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Hillside Elementary School raises awareness about water crisis

Leigh Forbush is a Global Citizenship Fellow at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF

Hi! My name is Leigh Forbush and I am the Global Citizenship Fellow at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF office in Boston. I work as a community mobilizer, bringing together schools, universities, volunteers and community organizations to unite in service of children around the world. This March, I had the opportunity to coordinate the 2012 UNICEF Tap Project here in Boston. Local volunteer groups on the ground have been instrumental in the success of the UNICEF Tap Project since 2007, and I have the privilege of sharing the story of one of these Boston area volunteer groups: Hillside Elementary School in Needham, Massachusetts.

© Leigh Forbush, 2012 | Hillside Students: Students in the 2nd and 4th grade involved in the Hillside UNICEF Tap Project perform their water song and chant at nearby Eliot Elementary School

Hillside Elementary School began their work with the UNICEF Tap Project, to complement a year long water curriculum, “Water, Water, Is It Really Everywhere? No.” The Hillside teachers, headed up by Amy Cicala and George Goneconto, together with curriculum advisor Si Si Goneconto, found that the content empowered their students to become socially aware of the impact that water has on everyday life.  Both the teachers along with their students have joined the UNICEF Tap Project since 2009 and have integrated it into the buddy class program as the “Buddy Water Project” with the hope of sharing their awareness and passion with the greater Needham community, while raising money for safe water for children in 150 countries around the world.

© Si Si Goneconto, 2012 | Hillside Canister: Elementary students decorate plastic UNICEF Tap Project donation canisters which are then placed at participating restaurants

From there, with the help of volunteer parents, the Hillside Elementary School recruited local restaurants and businesses to participate in the UNICEF Tap Project. They adapted the collection of UNICEF Tap Project donations by leaving student-decorated canisters at local businesses, and actually had the students perform a water song and chant at some of the participating businesses. In the last two years the students have participated in an evening “Water Stroll”, where parents and other students were invited to see the performance and dine out at the participating restaurants. In the past three years, Hillside Elementary School has raised over $4,000 for the UNICEF Tap Project. As testament to their innovative curriculum, in 2011, the Buddy Water Project won a Massachusetts state award for “Excellence in Energy and Environmental Education“!

This year, Hillside recruited 20 Needham area restaurants and two local businesses to join the fundraising efforts. They have performed their song and chant at eight restaurants, three assemblies and two sporting events accompanied by the Needham High School Cheerleaders. Additionally, they have added a social media component to their campaign that includes Twitter and a Tumblr page where community members can post water conservation tips.

Find out more about the initiative on Hillside School’s Buddy Water Project page!


  1. Posted April 2, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    This is so inpirational! What an amazing group of kids. Hope to see other schools implement similar programs.

  2. Posted April 3, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    My daughter has loved being part of the Buddy Water Project. It’s an amazing opportunity for the young students to participate in a social learning project and feel like they can make a difference for someone in need of clean drinking water.

  3. Posted April 3, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    Beyond the grassroots fundraising, it’s great to see kids getting involved and developing a sense of social consciousness at an early age. Hopefully they’ll understand that some of the things we take for granted every day are luxuries in other parts of the world!

  4. Posted April 4, 2012 at 5:42 am | Permalink

    Thanks for capturing our program so nicely! We hope all Field Notes readers will consider lending a hand for our crowdsourced water tips project. Visit http://hillsideh2o.tumblr.com/tipcard to share how you go about conserving water in your life.

    You can browse through the submissions we have so far at http://hillsideh2o.tumblr.com or by following us on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/hillsideh2o.


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