Cultivating the Next Generation of Water Stewards at the Water Palooza

December 27, 2017

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Students from Manierre Elementary School (Chicago) learned about water during the 5th-annual Water Palooza. Photo courtesy of Oscar & Associates.

Students from Manierre Elementary School (Chicago) learned about water during the 5th-annual Water Palooza. Photo courtesy of Oscar & Associates.

Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) Student and Young Professionals Committee (SYPC) volunteers dedicated time to help educate students about water during the 5th-annual Water Palooza on Sept. 29. During the event, held as part of the WEF Community Service Project, students at Manierre Elementary School (Chicago) participated in a series of hands-on and demonstrative water-themed activities.

Inspiring students to protect water resources

A series of hands-on, educational activities helped educate the students about the local water environment, the value of water, water initiatives in the community, and steps to take to protect local water resources. Photo courtesy of Oscar & Associates.

A series of hands-on, educational activities helped educate the students about the local water environment, the value of water, water initiatives in the community, and steps to take to protect local water resources. Photo courtesy of Oscar & Associates.

Nearly 400 kindergarten-through-eighth-grade students learned about the local water environment, the value of water, water initiatives in their community, and actions they can take to help protect local water resources. A total of 15 organizations representing local nonprofits as well as public and private companies, consultants, and manufacturers from across the country attended. The organizations hosted booths with activities for the students with the goal of cultivating our next generation of water stewards.

Nearly 400 kindergarten-through-eighth-grade students took part in the Water Palooza. Photo courtesy of Oscar & Associates.

Nearly 400 kindergarten-through-eighth-grade students took part in the Water Palooza. Photo courtesy of Oscar & Associates.

The day kicked off with a special visit from Walter Burnett, Jr., alderman for Chicago’s 27th Ward. He talked to the students about the importance of preserving our water resources and the crucial work of city water professionals.

Before students began touring booths, Carol Kinzer, SYPC Water Palooza co-chair, and Caroline Pakenham, then a WEF staff member, greeted classes gathered in the courtyard. Kinzer engaged the audience by testing the students’ knowledge of their local water environment and discussing the importance of water. Pakenham gave a loud shout of “water,” which was followed by the energetic and roaring response of “palooza.”

Kari Steele, commissioner on the board of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, emphasized the importance of educating students about water during the event. Photo courtesy of Oscar & Associates.

Kari Steele, commissioner on the board of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, emphasized the importance of educating students about water during the event. Photo courtesy of Oscar & Associates.

Kari Steele, commissioner on the board of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD), visited Water Palooza. During her remarks at the event’s closing, she further emphasized the importance of educating young students about water.

Activities engage students on water topics

Students learned about such topics as the water cycle, wastewater treatment systems, stormwater, and water pollution. Photo courtesy of Oscar & Associates.

Students learned about such topics as the water cycle, wastewater treatment systems, stormwater, and water pollution. Photo courtesy of Oscar & Associates.

In groups, students had 75 minutes to visit 15 booths with their teachers. Subjects included the water cycle, what not to flush, ways New Orleans is protected from storm surge, how pollution affects waterbodies, where stormwater and wastewater travel, how soil and plants filter stormwater, and buoyancy. The students also answered the question, “what does water mean to you?” by writing or drawing on posters. These posters were given to the school to remind students of the lessons they learned during the event. 

Many collaborate to support the event

Students were given 75 minutes to visit 15 booths with their teachers. Photo courtesy of Oscar & Associates. Photo courtesy of Oscar & Associates.

Students were given 75 minutes to visit 15 booths with their teachers. Photo courtesy of Oscar & Associates. Photo courtesy of Oscar & Associates.

The 2017 Water Palooza was hosted by WEF and MWRD, and organized by the SYPC Water Palooza subcommittee. Organizations that participated this year include

  • AECOM (Los Angeles) and Parsons (Pasadena, Calif.) joint venture;
  • Brown and Caldwell (Walnut Creek, Calif.);
  • CDM Smith (Englewood, Colo.);
  • Duperon Corp. (Saginaw, Mich.);
  • EarthEcho International (Washington D.C.);
  • Friends of the Chicago River ();
  • Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (Urbana, Ill.);
  • John G. Shedd Aquarium (Chicago);
  • League of Women Voters – Lake Michigan Region (Chicago);
  • Sand Ridge Nature Center Forest Preserves of Cook County (South Holland, Ill.);
  • Trihydro Corp. (Laramie, Wyo.);
  • S. Army Corps of Engineers; and
  • United States Geological Survey.
Organizations representing nonprofits, companies, consultants, and manufacturers hosted booths at the event. Photo courtesy of Oscar & Associates.

Organizations representing nonprofits, companies, consultants, and manufacturers hosted booths at the event. Photo courtesy of Oscar & Associates.

Donations enable SYPC to host Water Palooza at no cost to the school or participating organizations, eliminating any barriers to engaging local students about water.

For more information about the WEF Service Project, read the Highlights article, “Community Service Project Creates Water Legacy.”

— Michael Quamme, SYPC Water Palooza co-chair

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