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Before you can chug, you gotta lug

Students at Cottage Grove Middle school took turns carrying a gallon of water for 3.1 miles during the April 25 Walk for Water 5K. But some, like 8th grader Evan Jensen, chose to run the six laps around the school. William Loeffler / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 2
Cottage Grove Middle School students walked and ran a 5K around the campus while carrying gallon jugs full of water. The April 25 Walk for Water event gave them a taste of the arduous trek that people in Third World countries must make to get their water. William Loeffler / RiverTown Multimedia 2 / 2

COTTAGE GROVE — When there's no running water, you walk for it. Day in and day out. It may take an hour. It may take four, depending on how far away the well or river is.

The parched predicament of the poor in underdeveloped countries has been the subject of a yearlong service learning project at Cottage Grove Middle School.

You can only learn so much in the classroom, however. April 25, teachers Mary Brandvold and Jennifer Strong took students outside to let them experience a day in the life of a thirsty third world household.

The Walk for Water had students walk or run a 5K while they took turns carrying a gallon jug of water, which weighs roughly 8.5 pounds. The course took them six laps around the school. The eighth-grade class took the first shift. Each time a student completed a lap, a teacher marked it on their jug.

"We wanted students to see what it was like to walk in someone else's shoes," Brandvold said. "The average person in a third world country can take up to four hours every day to get water. And sometimes it's not even clean water."

A red-faced Nicholas Olson 14, chugged his jug after the event.

"It's about working to change things," he said. "We live in a society that doesn't think about water versus a society where they have to think about it. "

As part of the project, students also raised over $1,073 in donations and t-shirt and water bottle sales. The money will help build a hand-washing station in Chaguite Santa Maria in Nicaragua. Slosh.

"It's all for a good cause," eight-grader Evan Poeschel 14, said. "It's nice to give back to those who are needy."

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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