'Aquaman' and other volunteers teach second graders about water in Connecticut

Group of Nestle Waters employees ready to teach about waterChristopher Schmidt and his colleagues taught second graders about water When Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA) employee Christopher Schmidt took part in a Project WET employee training last spring at the company headquarters, he knew he wanted to see if his son’s second-grade teacher might be interested in holding water education lessons in her classroom. It turned out that the teacher, Nancy Michael, was also the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) coordinator for the grade and had been looking for new ways to address science standards such as “the roles of water” and “human impacts” on Earth systems.

“I was thrilled to see how well the Project WET activities connected to the science standards,” Mrs. Michael remembered in a recent email interview. “The curriculum connects well with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) that Connecticut has officially adopted. It teaches science and engineering concepts through storylines that encourage student exploration.”

With Mrs. Michael’s interest confirmed, Chris, a Senior Solutions Programmer Analyst, turned to his fellow employees to make it happen. A group of NWNA employee-volunteers visited second graders at Pembroke Elementary School in Danbury and conducted Project WET activities. 

On the day of the event, some of the employee-volunteers took on super-hero alter egos—for example, “Aqua Man”—to facilitate activities with the kids. The teachers, including Mrs. Michael, said they learned right along with the students.

“All of the teachers in my grade level participated and we learned a lot in the process too!” she recalled. “The children enjoyed the hands-on approach and were able to remember the basic concepts because the activities were well planned and all the materials were ready and in place. Elementary children learn more by ‘doing’ and this program did exactly that for them.”

Kids sent thank-you notes like this one to Christopher and his colleaguesKids sent thank-you notes like this one to Christopher and his colleagues And the learning didn’t stop that day, Chris said.

“All the kids sent thank-you letters to our group,” Chris said. “One child drew a picture of Aqua Man in his letter; we scanned it and use it as the avatar that pops up whenever that co-worker calls. Another girl wanted more information, and we mailed her a packet of additional literature about water conservation. According to her dad, he can no longer brush his teeth in peace as she checks that the water is not running every day when he brushes.”

Mrs. Michael said that she saw changes in her classroom as well.

“After the Project WET activities, students wanted the leaky sink fixed and wanted me to get recycling bins for the classroom,” she said. “When it came time to develop investigations for the science fair, many of them chose topics connected to the Earth’s water to investigate. They were much more aware of the importance of water stewardship and were less likely to leave the water fountain or the faucet in the sink running.”

In June, Mrs. Michael was named Danbury Teacher of the Year, in part for her work championing STEM activities like Project WET in the classroom.

“Ultimately, Project WET was a big success in my son’s school,” Chris confirmed.

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