Stephen F. Austin State University

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SFA elementary education students working to bring clean water to Africa in service-learning project

March 31, 2016 - University Marketing Communications
Stephen F. Austin State University elementary education students and Dr. Vicki Thomas, SFA elementary education assistant professor, have partnered with H2O for Life to complete a WASH project, which includes raising money for four double-pit latrines and four hand-washing facilities for their partner school in Malawi, Africa. Students will launch their fundraising efforts with an event from 12:30 to 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, April 5, in the Baker Pattillo Student Center Plaza.
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Some say the best way to learn is by doing, and Stephen F. Austin State University students enrolled in the James I. Perkins College of Education are putting this adage to the test with a service-learning project.

As part of their curriculum, SFA elementary education students are learning the best way to teach social studies to elementary students, and Dr. Vicki Thomas, SFA elementary education assistant professor, said service and experiential learning are some of the best teaching methods.

Thomas and students in two of her courses have partnered with H2O for Life to complete a WASH project, which includes raising money for four double-pit latrines and four hand-washing facilities for their partner school in Malawi, Africa.

According to the H2O for Life website, the organization provides service-learning opportunities to schools and organizations to "raise awareness about the water crisis while taking action to provide funds for water, sanitation and hygiene education for a partner school in a developing country."

SFA's partner school is Chokolo Primary School in Africa, which does not have a clean drinking water source, lacks appropriate hand-washing areas and has poor sanitary facilities, according to the project website.

"As future teachers and current students, we are learning how to effectively teach social studies to young children. We have learned the importance of engaging students in meaningful lessons, rather than simply reading information from a textbook and answering questions," said SFA student Katelyn Ford, who serves as the publicity spokesperson for the project. "By becoming involved with H2O for Life, we will know how to connect with schools around the world in the future, allowing our students to make meaningful connections to curricular goals."

Students will be launching their fundraising efforts with an event from 12:30 to 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, April 5, in the Baker Pattillo Student Center Plaza. There will be simulations for attendees to experience what it's like to carry various gallons of water across varied distances, as well as see comparisons between clean and dirty water.

"The idea is to have students on campus understand the hardships people face in Third World countries who do not have easy access to clean water," Ford said. "We will speak with students, share information provided from H2O for Life, sell items and accept donations."

The project also includes hygiene training for students and teachers at Chokolo Primary School, as well as planting trees in the area. Students and their families also will receive P&G's PUR packs, a water purification technology that transforms dirty water to drinkable water.

Ford said their goal is to raise $1,000 and awareness of global water shortages, encourage water conservation and inspire students to help make a difference.

"Through this project, we have become personally involved in service learning, which has allowed us to truly understand the importance of this learning style," Ford said. "As participants, we have learned about the water crisis and ways to help. As future teachers doing this project, we have been able to truly see how service learning can make an impact on a student and can allow a person to grow into a global citizen."

Thomas hopes her SFA elementary education students will implement what they have learned through this project into their future classrooms.

"It's amazing how our students can touch so many lives with one project," Thomas said. "I hope when they graduate, the students will carry out a service-learning project close to their hearts in the communities and schools they serve."

To donate, visit http://www.h2oforlifeschools.org/index.php/get-involved/search/item/1004-stephen-f-austin-state-university.