Payson fourth-graders recently gathered for a Make a Splash Water Festival, but the goal was to avoid splashing all together.
The water conservation lesson, a University of Arizona (UA) program organized by the Payson Water Department, featured information about the water cycle, watersheds and groundwater.
“They learn science and they learn the value of water conservation,” said Rob Varner, the principal of Julia Randall Elementary School. “It’s good to start young.”
More than 200 fourth-graders from all Payson elementary schools attended the Green Valley Park event.
Each lesson featured a station where fourth-graders sat before instructors.
“What’s H2O?” asked the instructor at the water cycle station.
“Water,” the students answered in chorus.
“Where does H2O come from?” asked the instructor.
“It’s the scientific word for water,” answered a student.
“And you guys like water. Why?” probed the instructor.
“Because we would die without it,” answered two students.
Fourth-graders learn about water as part of the state-mandated curriculum anyway, and through UA’s Project WET, the festival incorporates three types of learning — seeing, hearing and doing — so all students can conceivably internalize the importance of water conservation.
The first water festival took place in 2000, in Tucson. This year marks the second in which Payson students participated.
“It’s important because teachers are stretched for time,” said Kerry Schwartz, a project director with Arizona Project WET. On top of English, math and reading, teachers have little time left over for science.
The recent standardized test scores for science, which were low statewide, demonstrate the need for improved science teaching, Schwartz said.
The three types of learning — auditory, visual and kinesthetic — combine in Project WET for a comprehensive learning experience, Schwartz said. Kinesthetic, actually doing, is perhaps the most powerful.
“It’s really a great way for them to learn hands on,” said Viki Holmes, who works for the Payson Water Department and sits on the school board, heard about the program during one of the quarterly statewide meetings that bring officials from water companies and utility companies together.
She talked to a couple of high school teachers, and along with Brenda Huff, whose husband also sits on the school board, Holmes brought Project WET to Payson.
The entire community, from the library to the sanitary district, to the Salt River Project and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality contributed.