Cities Take Their Conservation Message To The Next Generation
By Warren Tenney
Cities are helping the next generation of desert dwellers understand where their water comes from, why it’s important to protect it, and how to conserve it. For more than a decade, the City of Glendale has invested in a team of water professionals armed with teaching tools and lesson plans to deepen students’ knowledge about water in the desert. The Water Watchers Program is one of a series of youth programs that emphasize the environment and help students sharpen their skills in science, technology, engineering and math, known in the education community as STEM skills. Glendale’s programs reach an average of 3,000 students a year.
Glendale built the Water Watchers core program in 2007 with funds from a federal Bureau of Reclamation grant and a group of teachers willing to help the city create a useful supplement to their water science lessons. The Water Watchers curriculum is built to match Arizona’s academic standards for fourth, fifth and sixth graders and requires minimal teacher training or teacher preparation time. It reaches about 1,000 students a year.
Professionals from the city’s Water Services Department offer classroom presentations where students rotate through three different interactive teaching models called Discovery Stations. These stations help demonstrate the impact of watersheds and storms on Glendale’s water, how aquifers hold and store water beneath the city, and why dams and reservoirs are important to Glendale’s drinking water supplies.
Teachers request these 60 to 90 minute presentations to introduce or review a water science instruction unit, to enrich ongoing lessons, or to inspire science projects and presentations. Everyone gets something extra from the Water Watchers program. Teachers receive professionally designed resource and support materials, including fun lesson plans about water conservation. Students get a short survey to take home to their parents with a list of free water-saving devices their parents can request from the city. These include water-efficient showerheads and garden hose nozzles, toilet leak detection kits and AMWUA publications, such as the print publications of our Smart Home Water Guide and Landscape Plants for the Arizona Desert websites.
Once the parent surveys are tabulated and the water-saving devices packed into goody bags, city staff – accompanied by Wayne Drop when requested – return to the school a few weeks later to hand them out. Even if parents don’t respond to the survey, every child gets a goody bag with some water-saving device and information inside.
At the beginning of these classes every child is given a two-question assessment: How can you save water? What words do you know related to water? The same assessment is given at the end of the class. Glendale water pros have used these assessments – as well as teacher surveys – to improve their programs throughout the years. For example, they have learned that students enjoy learning new vocabulary and do it with ease. Here are other examples of how Glendale’s Youth Programs reach children.
- The Water Services Department provides educational tours of the Glendale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden for students from kindergarten through high school – and adults. Last year, 18 classrooms of students and 120 Girl Scouts took advantage of the field trip and learned about native and drought tolerant trees and plants.
- The city offers schools free water conservation themed puppet shows from the Great Arizona Puppet Theatre.
- In the summers, the Water Services Department partners with programs offered by the Glendale Public Library and Glendale Parks and Recreation by providing learning materials, instruction and puppet shows. This year, Water Services offered a popular conservation-themed magic show.
The city is now working to motivate high school students to learn about water. The city is introducing the School Water Efficiency Education Program (SWEEP), which is a two-day program that helps students determine how much water their school could save by installing water-saving devices, such as faucet aerators. The goal is to teach conservation, bolster STEM subjects, and inspire participating schools to install free water-saving devices from the city in their bathrooms, locker rooms and kitchens.
Glendale is one of many AMWUA member cities to take its water conservation message into the classroom. If you’re a teacher or a parent who home schools, AMWUA has a list of links to learning materials and opportunities offered by cities and water agencies on our website. Have a good school year.
For 49 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit www.amwua.org.