Access to water

Many of you emailed and tweeted this CNN article to me: For schoolchildren, where’s the water? Some surprising statistics:

  • Only 15% of kids (middle-school age) consume adequate amounts of water.
  • Kids should be consuming half of their daily water intake at school.
  • Children should get 6-8 glasses of water per day.
  • Teenagers need 11 glasses per day (wow!)

I’ve blogged about water at school before. My students drink water from the drinking fountain. There are quite a few fountains in the school so access to water is not terrible. My students only complaint is that the water can be hot sometimes. In the cafeteria area, there is just one drinking fountain and it’s sort of in the hallway, which makes it practically inaccessible while kids eat their lunches. Before or after lunch kids at my school can drink (depending on individual teachers’ preferences), but not during lunch.

I don’t drink out of the watering fountains. My first and second years of teaching I did and I caught every germ that passed through the school. When I witnessed a little girl putting her whole mouth over the spigot, I stopped cold turkey. I carry a reusable water bottle to work with water from home. I don’t refill at work, but instead I bring in all my water from home. Some kids carry water bottles, which are often plastic.

The CNN article discusses the fact that most schools don’t have cups for water. Paper cups would be wasteful (you have seen the lunches and so you already know about the waste issue). Plastic cups are long gone (just like real silverware — there is no place to wash them).

This is a big issue and it’s going to take some creative problem solving to fix. Ideas?

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32 thoughts on “Access to water

  1. I was wondering if you were going to tackle that article 🙂 Right now my oldest just goes to afternoon kindergarten so it's not such an issue-they have snack time with milk and water. There's also a drinking fountain almost right outside her class room. This fall I'll probably have her bring in her stainless steel water bottle, plus another thermos of water, almond milk, or homemade juice for lunch (we don't drink cow's milk). I do think paper cups is a bad thing-it is kind of a tricky situation!

  2. When I was school-age I would get in trouble for going to the water fountain too often, and thus having to use the bathroom too often.

  3. Interesting article and post. Our Middle schools do not allow the children to take water bottles to school……hmmm

  4. In my elementary school, at least for the first few grades if I recall correctly, we would have special class trips to the fountains. We would line up and take turns drinking while the person behind us counted to 10.
    Definitely not a very practical solution, especially for older kids and/or big schools, but it allowed us to get some hydration and taught us that taking time so get something to drink is important.

  5. Tracey's Life-good point on some school's not allowing outside bottles. That makes the situation even more tricky!

  6. Do classrooms still have sinks? Perhaps a spigot water filter on the classroom sink, and reusable cups or bottles that the children can be responsible for washing?

  7. When I was in law school the school issued each of us a no-spill big plastic cup. They were the only cup we were allowed to bring into the library and tech classrooms. They were allowed everywhere because they posed no threat to the materials. If the kids just fill them with water, they couldn't really need to be washed that often would they? Maybe they could take them home on the weekends for a scrub. Something like that would be great for drinking water in the classroom.

  8. My son's Charter School encourages us to send the kids with water bottles, Paulo has his stainless steel bottle filled every morning from home and his goal is to finish it during the day, I tell him that drinking water is a very easy way to stay healthy, he sees me drinking from my own bottle when we're out and about, drinking water is just expected in our house.

  9. Here in the UK, I would say 90% of schools allow and positively encourage all children to have a water bottle on their desks at all times and to stay hydrated as there are numerous studies that show you work better when you are hydrated. Seems like common sense to me! How can you work if you are thirsty? I can't.

    In the elementary schools, a lot of the schools provide for free a reusable bottle with the child's name written on it in marker and they fill them up with tap water every morning and rinse them in the afternoon. They don't leave the school and are available throughout the day.

    At high school level, it is up to the child to bring a drink but for it to be allowed in the classroom it must be water – not juice or soda.

    However, I think this works in the UK because at all ages there are two recess periods of 15-20 minutes, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, as well as a lunch hour so there are plenty of opportunities to use the bathroom and therefore increased hydration doesn't eat into teaching time.

    I consider it a complete restriction of human rights to not allow water in a reusable bottle on the desk at all times. To not allow them to hydrate themselves is awful! it is a fundamental need!

