The Nature Conservancy in Arizona and Arizona Project WET at the University of Arizona (Water Education for Teachers) are joining forces to bring a water education program to the Phoenix-metro area. This year, an estimated 10,000 students in the Valley will participate in the interactive program that includes water festivals, water-use audits of their schools and homes and investigations, as well as strategies to conserve water.
The goal is to help urban students make the connection from their tap to the rivers that provide that water such as the Verde River. Many people don’t know the Verde/Salt River system provides 54-percent of water for the Phoenix-metro area. About one-fifth of that comes from the Verde. In March, a Conservancy poll discovered 77-percent of Americans don’t know where their water comes from which reveals a startling disconnect.
“Water doesn’t magically get to our taps,” says Patrick Graham, state director for the Conservancy in Arizona. “By teaching kids where water comes from, they’ll better appreciate it and become good stewards of our resources and protecting them in the future,” adds Graham.
Arizona Project WET’s Water Investigations Program (WIP) was developed to accomplish relevant STEM integration through project-based learning. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are built into the course projects. Students learn and apply their knowledge through investigations, research and presentations.
“In this program, students are engaged in learning,” says Kerry Schwartz, Arizona Project WET Director. “They collect their own data, conduct their own analysis and draw their own conclusions. In this way, students drive their own learning and become critical thinkers. They also take responsibility for communicating the results of their water investigations; thus stepping in to the role of community leader. The skills and knowledge learned in the WIP provides motivation for students and begins to develop their aspirations to succeed in careers, college and life.”
Since 2002, Arizona Project WET has trained approximately 7,000 teachers who have engaged millions of students. Additionally, school water audits have saved a projected 12 million gallons of water through the installation of simple water efficient devices.
Positive stories are coming out of the classrooms and rivers. In southern Arizona, St. David School seventh-graders presented findings that showed the school could save 98,000 gallons of water a year if they installed water saving devices to school faucets. The school board approved the purchase of the devices, saving water and money and directly benefitting the San Pedro River.
Salt River Project (SRP) is a valued partner in this effort.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.