As the ninth annual fourth-grade water ethic contest came to a close, Coconino County Sustainability Manager Amanda Acheson said she was impressed that every year, county students continue to demonstrate a greater depth of knowledge about the importance of water and how to conserve it.
Tuesday night, the Board of Supervisors recognized all participants of the 2018 contest, hosted by the Coconino Plateau Watershed Partnership and Willow Bend Environmental Education Center, which included 10 schools and 14 fourth-grade classes who submitted essays and art in order to promote water conservation and awareness throughout the county.
“I just think that everyone should conserve water. It’s the best thing probably in the environment that we can do,” said Sechrist Elementary’s Nora Kruse, 9, whose essay and art won first place this year. “Without water, we would all be nothing. And without water, our planet would just kind of look like the moon. So conserve water.”
Her essay, titled “The Guide to Conserving Water,” provides several practical strategies to save water, such as collecting rainwater for plants and animals, doing only one load of laundry each week and opting for showers instead of baths.
Luke N. from Marshall Elementary won second place with his essay, which provided incriminating statistics – citations included – on modern water usage, including that 95 percent of the water that enters the home ends up going right back down the drain.
“Protect our water, we need it to live,” he wrote. “First reuse water. Secondly save water, third don’t pollute water.”
All classes that participated in the contest will receive an in-class ice cream party and the winning class will receive a pizza party. The teachers of the winning entries will receive $300 for first place and $200 for second place.
As in previous contests, the winners’ artwork will be used in promotional materials for water stewardship throughout northern Arizona. This includes the popular bathroom posters featured in high-traffic public areas throughout the county, such as the Grand Canyon South Rim Visitor’s Center, the City of Sedona and Northern Arizona University. Bathroom awareness posters were first created four years ago, around the time when Willow Bend became involved with this contest.
Melissa Eckstrom, Education and Outreach Coordinator for Willow Bend, said at the Board of Supervisors meeting, “Of course, water is our most important natural resource. And while it’s everybody’s responsibility to care for this vital resource, I’m deeply inspired when I see the youth of our generation celebrating what water means to them.”
All submissions can be viewed at the Coconino County Administration Building, 219 E. Cherry Ave. in Flagstaff, until Jan. 25. Later, they will be displayed at the Coconino Center for the Arts Fall 2019 Water Exhibition.
Every year, the contest begins with the University of Arizona’s Project WET Water Festival in September at Foxglenn Park, where approximately 800 local fourth-graders spend the day learning about water through various activities run by education students at NAU.
Classes spend a total of about five to six weeks on the subject, discussing water basics before the festival, then completing a post test and review while creating their contest submissions.
David Painter, Nora’s teacher at Sechrist Elementary, said the contest and festival fit right into the core subject curriculum studied by these fourth graders. The lessons and activities also make a difference in student actions.
“I think it really does make them more conscientious about their use of water. We have some great discussions about their homes. They talk about the habits they have at home, how they might correct those,” he said.
Painter said the prize money will likely be used to purchase new science lab supplies.
Johanna Payton, teacher at Pine Forest School, also noted a similar difference in her students. Although Payton previously had to turn off running faucets in the school bathrooms, she says her students are now checking each other to make sure this water is not wasted.
As part of their water studies, Payton’s class also analyzed the historical relevance of water by researching the community response to Mormon Lake drying up during the 1930s Dust Bowl.
At their meeting Tuesday night, the Board of Supervisors agreed that students have an important role to play in water stewardship.
County Supervisor Liz Archuleta, one of the founders of the Coconino Plateau Water Advisory Council, said one of the council’s initial goals was to work with young students whose energy and perspective could help foster better water ethic in families throughout the community.
Although these students have the tenacity and passion to promote this cause, it will require a more widespread participation. According to Acheson, because everyone needs water – especially clean water – we must all work to improve our use and awareness of this precious natural resource.
“Water conservation -- everyone can do it,” she said. “From a renter to a homeowner, from big to small, budgets of all size. We can all be a part of the solution.”