  10. I did not know teenagers needed 11 cups! That's a lot. The truth is I remember the water fountains vividly from my school days (down to elementary school). I would have to agree that this is something that is obviously promoted heavily when schools are in the drawing stages…

    There was always a "good" fountain at the schools where the water seemed to always be cold and tasted crisp. Thank God I never witnessed anything like you did with that girl!

    I do have to say – being the studious pupil I avoided drinking "too much" because then I'd have to use my bathroom passes. In high school we actually had to use our "official planners" to sign out and the number of slots were limited for each quarter.

    Sorry I don't have any solutions. Good post though – really got me thinking!

  11. Oh, I remember the drinking fountains in elementary school very well…I only drank from them when I thought I was about to die of thirst because even at a young age I had a feeling they would be gross. Germ city!

    They really should give kids more opportunities in school to drink water (or plain milk) – it would probably make them feel better along with keeping their fluid levels up.

  12. I don't know why so many people uncritically pass on the "8 glasses of water" myth. It's wildly inaccurate at best:

    Now, if the situation in your school is such that children are often *thirsty* and do not have access to water, that's a problem. A big problem. If the situation is that children are opting not to drink water because the bathrooms are so disgusting, same thing.

    But they still don't need 6 – 8 glasses of water a day. That's just absurd.

  13. my kids' school encourages kids to bring water bottles to school. They bring a water bottle every day (re-usable aluminum one) and they keep it on their desks.

  14. Interestingly, in my sons ABA classroom they are allowed to have reusable water bottles at their desk- but it was forbidden in mainstream classrooms.

  15. Our local elementary lets kids keep reusable water bottles on their desks. A major improvement since I was in school! I remember being so thirsty sometimes, and the drinking fountains were always lukewarm and gross.

  16. When I'm sick, water helps control my coughing (I've got asthma/allergies. The allergies make my throat dry and raw, and the rawness exacerbates coughing, and too much coughing can actually make the asthma worse). I can remember having to bring in a doctor's note to have a water bottle at school as a kid. In high school, you weren't technically supposed to carry water bottles around (they were banned on account of students filling them with vodka…) but many of us did anyways.

    I really don't understand why schools ban reusable, spill-proof bottles. Surely a bottle at a desk is less of an intrusion on instruction time than a student getting up to go to the fountain.

  17. I definitely think that kids should have access to water, and it should always be served as an alternative choice to milk. I know that everyone here is pro-milk, but not every kid can tolerate it. Personally, I could never stand it – flavored or otherwise. Even as an adult now I can not drink milk. Just the smell of it makes me gag. Luckily at the time, my schools always offered an alternative of Grape or Orange juice. Water would have been much healthier, but going all day through two meals with nothing to drink is a terrible thought!

  18. My kids are in elementary school and they are allowed to have water bottles (plastic or aluminum) on a designated table in their classroom. This was the same for their current public school in SoCal and their previous charter school in Arizona.

  19. Our students are encouraged to bring water bottles to school. It is usually on the school supply list. Most people carry reusable water bottles with them all the time here in BC.

  20. Jenni-several months ago, after researching cow's milk and all the health problems it's connected with, we cut out drinking it. We now drink lots of water, almond and coconut milk (which have more calcium per serving, then cow's milk), and occasionally homemade oj and apple juice. So, there's at least two of us here on the no milk band wagon 🙂 I agree-water should be an option at school lunches. My daughter has the option to chose water instead of milk during her kindergarten snack time, as does my other daughter at her pre-school. Older kids should be given this same option.

  21. How about a water cooler? Just like the kind most office buildings in America have. You can have the type that filters the water continuously and you don't need to change any bottles.

    It's so awesome to see so many of us wanting to get water to our children! The menu can offer our children four types of cow's milk (including chocolate) and juice…but not water. The bottled water is extra!

    Heck…I just might call our food service director and ask her if I can donate one to the high school and I bet the teachers will appreciate it too.

