How I Use Project WET: Giving 8,000 Students a Year Tools to Make Informed Water Decisions

An educator learns how to use the Incredible Journey activity during a workshopEducators learn how to use the Incredible Journey activity during an ID4 workshop When Project WET California Coordinator Brian Brown describes what’s happening with water education in his state’s southern San Joaquin Valley, he enthuses, “They continue to do an amazing job reaching out to schools and water districts in the area to support some of the best Project WET professional development trainings in the state!”

“They” are Sarah Clayton and Jeanne Varga, Project WET facilitators (master trainers) and water education consultants with the Kern County Water Agency’s Improvement District No. 4. Called “ID4” for short, the district offers a comprehensive Water Education Program to educate local students and provide the public with the opportunity to make informed decisions when it comes to water use and conservation. The ID4 program includes teacher workshops, curriculum materials, assemblies, classroom presentations and student contests, reaching about 8,000 students annually. ID4’s Water Education Program is funded by California Water Service Company’s Bakersfield District, the City of Bakersfield, East Niles Community Services District, North of the River Municipal Water District, Oildale Mutual Water Company and Vaughn Water Company.

Educators take part in a lesson during an ID4 workshopEducators take part in a lesson during an ID4 workshop Within the program, ID4 also hosts Project WET workshops for area teachers, one specifically for K-6 educators and one for educators who work primarily with students in grades 9-12. Educators who attend either workshop receive not only the Project WET Curriculum and Activity Guide 2.0 but also a “starter pack” containing some of the materials they will need to conduct Project WET activities. In a recent email interview, Sarah explained how and why they use Project WET for ID4 and what they’re doing to promote water conservation in a state still recovering from drought.

Project WET Foundation (PWF): Why is Project WET a good resource for ID4’s water education programs?

Sarah Clayton (SC): Project WET is a great resource because it allows ID4 to reach a large amount of students. We also enjoy teaching Project WET because it incorporates so many different water related themes, and we appreciate that it is interdisciplinary. As a high school teachers in one of our Bakersfield workshops told us, “The interactive simulations and interdisciplinary structure of the Project WET activities greatly help our students remain focused in the activities and better understand the concepts.”

Teachers trained through the ID4 Water Education Program show off their certificatesTeachers trained through the ID4 Water Education Program show off their certificates PWF: How did you choose the activities that you include in the “starter packet” of materials that you provide to educators who take the workshops?

SC: We chose those activities [“Incredible Journey”, “Get the Ground Water Picture”, “My Water Footprint”, “Blue Planet”, and “Discover the Waters of Our National Parks”] because they relate to water in Kern County. Kern County’s largest source of water is ground water, therefore we have two activities that relate to groundwater. We also have two that focus on the water cycle, chosen because of the state standards and the 5th grade science assessment that students take. We also have one that helps the students conserve water. Our teachers tell us that the starter packet really helps. One 5th grade teacher said, “This was an awesome workshop—very helpful and clear on how I can use [the activities] in my classroom.  It’s incredible that so much is provided.”

PWF: How has your program changed—if at all—in the wake of the drought?

SC: Project WET has remained the same. However, within the education program that goes to the schools, we have added a 3,000-gallon water conservation challenge, where we encourage students to conserve water. Those classrooms that are able to conserve 3,000-gallons are featured on the Agency’s website.

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