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Hillside Students Promoting UNICEF Tap Project

Hillside Elementary students have been engaged in a water conservation and awareness effort to help raise money for children in other countries to have clean drinking water.

Do you know how much water you use each day? Think you can tell the difference between the taste of bottled water and tap water?

Students at have been busy learning the answers to these questions and many more in a specially developed curriculum to increase awareness on water conservation and availability around the world.

George Goneconto’s second grade and Amy Cicala’s fourth grade classes are paired together in a buddy program that matches the older children with younger kids while they play an active part in the 2011 UNICEF Tap Project. 

The UNICEF Tap Project encourages restaurants around the country to invite patrons to donate $1 or more for tap water they normally would drink for free during World Water Week.

The money raised is used to help give children clean drinking water in countries around the world.  This year, UNICEF is targeting the children of Togo, the Central African Republic and Vietnam to receive clean drinking water.

With water awareness, conservation and social responsibility at the core of the curriculum, the children have had the opportunity to tour the water treatment facility in Needham, be part of a taste test between tap water and various bottled water brands, test toxin levels at Needham's Rosemary Lake and role play and envision what life would be like with limited access to water, among other activities. 

“We watched a video that showed how kids in Africa carry five gallons of water on their heads to use and drink for the day,” said fourth grader Henry Keegan. “To get an idea of what this is like we brought gallon water containers from home and each carried them on our heads for one lap around the field [at school] but that was nothing compared to what the African children have to go through.”

"If they want water, they sometimes have to drink out of waterfalls and streams and stuff," added second grader Eli Brown, who is paired with Keegan as his water buddy.

While the children have learned a variety of facts and information about water usage and conservation, some of the hands-on activities they have taken part in have given them the  most memorable learning experiences.

“I really liked going to the Needham Water Plant,” said fourth grader, Justin Kline. “It was really cool seeing and learning how we get our drinking water.”

Second grader Sarah Lucey was surprised to learn that she liked tap water better than the bottled water.

Trixie Ogbebor added, “We thought we’d all be able to tell the difference and that everyone would like bottled water better, but really most of us couldn’t tell.”

“It’s all about planting a seed by being part of a bigger project and seeing how they can change things and make a difference too,” said fourth grade teacher, Cicala of the curriculum.

 Si Si Goneconto, who is married to second grade teacher, George, acts as the curriculum advisor and has been instrumental in getting the program at Hillside up and running for the past three years.  Together, they came up with the song and lyrics to the “Water, Water” song the children performed on Feb 15 halftime show during Needham High School boys varsity basketball game. 

“The performances spread the message of water conservation and awareness to others.  They also do a drum chant and will be performing that as well as their song to various during World Water Week this year,” said Si Si Goneconto.

Second graders Tara Veidenheimer and Rachel Dasey agreed that they both really enjoyed learning the song anddrum chants and performing the best out of everything they have done so far this school year.

 The water themed curriculum for the children will culminate the week of March 20-26 which UNICEF has named World Water Week this year.

Any money the children raise from their song performances at local sporting events and restaurants will go towards the UNICEF Tap Project.  Just $1 gives a child in Africa or Vietnam clean drinking water for 40 days.

 For more information on UNICEF Tap Project or to learn how you can help Hillside Elementary students in their efforts to spread the message of water awareness and social responsibility, visit UNICEF Tap Project online.

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