Murdock Elementary Fifth-Graders Take Third Place in H2o Challenge

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Maggie’s Mallard Garden at Murdock Elementary is 100-Percent Renewable

H2O ChallengeMike Buckley’s fifth-grade students at Murdock Elementary (Willows, Calif.) learned today that they won third place in the 2019 Cal Water H2O Challenge for their project to conserve water and create a 100-percent renewable, 7,500 square-foot garden at their school. For their project the class received live and editorial news coverage, will take home a $2,000 classroom grant, and will receive a Cal Water prize pack for each student.

The Cal Water H2O Challenge is a collaboration between Cal Water and the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) that asks students to solve a local or global water issue. The annual competition is open for fourth- through sixth-grade students and teachers in schools served by Cal Water.

Buckley’s 25 students wanted to know where their drinking water came from and how much they were using. They realized that most of the water in their region is pumped from underground, and that their community garden used approximately 11,000 to 12,000 gallons per year. With that information, they calculated how to cut their water consumption in half using mulch and vermiculite, increase their rainwater collection from 300 to 7,000 gallons annually, and use solar-powered pumping systems to make their water solution 100-percent renewable. Their community noticed and came out to help; The students built their pump system with adults and explained their project to 17 classrooms, and Action News Now and Glenn County Gazette covered their story.

Their results match their goal. According to one of Buckley’s students, the class wanted “…to help our earth by collecting rainwater and to inspire people to make a rain harvesting structure at their homes, too.”

While his class made 100-percent renewable solutions look simple, their results came from their dedication. Buckley said, “We worked in the cold, we worked in the wet mud, and we worked several hours in a row several times.” In the end, the hard work was worth it. Buckley says that the Cal Water H20 Challenge “was a meaningful, real-life, two-month journey that goes straight to the long-term memory and should stay there for many years to come.”

“The dedication Mr. Buckley’s class gave to this project is a reminder of the great potential of our future leaders,” said Ken Jenkins, Director of Drought Management and Conservation at Cal Water. “We are proud to recognize this inspiring classroom for their efforts in building a community-centered water conservation project, and we’re pleased to see how their passion has inspired increased community engagement in sustainable water management.”

According to Christiane Maertens, H2O Challenge Program Director, classrooms like Buckley’s support NAAEE’s National Project for Excellence in Environmental Education goals. “This project shows how teachers and students can take real-world problems and create real-world solutions by understanding their community and environment, and taking action,” said Maertens.

By integrating water-efficiency, educational programs, and school curriculum, NAAEE and Cal Water’s partnership positively impacts California’s environment. The partnership has brought STEM (Science Technology, Engineering, and Math) and NGSS (Next-Generation Science Standards) into the classroom to equip students with the skills they need to succeed.