In a surprise to many, River Ridge Elementary School featured Principal Shawna Harney during a “breaking news” student television newscast in August.

“It’s a silly, fun thing that I know our students are seeing on social media and television,” says Harney. “We wanted them to know what is the purpose of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge so we incorporated some teaching behind it.”

One afternoon, 15 students stood around her, three of those students each with a bucket to pour freezing water over Harney.

“Students always get a kick out of their principals and educators doing things like this,” says Harney. “We want to make it meaningful for them, too.”

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge became popular in July and has been seen over and over again in the news. Public figures, actors, singers and sports teams have accepted the challenge to dump an ice water bucket over their head and make a donation to the ALS Association for research, treatments and finding a cure for ALS.

“It’s trickled down to me,” says Harney, who was issued the challenge by a colleague.

Harney says that along with the fifth graders newscast of her completing the ice bucket challenge, the fifth graders also did research, learning what ALS is so that elementary students could have some understanding and awareness of why ALS is important.

ALS, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig disease, is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the ability of the brain to start and control muscle movement. Those diagnosed with ALS can become paralyzed and eventually die from the disease. In mid-August, the total number of donations topped $53.3 million, according to a press release by the ALS Association.

“It’s a giant task but one worthy,” says Jessica Dykes, director of public relations and community development in the Kenton County School District. “Explaining what ALS is fosters in elementary students compassion and awareness of what is going on in the world.”

Dykes says that Harney is doing service learning, which combines educational instruction with community service, and is one of the Kenton County School District’s goals.

“We maximize every moment we have with our students,” says Dykes.

Nearly 30,000 Americans are living with ALS and have a life expectancy of two to five years after diagnosis, though this timeframe varies per individual and on the stage of ALS.

There is no cure or treatments yet for ALS, but the FDA has approved a drug that will slow the nature of the disease, according to the ALS Association’s website.

While Twitter and Facebook are being filled with videos and hashtag tweets, ALS research is getting closer to finding a cure.

No one knows how long the phenomena of the ice bucket challenge will last, but Harney has decided to keep the message and educational aspect going.

She issued a challenged to two other Kenton County School District elementary principals, asking them to complete the challenge and both have accepted.