PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Fourth-graders at the International Charter School in Pawtucket say they have a whole bunch of reasons for requesting a sprinkler in their school playground, but perhaps none is as compelling as this: “The freshnes.”
The students in Rosa Couto’s class signed a written petition, titled “Declaration of a sprinkler on ICS property.”
“We, 4C2, hereby declare that ICS puts a sprinkler in one of the ICS properties,” they wrote, referring to fourth-grade group C2. “We have many reasons why. It would be refreshing. It would be funded by the money we make. Under this are signatures from group 4C2 that agree to this cause. Please think of this, the freshnes, the look on the children’s faces when they see it.”
The students, who are in the school’s Portuguese-English dual-language strand, typed up the petition on a school computer during their lunch period on Tuesday, when it was 83 degrees outside, put the document in an envelope, and placed it on school director Julie Nora’s desk.
On Friday, they detailed their proposal during a morning class while pitching fund-raising ideas, including a “lemonade stand” that would sell papier-mâché and origami.
Afterward, Nora said she found the “freshnes” initiative compelling.
“I think after this morning I have no choice,” Nora said. “I think we will plan to get a low-cost sprinkler and then work with them and others to figure out a longer-term misting station and water conservation effort.”
When she first received the petition, Nora posted it on Twitter, saying, “Received this today from 4th graders. Help! What is my argument against this?”
Her post drew lots of responses, with many offering support. For example, Nail Communications, a Providence-based advertising and public relations firm, wrote, “If the kids need a powerful, high-production value advocacy campaign, we will take their cause on pro-bono!”
“That’s a very compelling argument,” Jessica David posted. “I wish we could go sprinkler shopping at Benny’s…”
Bob LeBoeuf asked whether the students meant a drinking fountain or lawn sprinkler, writing, “If they mean a device to make them wet, tell them they are in school, not at a water park. Done.”
But Kelly Ann Aldinger wrote, “Love it! Teaching even young learners that they can use their voice to create change!”
During class Friday, fourth-grader Wyatt Goldstein made clear that when it comes to this particular subject, kids know what they’re talking about.
“We’ve all been to water parks, so we know about sprinklers and stuff,” he said. “Because we are kids and we know fun.”
Kimani Lopes-Ross made the central argument that a sprinkler would refresh students when they’re outside for recess on a hot day. Damio Carreira added that the sprinkler would also water the grass and the plants growing on the school’s newly acquired lots off Tower Street.
Others students see the sprinkler as a step toward a larger objective. “We’ve always wanted to install a pool,” Breelyn Braga said.
“And we knew that wasn’t going to happen,” Anne Hastings added. “This is step one of our master plan.”
Braga said the thinking was: “Let’s go smaller at first and take a sprinkler because it has been very hot these past few days, in like the 80s, and it’s just getting hotter and hotter.”
Hastings said that with climate change, the weather is getting warmer. “Instead of slowly transitioning to summer, it will be like 70 degrees one day and the next day it’s 90,” she said.
Nathan Lopes said students would consider the sprinkler a sweet reward after a trying year. “We should get a sprinkler because of how hard we have been working in the past year with virtual learning and COVID,” he said.
Goldstein suggested some safety precautions, such as prohibiting running in the sprinkler area so no one slips, and banning equipment in that area. “If a ball bonks you on the head, that will hurt,” he pointed out.
André Ponceano said other concerns include over-watering the grass and wasting water. But he said the class has talked about installing a timer to shut off the sprinklers.
As far as funding for the sprinkler, the students said they might sell some of the face masks they’ve made as part of “The Help Huddle” group that has collected food for a food bank at Rhode Island College. Also, they said they could each contribute $1 as part of “dress down days,” and they might ask for sprinkler donations from people who noticed the Twitter post.
The students also talked about raising money by opening a “lemonade stand,” explaining that this stand wouldn’t sell lemonade; it would sell artwork, including landscapes, papier-mâché, and origami.
The petition was signed not only by the students but by “Ms. Rosa,” the fourth-grade teacher. Couto said she signed on because it can be hot in the playground, and after more than a year with the pandemic, she thought it would be good “to give them different opportunities to engage and have fun.”
Also, Couto said the process of advocating for the sprinkler is teaching them how “to be persuasive and take action.”
Braga said she’s learning that if you really want something, you have to be prepared to explain your reasons. “It’s hard work,” she said. “But if you try hard enough, you have a good chance.”
Hastings said she learned to “speak up for my beliefs” and to take action. “Because who knows?” she said, “I want to become the first woman president someday.”