Students run from one bin to another, carrying a bucket of water, trying to keep every drop, before dumping the water into the bin on the other side.

The activity was part of the fourth-grade Water Festival, a day devoted to teaching students about water in nature and for human use.

Fourth-grade students from every Flagstaff Unified School District school and Flagstaff Junior Academy attended the event at Foxglenn Park, which featured four stations with activities to learn about different aspects of water.

The activities included making bracelets with different colored beads to represent each phase of the water cycle, and using wood chips and soil in a plastic box to see how groundwater looks beneath the surface of the ground.

The event was organized by Arizona Project WET (Water Education for Teachers) and sponsored locally by the city of Flagstaff and SCA Tissue.

“We actually use as little water as we possibly can,” said Sean Sederstrom, the project coordinator from Project WET. “The word 'festival' gives a different idea, but this is really an educational event for the kids.”

Students spent half an hour at each station, which included watershed, the water cycle, groundwater and water conservation, Sederstrom said. Stations were taught by students from the NAU College of Education.

Gretchen McAllister, a professor in the NAU College of Education, estimated about 60 student volunteers helped set up and teach lessons at the Water Festival.

McAllister said the event also benefited the aspiring teachers, who got to practice a lesson with different groups of students.

“They get to repeat the lesson throughout the day, so they learn and adapt to how the students respond to the lesson,” McAllister said.

Sederstrom, who said the event has taken place in Flagstaff for about 10 years, said through the years, organizers learned fourth-grade was the best age for the targeted lessons, which also lined up well with their curriculum.

“Water concepts are part of the Arizona standards for fourth-grade science, so this aligns with what they are doing in class,” Sederstrom said.

Sederstrom said the event helps students understand how to use water responsibly, and how their actions affect the environment.

“At each station, they talk about the human component and how humans interact with water,” Sederstrom said. “We like to keep a balance between the human component and the component of nature.”

Sederstrom said Project WET does pre- and post-tests with students as part of the event, and said students increase their scores by an average of 20 percent after going through the stations.

Karin Eberhard, the spokeswoman for FUSD, said the event has always been a favorite for students and teachers.

“The students love it, and they are always so engaged with it,” Eberhard said.

David Painter, a teacher at Sechrist Elementary, said the event is “very practical” for students because water use and conservation have been hot topics recently.

“The students always tell me they liked the hands-on activities and they say they learned something new,” Painter said.

Painter said before attending the Water Festival, his class did some activities to build their vocabulary about the water cycle and conservation, and learned from some guest speakers to gain background knowledge for what they would learn.

“They learn a lot at the Water Festival,” Painter said. “They have learned about the water cycle and conservation, and have even been using teamwork in the activities.”

The reporter can be reached at cvanek@azdailysun.com or 556-2249.

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Corina Vanek covers city government, city growth and development for the Arizona Daily Sun.

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