With worldgeochat tackling Taking Action this week, I thought back to my beginnings with this topic. In 2013 I went to the NCSS Conference and was struck by two things. One was Dave Burgess, the other was H2O for Life.

Let’s start with Dave. Dave is a passionate speaker. That’s an understatement. Dave is insane. Sitting in the front row of his session (because all the seats in the back were taken) I got an up close view of his presentation. You couldn’t walk out of his presentation without being excited. And one of the things that he kept going back to was how if we are excited, our kids will be excited. It’s something we all know, but we need to be reminded of at times. I don’t think any teacher could leave his session without being fired up and ready to rock on Monday.

Immediately after Dave’s session, I was walking through the exhibitors hall. I came across so many great organizations while wandering. It was where I first encountered  TGC IREX (the subject of a future blog post) and where I first learned about H2O for Life for Schools (@h2oschools). I was familiar with the global water crisis, but I didn’t comprehend just how big of a problem it was. I remember skimming through Long Walk to Water, looking through a brochure about their work, and taking a shower timer for myself. I didn’t realize that day how closely I would work with them just a few months later.

I came home with so many ideas, and as usual, forgot most of them when I got back to school on Monday.

Four months later, my classes we talking about the water crisis in Africa. Just like previous years I showed my students sad images, gave them statistics, and was ready to move on. Then it happened. The moment that set in motion what has become a true passion of mine. A students raised her hand and asked, “So what are we going to do about it?”

I wasn’t prepared for that. I didn’t expect students to do anything more than be sad. That was what I considered a success – they were moved by what I showed them and understood that it was a problem.

I stuttered and stammered for a few minutes before the lightbulb flashed on in my head. I thought back to that day in November when I saw Dave Burgess and first encountered H2O for Life for Schools. I realized that we could do something about it. I thought about how we could raise money and do something for a school somewhere else in the world that needed our help. But I also realized that in order to do this, I needed to utilize some of the TLAP skills that Dave wrote about.

I became more passionate than ever about water issues. My class Instagram posts showed people walking to and from water sources. We began classes with photo studies of people with jerry cans. I immersed my students in water issues. As we began to plan out how we would raise our $2500 goal for Gakui Primary School in Kenya, I was filled with enthusiasm, but more importantly, so were my students.

They began planning all sorts of activities. They sold water drop locker signs. They took up collections from parents at our school’s Family Reading Night and at the school musical. They wrote a letter to the principal asking if one Friday could be a hat day where students would pay $1 to wear a hat all day.

Their best move though was to organize a Walk for Water. The read that the average person in the developing world had to walk three miles to and from a water source. They decided that there was an opportunity to not just go raise money, but to raise awareness and understanding about what kids their age had to do in the developing world. 

Our Walk for Water became an all encompassing thing over the last two months of the school year. Students came in before school, stayed late, gave up lunch to help any way they could.

They made posters, visited other classrooms, and posted on their own Instagram feeds to spread the message. They became the experts on the water crisis. They learned through Taking Action.

We hit our goal that year, and then surpassed it.

We got more schools involved the next year.

And more the next year.

And the legacy continues this year.

Taking Action has turned good students into great people and students who did nothing the first seven months into the most powerful advocates speaking about the water crisis. But perhaps the best part is when you see that Taking Action really did make a difference. When you see the faces of the people who have benefitted from you taking action, well there aren’t really words for that.

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