Columbia seventh-graders tap into awareness of world water crisis

Sunday, January 18, 2009 | 4:15 p.m. CST; updated 10:04 p.m. CST, Sunday, January 18, 2009

COLUMBIA — Rayna Sims is excited to be a 13-year-old in the middle of Missouri working to make a positive difference in the lives of people across the world.

"It makes me feel really good that we can help anyone in the world," Rayna said of a project she and her seventh-grade classmates have been working on for the past couple of weeks.

Last year, her teacher, Sara Jaeger, at Smithton Middle School asked students to come up with something they could do to change the world — "something," Jaeger said, "with a real, tangible product; something they could actually do."

After doing some research online, Rayna came across the Tap Project Web site and thought it would be a good idea to bring the project to Columbia.

The idea, born in New York City in 2007, is for participating restaurants during World Water Week, March 16 through March 22. Customers are invited to donate $1 or more to UNICEF for tap water that normally would be complimentary. Each dollar raised provides a child with clean drinking water for 40 days. The money will help provide purification systems, water tablets and hygiene education to people around the world who need it most.

Rayna outlined her proposal in a brochure she turned in for class last year, noting that more than 2,000 restaurants across the country participated last year. "Sadly, out of all of the restaurants participating so far, not one of them is in Columbia, let alone the whole state of Missouri," Rayna wrote in her brochure.

"My plan is for us to create packets of information on the world water crisis and the Tap Project and send them to local Columbia restaurants," she wrote. "That way in 2009 they will be prepared to apply to take part if they wish."

This has been the focus for Rayna and about 100 of her classmates. Jaeger said her students have been working in small public relations teams, making fliers, posters and drafting letters to encourage local restaurants to participate in the project for the first time this March.         

The project is still in its brainstorming stage, but Jaeger said the students hope to send letters to 50 to 75 restaurants. If the project is a success this year, Jaeger said, she would love to see it become an annual school-wide project. Regardless, the project has been a great way for students to learn how to come up with a plan and execute it, Jaeger said.  

Jaeger said her students are excited, engaged and love to create things. "This is why I teach," she said. "It's rewarding to see them find a connection."

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