One day last week I picked my son up early from school for his annual physical. While at school, I checked out the brand new high-demand water cooler in the school cafeteria. The PTO purchased it with money raised during a Back2Tap reusable stainless steel bottle fundraiser. The installation of this cooler represents an exciting synergy between environmental protection, student health, and learning. The cooler is intended to encourage students to refill their reusable bottles so that they will drink more water (tap water rather than bottled), thereby reducing waste, improving health, and fostering learning.
As a Back2Tap fundraising coordinator last year, I had done some research on water coolers for schools and learned that Great Britain is a leader in this area. There is even a “Water Cooler ‘Point of Use’ Guidance for Schools” by Joe Harvey, Director of the Health Education Trust, an independent British charity. This 18-page document argues for installation of coolers in all schools (1 for every 200 people) and explains how to manage them efficiently. The guide quotes Ann Keen (Department of Health Under-Secretary) saying: “good hydration helps to reduce tiredness, irritability, and increases concentation. It contributes to a more settled and productive learning environment.” I was already aware that a healthy breakfast improved learning, but the importance of good hydration in education was new to me.
Later, at the doctor’s office, I was surprised and dismayed to find out that my son’s urine test indicated deydration. What? How could that be? He carries a big water bottle to school with him every day! The pediatrician told us how important it is to drink more water and stay hydrated. Yes, I know, I thought. How ironic to celebrate the arrival of the new cooler and find out my son is dehydrated on the same afternoon.
This coincidence made me appreciate the foresight of the PTO leaders for investing in the water cooler and of the principal for allowing students to have water bottles on their desks that they can refill during the day. If my son is getting dehydrated at school, I think that a very large percentage of students may also be dehydrated without realizing it. Once the students “discover” the great tasting filtered water from their new cooler and get into a habit of bringing in and refilling their reusable bottles, I am hopeful that they will all be better hydrated and better able to learn.