How I Use Project WET: Helping People Understand Water Locally and Globally

Editor’s Note: Currently the education and field trips coordinator for a land trust in California’s Tulare County via the Americorps national service program, Ian Taylor has spent the last five years teaching people about the environment, all over the United States. Passionate about water in particular, Ian says that Project WET activities help give participants perspective and insight into global water issues. Thanks to Project WET California Coordinator Brian Brown for originally sharing Ian's story with us.

Outdoor Educator Ian TaylorOutdoor Educator Ian Taylor By Ian Taylor, Outdoor Educator

Learning outdoors has always been a part of my life. I was very active in scouting as a child and young adult, culminating in my becoming an Eagle Scout, and I went to Hocking College to earn degrees in both Eco-Tourism/Adventure Travel and Wildlife Resource Management. However, even with all of this emphasis on environmental education, I had never heard of Project WET until I opened my first Project WET Guide in the fall of 2012. I had been charged with creating a nature program for kids to use as a learning tool at Camp Wyandot in southeast Ohio. I soon discovered in learning about Project WET activities that I had actually used many of them during camps I attended in my youth and during my time in school—I just hadn’t realized they were Project WET!

Since finishing my program in 2012, I have attended four Project WET trainings in three different states—Ohio, Indiana and California. The most recent training was at the Tulare County Office of Education (in California), and it was accompanied by a lecture on climate change and a panel of scientists to answer questions.

Environmental educator Ian Taylor with students in OhioEnvironmental educator Ian Taylor training Ohio camp counselors to help kids engage with the natural world These trainings have helped me in my career as an outdoor educator. I was the nature and outdoor living skills coordinator at Camp Wyandot in Rockbridge, Ohio. I then served as a professional outdoor instructor at Bradford Woods in Martinsville, Indiana, which is the adjunct Outdoor Education Facility for Indiana University. I later became the environmental education specialist and oversaw the training staff. Many of the activities we trained our staff to use were from Project WET. Currently, I am wrapping up a term of service in AmeriCorps where I am serving Tulare County as the Education and Field Trips Coordinator for a land trust here in the valley. I would estimate that in my career so far, I have worked with several thousand people. Probably the largest group are the fifth graders I worked with during my time in Indiana. I have also worked with adults, college students, grades K-12 and the community at large.

My favorite Project WET activity is Macroinvertebrate Mayhem. It’s not just a WONDERFUL way to teach about macros; it’s engaging, active and hilarious to watch. There are no “winners” or “losers”. Everyone learns and it provides an opportunity for adults to get involved. I pair this with a macroinvertebrate hunt and I have an entire lesson that covers several NGSS standards. (As an aside, Bradford Woods was featured on a PBS program called “Indiana Weekend” in 2016. The video embedded below features footage of me leading the macro search in Fern Valley. The whole thing is great, but about 9 minutes is when they start our footage.)

Ian has worked with thousands of students of all ages in his career as an outdoor educatorIan has worked with thousands of students of all ages, like these in Ohio, in his career as an outdoor educator In general, teaching people about water is important to me because water is life. It gives life, and it is strong enough to take it away. Water is everywhere and essential to understanding the world and its ecosystems. Water brings people together or divides by causing wars, scarcity or physical barriers. When I was in Ohio, there was plenty of water, but much of it has been tainted with chemicals from acid mining. When I came to California, I settled in a place that had been in a six-year drought and has limited resources for storing water when it does rain. Thousands of miles apart and on opposite ends of a social and political spectrum but many problems revolve around the same issue of water scarcity.

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