling the buckets all the way up to the top before learning what they could reasonably carry. The students ended up stopping and sharing the load a bit more along the way so that it was more equitable,” Nicole says. “They were really good through the whole experience putting themselves in the shoes of the people they want to help.”

While the initial multidisciplinary project touched on science, social studies, outdoor education and service, once the students returned to campus with the buckets they also incorporated their ADST, mathematics and digital skills.

Students first measured how much water they successfully carried, then built filtration devices in the Imagination Lab to reduce the turbidity and remeasured the water to calculate how much solid material was removed. They also filmed public service announcements on water conservation. And they had to put their math skills to further use to count all of the donations collected.

The students chose to support Ryan’s Well Foundation, a Canadian organization founded by Ryan Hreljac, who, like our students, was inspired to take action to help others access clean drinking water at a very young age. The organization helps build wells in vulnerable communities in Uganda and Malawi.

The day after the students’ walk, they were treated to a Zoom call with Ryan and got to learn more about the charity and the impact it’s having around the world. Nicole says the students were thrilled to get to talk with him and it helped make their service project even more meaningful.

“To be able to have that perspective and drive at such a young age is wonderful. They've been telling everyone they can, everyone that will listen to them, about what they’ve learned and why it’s important to them. They’re really, really passionate,” Nicole says. “I think about them as they grow older and how they likely won’t remember everything they learned about the water cycle or maybe even the walk itself, but I hope they remember that there are people who need clean water, and the value of service.”