The 7th Grade Walk With Water activity was a service-learning extension of their recent unit on the book A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park.

In the book, students read the two interweaving stories of a fictional character living in South Sudan, Nya – who is unable to attend school because she must walk long distances twice daily to collect water for her family – and real person, Salva Dut, a former “Lost Boy” of South Sudan who resettled in Rochester, NY. Salva founded the non-profit organization Water for South Sudan after he learned that his father had become gravely ill due to water-borne illness. Park’s book weaves these fictional and non-fictional stories together when Salva brings his drill rig, the “Iron Giraffe” to Nya’s village.

Water for South Sudan holds an annual Iron Giraffe Challenge where any school that raises $1,000 is entered to win a visit from Salva Dut or Linda Sue Park. As part of their fundraiser, the 7th graders walked 1 1/4 miles around the school’s track while carrying 8lb containers of water to gain a better understanding of what girls like Nya experience on a daily basis in South Sudan.

During their walk, they also reviewed their vocabulary words, removed pretend thorns from their feet (as happens in the book) and practiced their short “elevator speeches” in support of the fundraiser. As of now, the students are about halfway to their fundraising goal.