Learning from our past to influence our future

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.

Teacher’s Education Workshop Introduction video

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 WATER 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.”

How to operate the WHCRWA mobile teaching lab