MEAT CAMP — Fifth-grade Green Valley students and their teachers raised money to fund the construction of 60 water filters that will be sent to villages that experience water insecurity, an idea that was sparked by a book they read in class.

Over the past several weeks, Green Valley School’s fifth-grade students read Linda Sue Park’s “A Long Walk to Water” — a novel that tells the story of Nya, a fictional South Sudanese girl, who must walk several hours each day over great distances to supply her family with drinking water.

In the book, Nya’s life is changed dramatically when a well and school are constructed in her village. “A Long Walk to Water” ends with a message of hope, one Green Valley’s fifth-graders wanted to carry outside the realm of fiction and translate into real world impact.

After finishing the book, the students banded together to search for ways they could help those affected by the water crisis in Sudan, according to Watuaga County Schools. With the help of their teacher, Carly Mize, they found their way to Boone-based nonprofit Wine to Water — an organization that works to provide access to clean drinking water across the world.

“This was absolutely a student-led project,” Mize said. “After they read the book, they were so inspired to find some way to help people who encounter the same struggles as the characters they’d read about. They felt they had to do something about it.”

Along fellow fifth-grade teachers Kirbi Bell and Megan McGrady, Mize and the students kicked off a fundraiser for the project. Together with parents, community members and the rest of Green Valley’s students, the fifth-graders raised a total of $3,029 in a coin drive, surpassing their fundraising goal by more than $500.

But Green Valley’s fifth-graders weren’t satisfied to simply fund the water filters. With the help of Wine to Water and a day’s hard work, they physically constructed the filters as well, according to WCS.

To help with the build, Wine to Water set up shop at the school on May 15 with several stations students could visit to learn about the water insecurity and collect parts for their water filter build.

At the various stations, the students were challenged to carry five gallon jerrycans of water that characters from “A Long Walk to Water” carried multiple miles each day. They also sampled Wine to Water’s filtered water themselves.

Once they collected all the parts, the class joined together to assemble the filters with the help of Wine to Water staff. The completed filters are planned to leave Green Valley School and go on to communities in need across the world.

“It’s such an incredible opportunity for these students to learn they can do something to better their world,” Mize said. “It’s incredible how passionate they all became working on this project. These kids are world changers. Working to raise funds and partnering with Wine to Water has shown these kids that they can make a positive impact — it doesn’t just have to be adults. The students have been the innovators and the problem solvers.”

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