I met the Salmonberry School's Director Paul Freedman at Goddard college where I presented Amman Imman to undergraduate and graduate students in Goddard's Education program. Paul and I were both students at that time, reflecting about meaningful education and empowering students as leaders. Paul took the initiative back to his school and has continued to engage Salmonberry students as leaders and activists. This year they walked for water. Paul shared this press release with me:
Orcas Island, Washington State, March 23 - Salmonberry School students celebrated World Water Day with a walk for water through the village of Eastsound. Preceding this walk-a-thon event students secured pledges from friends and family and then set out to walk to raise awareness of water resource issues around the world and to raise funds to drill wells in a draught stricken region of Niger, called The Azawak. In this poorest region of the poorest country on Earth in some seasons children have to walk up to 35 miles to get access to fresh drinking water.
Salmonberry’s 1st and 2nd graders had been studying many aspects of water this year. This study ranged from literature to biology, chemistry and ecology. As classroom teacher, Jamie Mulliga-Smith describes it, “we have realized what a precious resource water is and how lucky we are in the Pacific Northwest to have such an abundance of this life-giving element. When we heard about communities that are less fortunate, these young kids were moved to try and help and the adult community has rallied around this caring intention. Soon the third, fourth and fifth graders joined in too and the whole school caught the infectious spirit of helping.”
The teachers set World Water Day as the particular date for this event and 25 walkers, age 6-11 set out that afternoon with the goal of walking a cumulative 50 miles. When the day was over, however, these kids more than doubled this goal and exceeded 125 miles in all. “I could have kept going,” said Ethan White, age 11. “I wanted to jog so I could go farther but they (the teachers) said we had to walk.” The walkers completed half-mile loops through Eastsound and teachers kept a tally of all the laps as they were completed.
Salmonberry Program Director, Paul Freedman said, “I believe that kids have an incredible capacity for caring. We don’t need to shelter them from the realities of the world nearly as much as we do. However, it is critical that as they learn about injustice and hardship, we also make sure there are tangible actions that the kids can take to contribute to positive solutions to the world’s problems. Otherwise, there is a risk that kids are left feeling overwhelmed or with a sense of hopelessness and helplessness. Instead of “solutionaries” there is a risk that they just feel guilty and depressed. The adults must support the kids’ efforts to make this world better. Then service learning can become a really transformative experience.”
This walk was done in conjunction with the organization, Amman Imman: Water is Life, and their particular youth-based fundraising project called, Wells of Love. Interested people can make donations through their website at http://www.ammanimman.org/