One Book Can Make a Difference

Submitted by Jennifer Ferriss.

Florida receives around 58 inches of rain each year and is the most humid state in the nation. Natural springs, 1,200 miles of coastline and the second largest freshwater lake in the contiguous United States - water is everywhere. In 2012, school media specialist, Judith Weaver at the High Springs Community School in Alachua County, Florida created a unit centered on A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Parks for fourth to eighth grade students. The students read about children in Africa walking up to 6 hours per day to obtain water; this foreign concept had a great impact on over 400 students.

The interdisciplinary unit involved not only Ms.Weaver, other middle grade teachers as well as community groups worked actively to teach students about water scarcity and vulnerability. The Green Club and Future Farmers of America Club members educated students and sponsored activities that addressed valuing water as a resource. Five students competed in a Water Tower Engineering Competition, which was sponsored by a local regional utility company, and as a field trip students visited a water exhibit at the University of Florida’s Natural History Museum. A xeriscape garden was planted, math classes began calculating water usage from brushing teeth, and carrying two one-gallon jugs (about 17 pounds) of water around the school running track, Sudan-style, became a gym exercise. 

The unit all lead up to International World Water Day held on March 22nd. Students listened to a rotation of speakers and walked laps around the field carrying jugs of water, simulating the journeys depicted in A Long Walk to Water. For each lap the students walked they raised money for Rotary International to build a well for drinking water in third-world countries. 

The students did not stop there with their lessons. Their interest in water conservation was the impetus for administrators to make some much needed repairs. Leaky pipes were fixed, bathroom faucets were retrofitted and landscaping irrigation was turned off due to enough rainfall. In 2013 ,the school was recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for cutting down water usage by 70 percent.  


Children carry water on their heads in Sudan.

By Oxfam East Africa (Minkaman, Awerial County, South Sudan) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons 



The Sustainability Spotlight is a weekly series that highlights community-driven, environmentally sound, and economically responsible programs and projects in libraries and other organizations. You can find more projects in the Sustainability Spotlight Archive or visit NYLA's Sustainability Initiative to learn more about how you can get started with sustainability in your library.