Kathy Machado, California Project WET FacilitatorKathy Machado, California Project WET Facilitator When you hear the words “magic” and “education” in the same sentence, you might think of the teachers at the fictional Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from the Harry Potter series. Say those same words in front of environmental educators in California, however, and a decidedly non-fictional name comes to mind: Project WET facilitator and "professional water wizard" Kathy Machado. Since 1997, Kathy has trained more than 1,000 California educators to teach about water using not only the Project WET Curriculum and Activity Guide but also a little “abracadabra”.

“The first time I really remember meeting Kathy was at a meeting of California water educators as she worked her magic on them,” recalls former California Project WET Coordinator Judy Wheatley Maben. “Literally, it was like watching Mary Poppins and the spoonful of sugar deal as Kathy used a magic trick to intrigue all of us into watching her and listening carefully to her patter about water conservation. But Kathy’s brand of water education was far more than just a bag of tricks.”

Kathy with PWF CEO Dennis Nelson and PWF Board of Directors member Heidi PaulKathy with Project WET Foundation President and CEO Dennis Nelson and PWF Board of Directors member Heidi Paul Kathy was recognized in June at the Project WET Sustaining the Blue Planet Conference for that innovation and presented with a certificate honoring her “outstanding commitment and service to water education”.

In fact, since the Water Education Foundation helped launch the California Project WET program in 1996, Kathy has “personally introduced 1,147 educators to Project WET, who in turn have used the activities with over a half million students,” notes current California Project WET Coordinator Brian Brown.  “In addition, Kathy has educated tens of thousands of other South Bay Area students through the school water education program she created at the Santa Clara Valley Water District.”

In a recent interview with Project WET, Kathy reflected on her years of teaching about water using her unique combination of Project WET and magic:

Project WET Foundation (PWF):  Why has teaching people about water been so important to you?

Kathy Machado (KM):  I have always cared about the environment. When I was a classroom teacher and elementary school principal, I looked for ways to motivate learners. When I got a job with the water district, I was able to focus all my teaching skills on one very important resource, water. Water is essential to life and it is so common to everyone. It is a great motivator! The drought in California has demonstrated to everyone how important this resource is.

PWF:  How have Project WET activities helped you in teaching people about water?

KM: The Project WET lessons are really the best. The [Curriculum and Activity Guide] provides enough background for the educator to understand the lesson and answer 97 percent of the questions any student might have. The lessons draw the students into the learning and help them understand difficult concepts. I had major success with so many of the lessons at all grade levels because the Project WET lessons are engaging and fun!

PWF:  Which came first—the water or the magic?

KM: I was a magician before I became a 'water wizard'! I always used a little magic in the classroom and as an elementary school principal to get students' attention and to reward their good behavior. When I began work with the water district, I combined my magic with water concepts. Water provided the opportunity to use magic to focus students' learning on water and provide an integral message about it. As an additional benefit, I was also able to hone my skills as a magician. Now I consider myself to be a professional "water wizard"!

To see Kathy in action, view the video below:

 

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