Monday, February 6, 2012

33 Austin schools take on global access to clean water

Thousands of Austin students are participating in a unique “academic service learning” program at school through A Legacy of Giving, a local nonprofit that empowers children through philanthropy education and youth philanthropy programs to become more engaged in improving their communities and world. This semester the focus is on global access to clean water.

Up to 300 students at each of the 33 schools, usually whole grade levels as young as 3rd grade, are designated as leaders and are taken through 5 steps:

1. Step 1 – Learning. Multi-media assemblies are held to teach as much as possible about the social issue. Content is aligned with the TEKs. For instance, middle school students learn about President Lyndon B. Johnson’s and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison’s activism around clean water in the United States. Students of all ages learn that a person in a developing country walks an average of 3.7 miles in one direction to get clean water. Students learn about the impact of that daily trip, such as the inability for children to attend school and the deformities that result from carrying buckets of water for long distances. They learn the dream of the Austin-based Gazelle Foundation and its founder, Gilbert Tuhabonye, who survived holocaust in his home country of Burundi to become a running champion in the United States and Austin, Texas. Students learn why he wants to bring clean water to people in the Songa region of Burundi and how, with their help, that dream can be realized through the building of a $35,000 water system.

2. Step 2 – Internalizing. As a follow-up to the academic assembly, teachers guide students through an exercise developed by A Legacy of Giving to “make it your own.” This semester that means generating commitment and creativity around ways to raise funds for the water system in addition to the “Walk for the Water” event, which brings students from all 33 schools together (see #4).

3. Step 3 – Advocating. Using PowerPoint presentations developed by Legacy, teachers teach student leaders about advocacy and famous advocates, past and present, around a variety of issues, including clean water. Student leaders also receive philanthropy business cards to support their advocacy work. Students and their sponsors are able to use a website for processing donations.

4. Step 4 – Act. All 33 schools participate in a Day of Service. This semester, that day is an event called “Walk for the Water” on April 28, 8:30 AM-noon at the Tony Burger Center. Students share the burden of carrying a bucket of water on a 3.7-mile course, and enroll people in their community to pledge a donation for their student completing the walk. The Walk for the Water event will also feature a replica of a water system to help students and the community visualize what their money will do.

5. Step 5 – Reflect. After the Walk for the Water event concludes the fundraising, teachers guide students through a reflection activity to discuss what worked well and what could have worked better and how.

Ways for school staff and PTA members to learn more about this program as a potential fit for your school:

1. Attend an academic assembly between now and March 23rd. Any interested parents may obtain a schedule, and sign up to attend by emailing Paula Delacruz.
2. Visit the Legacy for Giving website or email Libby for more information.

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