Cal Water news release

Downtown Elementary 6th-Graders Take Challenge 2nd Place

Students master interactive educational experience developed in collaboration with the North American Association for Environmental Education

H2O Challenger winners' presentationStudents at Downtown Elementary in Bakersfield, Calif., are helping reduce their school’s food waste as a means of conserving water. The class, along with its teacher Rachel Lenix, took second place in the 2017 Cal Water H2O Challenge, winning a $2,500 grant for the classroom along with a pizza party and Cal Water giveaways for each student.

For their project titled “You Drink What You Eat,” students researched the amount of water it takes to produce common foods and how reducing food waste saves water. The class then educated fellow students on their findings, and weighed the school’s food waste to measure students’ progress. Next, the students are procuring a shower timer for each Downtown Elementary student to help cut back their at-home water consumption.

Lenix describes the Challenge as having far-reaching impacts on students’ learning and understanding of their role in conservation issues. “Water conservation is now part of the conversations of my students. My students have taken this information and have begun looking at the resources of our planet. They have realized they have a global footprint, and it is up to them to protect our planet and its resources,” Lenix said.

The Cal Water H2O Challenge ( 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.

“We are inspired by the creativity and hard work of Ms. Lenix’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 help improve the quality of life in the communities we serve.”

The Challenge also furthers NAAEE’s National Project for Excellence in Environmental Education goals, per 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 explains. “These projects give students the opportunity to integrate the learning principles of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) in solving problems that directly affect our schools and neighborhoods.”


The North American Association for Environmental Education is a membership organization dedicated to accelerating environmental literacy and civic engagement through education. NAAEE supports a network of more than 20,000 members working in environmental education in more than 30 countries through direct membership and 54 regional affiliate organizations. For more information, visit