A hundred years ago, more than half of the U.S. population lived in rural areas. Kids raised in this environment learned from an early age how water was connected to food. When water was available, crops grew and livestock flourished. When water was scarce, the food their families depended on for both their own consumption and their livelihood was threatened.
Then as now, the link between water and food is inextricable. However, with about 80 percent of people in the United States living in urban areas today, kids are less likely to have a personal connection with agriculture—and therefore may have little understanding about how water relates to food. To help address this knowledge gap and address an issue critical to America’s Water Future, the Project WET Foundation is announcing a new "Water, Agriculture and Food" children’s activity booklet.
"Water, Agriculture and Food" is being developed thanks in part to a donation from Doris Griffin, in honor of her late husband, Stanley “Stan” Griffin, a North Dakota farmer, rancher and teacher. The Griffins actually met at a Project WET writing workshop in South Dakota, where both had been nominated by their peers as outstanding educators and for their longtime interest in water and science education. The gathering in the Black Hills helped generate ideas for water science teaching methods for potential inclusion in Project WET’s first Curriculum and Activity Guide.
“Stan played an important role in the creation of Project WET when the original program was developed at the North Dakota State Water Commission,” Project WET Foundation President and CEO Dennis Nelson explained. “At the time, no one realized the water education materials created at the State Water Commission—with significant input from Stan and other teachers in developing, testing and using them across North Dakota—would one day be used by educators around the world.”
Dennis added that Stan loved helping other teachers learn about water and teaching new and creative instructional methods at Project WET workshops conducted around North Dakota. Stan was an enthusiastic and tireless volunteer instructor, and his and other teachers’ involvement as workshop leaders gave Project WET credibility with teachers.
“Stan enjoyed thinking of ways to educate children and others about water, not only from an academic point of view, but mostly because as a farmer and rancher, he dealt with water issues and challenges every day. This made Stan’s input and advice on the creation of the original Project WET instructional materials valuable, practical and relevant. You knew when Stan was talking about a subject like groundwater, his knowledge and stories were linked to real struggles to secure water from the well on the farm,” Dennis said.
Stan’s example of finding innovative ways to teach about water will be an important part of the development of "Water, Agriculture and Food", Project WET’s 61st such title in the Kids in Discovery series (KIDs) of children’s activity booklets. KIDs booklets employ interactive learning methods, colorful illustrations and independent or guided learning opportunities for children aged seven to 12.
“The 'Water, Agriculture and Food' KIDs booklet is intended for students and educators who may never have learned about what goes into growing and producing food,” Project WET Foundation Publications Manager Megan Regnerus said. “Young people need to understand how food gets to our grocery stores from other places and what we as a society will have to do to keep up with food demands as population increases. How water ties into these issues is critical to America’s Water Future.”
America’s Water Future is a public awareness and education campaign of the Project WET Foundation with a goal of helping people understand basic water science in the context of how water is used, managed and protected for the good of all water users. Project WET believes educating today’s children and youth is a positive first step in preparing them to address tomorrow’s water needs and challenges. The "Water, Agriculture and Food" KIDs activity booklet is part of the America’s Water Future campaign. Doris’ donation serves as an example of how concerned people, agencies and corporations can get involved.
Project WET USA Network ranked water and agriculture as their number one topic for a new KIDs booklet. The donation and the networks input together helped launch the project.The 16-page booklet is not intended as an in-depth manual for those already immersed in agriculture, but as an introduction to the topic that will help students and all readers appreciate the vast amount of human effort, investment and ingenuity and cooperation by nature that is required to keep everyone fed three times a day, each and every day. In addition to the support from the Griffins, a survey of the
Further input from the USA Network helped identify content areas for the booklet, including: Feeding a Hungry World, Water Works for Agriculture, From Farm to Fork, Farmers’ and Ranchers’ Water Address, Risks and Challenges board game, A Historical Perspective, What’s on Your Shelf, and Our Water and Agriculture Future – Feeding the World in 2050.
“Doris’ support of the new 'Water, Agriculture and Food' KIDs activity booklet is a fantastic and fitting tribute to Stan,” Dennis said. “Stan knew the value and impact of education was not momentary, but lifelong. The new booklet will help youth across the USA and around the world better understand the challenges of feeding a hungry country and world from a water perspective.
The link between water and food is part of America’s Water Future. Find out how you can support education about how agriculture and food are connected as well as other vitally important water topics by visiting: http://www.americaswaterfuture.org.