The middle-school students were tired of walking and their backs hurt from the heavy loads they had been carrying, but they were smiling as they trudged back to their school Wednesday morning, each carrying 5 liters of water.

The lesson for City Neighbors Charter School students was about the scarcity of water in some places in the world and what people go through to meet their basic needs. In Wajir, Kenya, the African town the students have studied, people have to walk as much as five miles to get water for just one day. So teacher Peter French decided to have about 50 students walk about two miles to his house, fill up their water jugs from his tap and then walk back to school.

The students had brought gallon milk jugs, soda bottles or water bottles to fill at the French house. They loaded them into their backpacks and plastic bags.

"It's really heavy," said Tyler Rohoblt, an eighth-grader.

Several students tried to get creative by bringing a wagon to haul the water, but they said their teacher forbade that. Another student carried his water in a sling that he fashioned from a sweat shirt around his neck.

Anthony Gary, 12, said the students were participating in their "Drought for a Day" because they wanted to know what it would be like to walk that far.

"We use tons of water every day," said Adrianna Conway, 11, adding that she and everyone else take the precious commodity for granted, just turning on the spigot and expecting it to come out.

Adrianna said the students' original plan was to take the water back home and then limit themselves to using only what they had carried for bathing, drinking and cooking. But the teachers thought that might be too difficult for families. So instead, she said, each student will be writing down all the water he uses in the home - every shower, every toilet flush, every time someone brushes teeth or boils water. Then in math class, students will calculate just how much water their households used in one day.

French said the school has focused on the theme of air, water and food for the first part of the year. That has led to discussions about global warming and in particular which people would be less likely to survive as the Earth changes.

"The walking is to give the students a small sense of what it means to go so far every day to get the necessities," he said.

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