For more than a decade, the West Harris County Regional Water Authority has sponsored water conservation education programs for area students that are aligned with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills guidelines (TEKS). The programs are offered at no charge to the schools in grades 2, 4 and 7, and address multiple disciplines – science, social studies, language arts, and math.
Starting young… WATER IS LIFE education program
In 2007, WHCRWA teamed up with the North Harris County Regional Water Authority sponsoring of the WATER IS LIFE education program that employed a whole new approach to water education and conservation. Aimed at reaching those not yet committed to wasteful water practices – our children – the program successfully turned what was often a sterile textbook lesson into an interactive and fun adventure. The primary goal of this elementary level effort has been to “marry” education and entertainment – “edu-tainment” to immediately capture the youngsters’ attention and imagination…to help them learn AND retain the information. Captivating print materials and vivid, exciting and imaginative illustrations and graphics helped tell the critical story.
The exciting WATR IS LIFE Mobile Teaching Lab – a traveling exhibit with hands-on, interactive displays that teach where our water comes from and, point-source and non point-source pollution — was also made available to schools in northwest Harris County. The program introduced to educators in Klein, Cy Fair, Spring and Tomball ISDs through periodic Workshops where teachers receive hands-on training with the Lab and supporting classroom materials. Both the Mobile Teaching Lab and the classroom support materials have been updated periodically and WATER IS LIFE is still very much in demand by the teachers and their students!
The LEARNING FROM OUR PAST TO INFLUENCE OUR FUTURE program – introduced in 2010 — helps educate youngsters about critical past, current and future water issues by emphasizing how the history of Texas has always been tied to water. Much of the arid region of Texas, for example, could not have been populated without access to water.
Simply stated, if students understand how critical water was to life on the frontier, they will develop a greater appreciation for how much we still rely on a sustainable supply of water today and into the future. The goal is to help them avoid wasteful habits as youngsters, and to encourage them to make a life-long commitment to becoming stewards of this finite natural resource as adult water users with families of their own. They will be the ones making crucial decisions as future population growth collides with available water resources and their preparation for that challenge should begin today. If youngsters grow up with a better comprehension about water as a global issue – and how important it is to “spend” it wisely — they will make more informed decisions in the future.
While many are puzzled by the ‘connection’ between Texas History and water conservation, this unlikely pairing has resonated with students, teachers and parents who have come into contact with the program. Educators say that “Learning from our past” materials accomplish some fundamental objectives – they not only help students realize the role of water in the state’s history, but emphasize the complexity of the issues; involve the youngsters is making informed choices; and promote understanding of the consequences of those choices.
The primary reasons that this approach was chosen include: 1. The history of Texas is taught in two key grade levels, 4th and 7th so the theme can be ongoing; 2. The components of this curriculum are interesting and engage the students; 3. Water issues “fit” into several disciplines (science, social studies, geography, economics and language arts) so the educators are able to accomplish several teaching goals (TEKS) by using this program; and, 4. The program components have been developed with input and participation by educators…they are excited about having a way to really captivate the students beyond what is possible through text books alone.
The collaboration among key educators and water industry representatives is working. As one educator summarized: “I had honestly never considered the impact that water — and access to water — had (and has) on the development of Texas.”
Learning from our past…support materials
Programs are offered for 2nd, 4th and 7th grade levels.
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LIFE ON THE TEXAS FRONTIER is the second grade assembly that features frontier costumed educators who set up a comprehensive frontier living ‘museum’ that contains an array of household artifacts (water pump, corn and coffee grinders, laundry and kitchen tools, tools for building log cabins, and a variety of dioramas illustrating life in the 1800s ). The program is taught in the round, with the youngsters surrounded by everyday articles from the past. Following the presentation, the students and teachers walk around the displays, take turns at the water pump, grinding corn into meal, and getting a close look at the tools used for building and everyday frontier activities.
ANGELINA’S LIFE IN SKY CITY – NEW in 2014! The story of Angelina’s Life in Sky City (2nd grade coloring book and Teachers Guide) offers the potential for several grade level discussions about critical water dependency issues. Drought is especially important — not only to Texas, but to its neighbor to the west. New Mexico is in its third year of drought that has wide-reaching implications on the cost and supply of essential foods. The Acoma Pueblo – established at least as far back as 1200 — offers excellent scenarios to demonstrate how critical water is to people, places and things. Paleoclimatologists have found evidence of frequent extreme droughts in this region; some far worse than the legendary droughts of the 1930’s and 1950’s.
HOW WINDMILLS AND BARBED WIRE WON THE WEST is the 4th grade Texas History program, offering all the excitement of cowboys and Indians and cattle drives of the mid-1800’s through the turn of the century…a period punctuated by drought, Indian wars, and the massive cattle drive era that established the beef industry in the state. All of this activity was dependent upon water and the students learn about the critical role windmills and barbed wire played during this time. Thanks to generous sponsors, the Learning from our Past programs have been filmed and edited into classroom videos for teachers to use individually or collectively. The 2-hour DVD has a comprehensive Teacher’s Guide. The video production is supported by classroom materials – two series of DIME NOVELS, a Windmills and Barbed Wire coloring book, and an exciting Cattle Drive Game.
NEW IN 2014 – DIGGING UP HISTORY WITH TEXAS SMITH — Who were the first Texans?
Since the dawn of time people have always needed certain things to help them stay alive — easy access to water, sources of food, clothing and shelter. Geographical locations with these resources are likely to have been populated over and over again throughout time, which makes them logical places to look for relics and artifacts from previous habitation.
The written word is only about 5,000 years old. One of archaeologists’ most important accomplishments is telling us about things not recorded in books. In Texas, this access spans more than 15,000 years and countless cultures. The more we know and understand about patterns and changes in human behavior, the better we understand our cultural heritage…and that’s a legacy far too valuable to lose. How we choose to use this information for future generations may even prove integral to our own survival.
DIGGING UP HISTORY follows our very own archaeologist, Texas Smith (a.k.a. Steve Baird) as he discusses the first people to arrive in Texas – who were they? Where did they come from, and how did they get here? For years, the “Clovis first” hypothesis has been that these first people walked over a land bridge called Beringia and subsequently settled in the area we now call Texas. This theory revolved around the Clovis Mammoth hunters tracking the huge mammals as they followed sources of food and water while crossing the continent. (“Clovis” refers to Clovis, New Mexico, where the initial stoneage weapon or point was discovered in 1929, and is used to describe a whole culture of the Paleo-Indians.) New ideas are evolving as additional information is uncovered around the world, and archaeological research in Texas is at the forefront of these discoveries.
The NEW DIGGING UP HISTORY program was created for use at the 4th and 7th grade levels (aligned with science, social studies, math and language arts TEKS) and includes a NEW student Dime Novel (Journey to the Land of the Mammoths), and a multi-segment DVD featuring Texas Smith in videos on Mammoths in Texas, Ice Age Paleo-Indians, the Gault Archaeological Site, and How to make a “Dig Box”. The program is supported by a Teachers’ Guide.