Students researched and built water filtration systems to conserve water for their winning entry
Students at Sierra View Elementary in Chico, Calif., along with teacher Emily Akimoto, took third place in the 2018 Cal Water H2O Challenge for their efforts to filter and reuse greywater as a means of water conservation. They won a $2,000 grant for the classroom 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, “What Does It Take to Filter Greywater?,” students were inspired by the recent drought to find ways to filter and reuse water rather than waste it. They started by researching greywater, water filters, and how much water is wasted per year. They visited a water treatment plant and met with an expert scientist and chemist to reinforce this knowledge. Students then applied their learnings by designing and building closed-system water filters. They tested the systems, analyzed results, and determined effectiveness of their filtration. Ultimately, participating students gained valuable knowledge on water contaminants, greywater, water filtering, and the need to conserve and reuse water—knowledge that will stay with them for a lifetime, according to Akimoto.
Akimoto described the Challenge as having far-reaching impacts on her students, beyond their new knowledge of water conservation: “In my classroom, I love to push critical thinking and promote a love of learning. This project was the perfect vehicle to get my students to do both. As fourth graders, they haven’t been exposed to too many opportunities to shape their learning and analyze what they are doing. Watching my students grow as scientists and learners was such an incredible experience for me.”
“We are inspired by the creativity and hard work of Ms. Akimoto’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 NAAEE’s National Project for Excellence in Environmental Education goals, 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.”