For many of Lake Havasu City’s fourth-grade students Wednesday was a special day of learning at the second annual Water Festival held at the Island Ball Field.
More than 450 students were wowed by hands-on experiments that provided an interactive and fun exploration into groundwater systems, watersheds, water conservation and technology, and the water cycle.
The festival, sponsored by the city and hosted by Arizona Project WET (Water for Teachers) — a program run by the University of Arizona cooperative extension office — seeks to instill a deeper understanding of water in the earth system and Arizona’s water resources in young minds.
Pam Justice, education coordinator for Arizona Project WET, was pleased to see all of the students so engaged.
“Being out here and having somebody other than your teacher sharing information and knowledge is an entire different learning experience,” Justice said. “Getting to be out in the Lake Havasu watershed is a pretty cool thing for them.”
Project WET conducts 23 similar festivals around the state during the school year.
“The reason we want to do this for the second year in a row is to promote stewardship within our youth,” said Briana Morgan, Lake Havasu City water conservation specialist.
“We want to get young people to think about conservation, especially with water because it is our biggest resource issue in this part of the country. It’s important to get them to think about the value of things in a fun and interactive way.”
Of the four interactive stations, a student favorite quickly became the race to see what team could fill a 30 gallon can with water that focused on conservation and technology.
“Before they get to have fun racing with the buckets the students are taught … about how we’ve come so far, but people even in this country still have to struggle to do things,” Morgan said. “We want them to think about how much water they use in a day.”
Per capita, Lake Havasu residents use 165 gallons of water every day, Morgan said.
“Do you really think you’d be using 165 gallons of water if you had to carry that every day, or do you think you would conserve,” Morgan asked. “These are some of the things we want the students to think about.”
The Arizona Water Festival is not just for students.
The program also engages teachers in professional development that helps them infuse 21st-century learning skills and STEM into the classroom while also preparing their students for the Water Festival community education event.
Prior to the festival teachers attend a workshop geared at implementing a standards-aligned curriculum that prepares students for activities at the festival and broadens their investigatory learning after they return to the classroom.
Students are surveyed at the start and end of the AWF unit using identical assessments that measure students’ knowledge of the groundwater systems, watersheds, water conservation and technology, and the hydrologic cycle.
The heart of the Water Festival program is the one-day community festival event, which invigorates classroom instruction.
Cathy Sepulveda of Starline Elementary School agrees that field trips like this give relevance to what is happening at school.
“It’s about the experience to be able to do hands on activities, things that we can’t do in the classroom,” Sepulveda said. “We can show them models or read a book, but at the festival they are getting much more of an enriched experience.”