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Burley Elementary Students Launch into Water Activism After School Project

By Serena Dai | April 28, 2013 8:17am

LAKEVIEW — Sixth grader Nina Robinson's friend told her studying water conservation is "not cute." But that just pushed Nina to tell her friend more about why saving water is important, she said.

"That made me want to teach her that it's not something to be ignored," Nina said.

Nina's entire sixth grade class at Burley Elementary School, with teacher Catherine Ditto, decided to study water conservation for the school's annual "Explore More" presentation on Friday, where the school's classrooms were transformed into museum exhibits created by students. 

This year's projects ranged from dioramas of the rainforest to a closet transformed to look like a World War II prisoner of war's jail cell.

In Ditto's classroom, the exhibit went beyond informing and encouraged parents, grandparents and other visitors to make pledges to change their behavior to help conserve water. For the students, what they learned inspired them to start an online fundraiser with a goal of donating $1,000 to clean water projects.

"In Africa, they only get five to 15 gallons of water a day, and it's dirty and gross and full of bacteria," Nina said. "We're here just pumping water out of the ground."

Exhibits on how much water various tasks require — such as meat production or clothing production — asked visitors to question their own habits. Pat Mallinger, whose daughter Madeline ran an exhibit, admitted after the presentations that perhaps 40 cotton T-shirts is more than he needs and that he could whittle down to conserve water.

"She won't let us go without thinking about it," Mallinger said of his activist sixth grade daughter.

All the classes at Burley, from pre-K to eighth, choose to display on a topic from class that they want to learn more about, and the goal is to push students to learn the real world significance and future impact of what they're learning in the classroom, said Principal Catherine Plocher. 

The water project is a prime example of that, Plocher said.

"We all need to save water," said sixth grader Tatiana Rizzo. "I want to help people."