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The Ota Initiative Blog

Week 2: Building Windmills and International Friendships

Am I dreaming, or is tomorrow the last day of our program? My how the time flies when it’s full of wonderful children and fun science experiments. As we finish up with Day 14 of our program, I figured I should take the time to let you all know what we were up to last week.

Last week was awesome for many reasons, but one of my favorite activities was when we discussed how to treat dirty water so that it is safe to drink. This lesson was particularly important to me because I have seen countless children just drinking straight from dirty wells and streams here. Every time it happens I scream (literally, to stop them from drinking the water), especially considering that according to UNICEF, nearly five children under the age of five die every hour in Tanzania from preventable illnesses resulting from unclean water.

We decided to impress the importance of boiling and straining drinking water on our students with a little bit of trickery. We offered them three glasses of water: one with clearly dirty water, one with clean water and one with seemingly clean water that actually was very strong salt water. One student volunteered to drink the salt water, saying it was clean, but after one sip he was running out of the classroom to spit it out. I thought this would be the end, but no, then all 24 of our other students still wanted to taste the salt water to see why it was so bad. I was seriously crying I was laughing so hard as one after another the students took a sip of the salt water and immediately spat it out. We then of course offered them clean water and told them it was safe because it was boiled and strained, stressing the fact that this is the only way to know if water is truly clean because many things that make water dirty and cause illnesses are not visible. On top of this, our head teacher then taught the class a song and dance he created about how to clean water. The students loved this song and are still singing it a week later.

After finishing up our water lessons, we moved on to discussing the importance of air and how to prevent air pollution. We performed a lot of fun experiments with the children to teach them about the presence and characteristics of air, such as demonstrating that fire uses air by covering candles with different sized glasses and measuring which candles were extinguished the fastest. By far however, the students’ favorite activity was when we made windmills from hay and banana leaves. I’m sure they took away deep lessons about the movement of air and its ability to move things and power electricity, but I’m pretty sure they were also content just running around watching the windmills spin.

Last Friday was also a fantastic day because that is the day I gave the students letters from their new pen pals in America. If you remember, last program our students wrote letters and drew pictures of their favorite animals. I passed these on to the wonderful LeAnne McCarron, who gave them to her elementary school students in Maryland, who in turn wrote our students letters about their favorite animals. Our students were so happy to receive their letters and pictures on Friday, and this week we are going to prepare our letters to send back. I am so happy for this little cultural exchange that we have started and hope we can continue fostering an international awareness among our students and those in America.

Finally, I would just like to add that if you would like to see adorable pictures of our students receiving their letters, planting trees, playing with windmills and more, you can now view them on our Facebook page. Please visit our page, “like” us and prepare to be overwhelmed by how awesome our students are.

As always, thank you again for your support, and have a happy Thursday!

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