Story and photo by Janet Schultz
Third-grade students at Lewiston-Porter found this past spring that learning history can also help the environment and their community while teaching them how to live a healthier lifestyle. The subject: water.
Lewiston-Porter Intermediate Education Center teachers Laree DeFranco and Jean Henesey were looking for ways to incorporate history, community and service learning into their curriculum.
DeFranco and Henesey took part in a history teaching grant sponsored by Albion School District where they were introduced to Service Learning. Service Learning is a way to bring a subject to the student and have them become actively involved in their community, be it the school, a town or village.
One of the speakers introduced them to Random Kid, a group that helps children identify a need in their community and make it possible for them to meet goals regarding that need.
"We talked to the students about needs and about things they thought they might be able to improve," said Henesey.
"They talked about a water fountain outside my classroom that didn't work," said DeFranco. "From there we discussed how not only to get a new water fountain, but about the history of water and how important it was and the impact it has on the environment."
With the use of water bottles the news is always focused on the waste and how water bottles are not biodegradable. So the students discussed how that impacts the environment and what some solutions might be.
"Fountains for Youth" was born.
The teachers contacted Random Kids who put them in touch with Vapur, a company who manufacturers refillable bottles. They also found that the water fountain provider at Lew-Port also sold water bottle filling station/fountains.
At the same time the district purchased one of these fountains and installed it in the IEC. That brought on a series of events that has made this project one of the most popular ever held at the school.
The Vapur Water Filling Station allows a student to easily fill a water bottle without the problem of trying to hit the hole from the water out of a regular water fountain and there is a sensor that shuts the water off when the bottle is full. In addition, the water filling station has a counter that tells you how many bottles you have saved from being put into a landfill.
"We give kudos to custodian David Quattrini for ordering the first water filling station before the project started," said DeFranco. "It was a great way to advertise our project."
With the fountain in place, the third-graders decided to hold a blind taste testing. They used two brand name bottled waters plus the water from the filling station. They held one in the school and made their fountains project their science fair project.
"The results over-whelmingly proved that the water from the filling station was the best," said DeFranco.
"It wasn't just the intermediate students, but parents, faculty and students from the other schools also sampled the waters," continued Henesey.
Not only was the tasting was successful, but the students ordered 500 reusable bottles to sell at $10 each and sold every one, plus took orders for more than 200 more.
"We're still getting calls for the bottles," said Henesey.
The word spread and the PTA offered and donated $2,000 to the project.
With the sale of the bottles and the donation, the Intermediate School students were able to purchase six water filling stations. Four have been installed at the Intermediate School, one in the Primary Education Center and one in the middle school.
Plus, since the high school doesn't have one of the fountains, but does have a group of students very active in the International Water Forum, the IEC students donated funds to their water project.
"The community gets to enjoy the fountain when they come to events in the schools," said DeFranco.
"This has been a huge success," said DeFranco. "The study of water went even further as we took a field trip to the Amherst Museum last week and learned about the history of the Erie Canal."
"It's not about the fountain," continued DeFranco. "It's about learning to get something accomplished and turn it into a service learning project that improves the community, environment and curriculum."
Both DeFranco and Henesey also noticed an increase in the amount of water the students drink, which is important to their health.
"We had a bad fountain," said Jessie Avila-Shah, one of the students who worked on the project. "We saw the goal, held a taste test, sold the Vapur reusable bottles in different colors and now we have the fountain."
"I drink more water at school," said Lexie Rupple, another student who worked on the project. "It's nice and cold and the bottles are easy to fill."
Students participating in the project included Angelina Gibson, Jack Flanagan, Autumn Gromoll, Nina Struminski, Lexie Rupple, Max Palermo, Jillian Donovan, Lafayette Penny, Jessi Avila-Shah, Collin Ortner, Brendan Zimmerman and Tateum Hillman. Linda Johnson and Irv Gilmer assisted Henesey and DeFranco on the project.