In an inspiring fusion of education and action, sixth-grade students led by Middle School English Teacher Pam Onest have transformed their classroom learning into a meaningful community initiative. The effort, centered around a walkathon held on December 1, was inspired by their study of Linda Sue Park’s novel A Long Walk to Water.
Since 2015, the novel has been a pivotal part of the sixth-grade curriculum, introducing students to the struggles and resilience of Salva Dut, a former "Lost Boy" of Sudan. Through Salva's journey, students explored the severe challenges of water scarcity in South Sudan and the profound impact of water accessibility on community development. This literary exploration led to a deeper understanding of global issues, fostering empathy and a desire to contribute to change.
The walkathon, more than just a physical activity, represented a tangible embodiment of students' learning. Gathering at the Middle School driveway, they prepared to walk a mile, symbolizing the daily trek many South Sudanese children endure for water. This act of solidarity was a powerful lesson in itself, teaching students about resilience and the importance of access to clean water.
The impact of A Long Walk to Water extended beyond the novel's pages, prompting students to research and discuss the real-world work of Water for South Sudan, the organization founded by Salva Dut. They delved into topics like the significance of water wells for local economies, the empowerment of women and girls through education, and the cultivation of small businesses in water-rich communities.
This year's walkathon is a student-led initiative, reflecting a growing tradition of active learning and community involvement. It’s a testament to how literature can inspire students to engage with global issues and think critically about their role in the world.
While the event also involved fundraising, the primary focus was on the students' educational journey. Their involvement in the walkathon and related activities provided a dynamic, experiential learning opportunity. It allowed them to connect classroom theories with real-world applications, demonstrating the power of education in shaping socially conscious citizens.
In addition to the walkathon, a dress-down day was organized to include the entire Middle School in this learning experience. The event was not just about raising funds but about creating a school-wide atmosphere of awareness and engagement with global issues.
The journey of these sixth graders, from reading a novel to organizing a walkathon, highlights how learning at Shady Side Academy can extend beyond textbooks and classrooms, encouraging students to engage with the world around them in meaningful and impactful ways.