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March 23, 2018 at 5:00 PM EDT

San Lauren Elementary Sixth-Graders Take Second Place in Cal Water H2O Challenge

Students learned and taught others to preserve the local watershed in their winning entry

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Students at San Lauren Elementary in Bakersfield, Calif., along with teacher Julie Moore, took second place in the 2018 Cal Water H2O Challenge for their work to protect the local watershed. They won a $2,500 grant for the classroom along with a pizza party and a Cal Water prize pack for each student.

The Cal Water H2O Challenge (challenge.calwater.com) is a collaboration between Cal Water and the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE). It is open annually to students and teachers in grades 4-6 in schools served by Cal Water and asks participants to adopt a project that addresses a local or global water-related issue.

For their project, "Protecting Our Watershed," students researched what a watershed is, why it's important, and how humans can both harm and protect it. (A watershed is an area of land where surface water drains down to a body of water such as a stream, lake, river, or ocean. Contamination in the watershed often impacts the larger body of water.) They also invited a guest speaker from the Water Association of Kern County to reinforce their knowledge. Students then applied their knowledge by cleaning the local watershed at a nearby park, The Riverwalk, and collecting and testing water and soil samples. Finally, students created three public service announcements, held puppet shows to engage younger students, and designed an informational brochure and website (jumoore7.wixhsite.com/watersheds) to help educate fellow students and the local community about protecting watersheds.

Moore described the Challenge as having far-reaching impacts on her and other students' learning and understanding their role in watershed protection: "Our class feels like they have had a huge impact on the students in our school. We have seen more students picking up their trash, and there is less litter on our campus. Other students who saw our program have also commented to us that they have talked to their parents about it and shown them the brochure, web site, and videos."

"We are inspired by the creativity and hard work of Mrs. Moore's class," said Ken Jenkins, Cal Water Director of Drought Management and Conservation. "We are well served when future generations build this foundation and engage in water issues, so together, we can improve the quality of life in the communities we serve."

The Challenge also furthers the goals of NAAEE's National Project for Excellence in Environmental Education, according to Christiane Maertens, NAAEE's deputy director. "This competition is teaching kids how to be hands-on advocates for resources their communities value the most," she said.

NAAEE's partnership with Cal Water is expanding water conservation efforts throughout the state and building educational programs into school curriculum. "Most importantly, students are learning the basics of science through environmental education," Maertens said. "These projects give students the opportunity to integrate the learning principles of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) into solving problems that directly affect our schools and neighborhoods."

About Cal Water

Cal Water serves approximately 77,000 service connections in the Bakersfield area and about 2 million people through 482,400 service connections in California. The utility has provided water service in the area since 1927. Additional information may be obtained online at www.calwater.com.

About NAAEE

For four decades, the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) has been dedicated to accelerating environmental literacy and civic engagement through the power of education. NAAEE supports a network of 20,000 educators and 56 regional affiliate organizations working in environmental education in more than 30 countries. For more information, visit www.naaee.org.