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GMS students get a first-hand lesson in the value of water

Seventh grade students Alex Amann, Brianna Mitchell, Hannah Sullivan, Riley Nichols and Mary pour their cups from the water supply into the large container to demonstrate the minimum water need in a community. (Jeff Ferland) (click for larger version)
November 22, 2011
As part of their focus this year on water scarcity in third-world countries, the three seventh grade classes at Gilford Middle School invited a representative from the World Water Project to speak on Thursday, Nov. 17.

Tess Crick of the World Water Project spoke to about 100 students about the continuing issue of water scarcity, especially in African countries.

Crick told students that some people in Africa have to travel for more than eight hours to retrieve water for their family, and it still may be barely potable.

Crick proceeded to ask students if they had ever done anything for eight hours straight. They decided some people spend as much time retrieving water as students spend in school each day.

Crick added that after one retrieves the water, they must travel back to their village with around 50 pounds of water.

According to Michelle Martin, GMS science teacher, the event goes along with the students learning the importance of clean water.

"They have been studying the importance of clean water and how hard it can be to get," said Martin.

"It's just one problem in the third world, but it's a big problem," said Bill Foster, GMS social studies teacher, to the students.

After an introduction, students broke off into smaller groups for a demonstration of water shortage in some countries. Students took a gallon of water to represent the water supply in Gilford, and divided it between several cups symbolizing water usage for agriculture, industry and population. These cups were then poured into a large container with a minimum level mark to signify the minimum need for the community.

As predicted by students, the Gilford water supply was well past the minimum need line, showing water abundance.

Next was an exercise to show water scarcity. Students had a similar set-up to the previous exercise, but started with only three cups of water instead of a whole gallon. They had to choose which categories — industry, agriculture or population — would receive the water supply. Of-course, there was not enough to go around, and students were left with an impossible decision — which of them would go without water.

Last, students were faced with the scenario of a poor village which may have groundwater present, but no way to harvest it. Students had to walk across the classroom with a small weight to retrieve dirty water for the village. They had to fill a small container up to a minimum line before a time-limit ran out. Students were able to compete the task, but looking at the small container of brown water (colored with coffee grounds), they gained a new appreciation of water abundance and a new perspective on water scarcity in some countries.

According to Martin, to continue with the project, students will begin fund-raising to help build wells in African villages. In past years, along with lessons on third-world countries, Martin said they have raised money for charities such as Heifer International and OXFAM.

Additionally, students have donated their lunch money to hunger charities and dined on a third-world meal consisting of a small bowl of rice.

Editor's note: The article above is the first in what we hope will be an ongoing series spotlighting events within the Gilford School District.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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