The Middle School of Piedmont in Piedmont, Oklahoma, has now taken the Iron Giraffe Challenge four years in a row.
Four years ago, Water for South Sudan (WFSS) launched the Iron Giraffe Challenge (IGC), and since then, students all over the world have taken the challenge to raise money for WFSS to help fund a new drilling rig for the organization. The IGC culminates in a prize drawing in April that will reveal which school has won either a visit with Salva or one of the Skype call prizes. Salva has visited three different schools in the last three years: the American School of Dubai, Daniel Bagley Elementary in Seattle, WA, and Millbrook High School in New York.
We wanted to share this perspective on the IGC from a teacher who has taken the challenge every year since 2014 with her students and community. I interviewed Lindsey Fried of the Middle School of Piedmont in Piedmont, Oklahoma to see why she and her students have returned to the IGC every year, including this year.
WFSS: How did you first hear about the Iron Giraffe Challenge?
Lindsey: This is my 3rd year teaching at Piedmont Middle School. I had never specifically heard about the Iron Giraffe Challenge till I came to Piedmont. I knew water wells were needed in Africa, but I had no idea there was an organization in place to help drill wells and provide access to cleaner water. I have a friend, Lindsey Andrews, that writes children's books about the living conditions and water issues in Ethiopia. Her first book titled, I Walk For Water, is a book with vivid illustrations about what a child goes through to find clean water on a daily basis in Ethiopia. This book opened my eyes with how much water is taken for granted by many people when several places in this world do not even have access to water. When reading through the links on the Water for South Sudan website, I was shocked when I read the price of a new drilling rig, or "iron giraffe," and I realized how necessary it is to participate in the challenge with my students. Seeing the picture of the current iron giraffe helped me put together why the name of the challenge is called the “Iron Giraffe Challenge”.
"When reading through the links on the Water for South Sudan website, I was shocked when I read the price of a new drilling rig, or "Iron Giraffe," and I realized how necessary it is to participate in the challenge with my students."
WFSS: What motivated you to sign up every year after the first year?
Lindsey: I am a 7th grade Language Arts teacher, and part of our curriculum is reading A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. This book is the main reason Piedmont became motivated to help with the cause. After Piedmont’s first year of signing up and contributing to the Iron Giraffe Challenge, it has been so inspiring and challenging to continue contributing each year thereafter. Our students become passionate when they realize there are places that lack one of the biggest necessities in life, water. In class discussions, students realize how much they take water for granted on a daily basis, and they become empathetic with other children who do not have water as a luxury. The staff, the students, and the community of Piedmont come together to reach our yearly goal to donate to the IGC. Piedmont is a great town where families, churches, businesses, and the schools work together to make something happen.
WFSS: How have students reacted to the Iron Giraffe Challenge?
Lindsey: Students are typically a little shocked when they see the videos on the Water for South Sudan website, because seeing primary examples of the water that the people are forced to drink for lack of options is very eye opening. They find it fascinating to read both Nya’s and Salva’s story, and they love the ending of the book. Students also realize how much they take water and their education for granted when they read the story of Nya having to walk the majority of her day to gather little water or none at all.
"Students also realize how much they take water and their education for granted when they read the story of Nya having to walk the majority of her day to gather little water or none at all."
WFSS: Has there been a student or group of students that really took fundraising into their own hands?
Lindsey: One group of students took a cross-curricular project that was assigned to the next level. One particular student in that group took all of his data and research from each class and put it into a presentation with a voice-over. He walked his audience through his findings of daily water usage for Nya’s people and compared that information with his personal water usage. He calculated the distance Nya walked daily to determine how long it took her to travel that distance. His ten minute presentation was so outstanding, that it was shown to several teachers, the principal, and the superintendent.
WFSS: Can you share some of your fundraising ideas with us? What was your favorite fundraiser?
A favorite fundraiser we have done at Piedmont to reach our goal is having a walk-a-thon at the school. We have a time set where students walk nonstop around the gym. We also purchase gallon jugs of water to provide students with the opportunity to experience what it feels like carrying water on their heads like Nya does in A Long Walk to Water. At last year’s fundraiser, some students chose to take their shoes off while walking to get a feel of what Nya’s feet feel like when going to gather water. Some students would limp on one foot while carrying a jug of water to represent the thorns that would poke into Nya’s heels. Other fundraisers have included selling bottled waters and flavored water packets.
WFSS: What has been the most inspiring part of fundraising with your students?
Lindsey: The most inspiring part of fundraising with the students is seeing their determination to reach our set goal. I will share our donations page link through Google Classroom, and students will tell me that they have shared the link with their church or their parents have shared it with others. Students will encourage other students to take part by creating public service announcements with slogans that say, “Don’t Wait; Just Donate” or “Don’t Delay and Give Today.” Seeing students become leaders is a very inspiring part of the fundraising as well. I can teach, educate, and inform students about ways to help, but it is the student's motivation and determination that pushes their classmates to step up and be leaders, too, in order to contribute in making a difference for the people of South Sudan.
"I can teach, educate, and inform students about ways to help, but it is the student's motivation and determination that pushes their classmates to step up and be leaders, too."
Thank you to the students and community at the Middle School of Piedmont for your hard work and commitment to WFSS!