  22. My elementary school in South Korea has water filter machines set up on each floor (no water fountains as drinking tap water is supposedly dangerous here) that the classes use all the time. There is a collection of stainless steel cups and a sterilizer set up for them. I personally bring my own container of water in as I have no idea how often those cups are actually washed and I feel like a blue light in a sterilizer isn't going to kill the germs all my students carry! As it's getting warmer, more and more students are bringing their own thermos to school to use during the day. I feel like Korea is pretty lax about this, which is fine by me since I am always drinking juice or water all day long as well.

  23. I think a contributing factor is that often kids are penalized for leaving class too often to use the bathroom, which happens when you drink a lot of water. In high school, I was told in one class that if I left any time for anything besides a medical emergency, I would automatically fail.
    This is a bigger problem in middle and high school, when kids are expected to be big enough to hold it, or somehow manage to find time to pee in the sometimes less than 5 minutes between classes.

  24. The reason many schools discourage or ban water bottles in class is the fear – reasonable or otherwise! – that they'll be used for alcoholic beverages.

  25. I teach 7th graders (about 120) and every morning before school I fill a 5 gallon jug with ice and water for my students. Students get cups once a week, they put their names on them with permanent marker, and I keep the cups in a basket for each class. Sometimes I buy the cups and sometimes I get parents to buy them for me.
    To me…it's worth the effort. Sometimes, I'll be honest, it creates problems and I will have to take the cups away from a class for a while; however, they always want to earn them back. For many students, the water seems to settle them down (or keep them awake) and I know it helps cure a lot of headaches (caused by dehydration).
    I do it because I know my students don't drink enough water! They drink pop, gatorade, energy drinks, juice…everything but water.
    This year I'm finding that I have to fill the jug twice a day and I have a basket of cups for kids who are not my students who come to get drinks between classes. They are starting to learn it makes them feel better to drink water!

  26. My 3 kids are in 3 different schools at the moment, so I always read your posts with a variety of experience.
    2 of the 3 schools allow students to have a water bottle with them. The high school insists only that it be clear so that students are not carrying around a Coke (or worse!) with them.
    The school that doesn't allow the bottles is the most OCD of the three, and is worried about spills. It's water, FGS! Also, I assume they like minimizing bathroom time; this is the same school that only gives them 20 minutes to eat (including the line time) and 10 minutes of recess.
    I will be forwarding this article to the principal. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.
    I think reusable water bottles are a good solution. That's what I use for all 3 (it goes in the lunchbox of the child at the anal retentive school) and just drop them in the dishwasher every night. I don't understand why this is complicated?
    PS…the high school actually makes money off of this by selling a large, clear, very spill-proof bottle with the school mascot on it in the school store. Most kids carry this one, although it is not required.

  27. When I was in HS we were allowed water bottles until my JR year when it was discovered many students were not drinking water in class, but other clear liquids….

  28. I'm actually really surprised to hear that your students are allowed to have water bottles. In my school, water bottles were completely banned unless you had a note from the nurse saying you medically needed it. I'm really glad to hear that not all schools go by this rule.

  29. My children were asked to bring in a mug at the beginning of the school year. Each day before class starts the children fill their mug with water at the classroom sink and keep the mug all day for drinking whenever they want/need a drink. Each child has a cup on their desk at all times. It really helps with all of the "can I get a drink" disruptions as well as having well hydrated kids. Their entire school operates this way. I think it's great.

  30. Like another commenter mentioned, at my high school, water bottles or beverage containers weren't allowed in classrooms because of fears that students were drinking alcohol during class. Worse, class change (from bell to bell) was only 3 minutes, with each class allowing two bathroom passes (redeemable for extra credit if unused) per semester. Add to that a total of maybe 20 bathroom stalls for each gender at a 1500 student school, and it's obvious why no one, especially girls, would dare drink water even if it were allowed.

    In elementary school, most of the bathroom stalls didn't have doors (for totally unknown reasons), so kids would restrict fluids rather than have to use the open stalls.

  31. At our secondary school, we were allowed to bring a clear bottle with a sports cap filled with water into the classroom. I drank very little throughout the day though because the toilets were disgusting- I held it until the end of the day!

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