Archive for the ‘Youth Education’ Category

Two small steps that add up to big water savings

Third-graders hit the streets in their neighborhood to teach adults how to make their homes more water-efficient.

By Jay Adams



Sometimes it’s the little things in life that can make the biggest difference. Just ask the people who live around Denver Green School.

This fall they opened their doors to third-grade students who taught them two simple and inexpensive ways they could save water.

With a little help from Matt Bond, Denver Water’s Youth Education manager, the students went door-to-door to ask neighbors if they’d be willing to swap out their old sink aerators and showerheads for lower-flow, high-efficiency models.

Matt Bond, youth education manager, explains how faucet aerators and showerheads can save water.

Matt Bond, youth education manager, explains how faucet aerators and showerheads can save water.

“The fixtures are easy to install and can make a big difference in the amount of water people use in their homes,” Bond said.

“It’s fun teaching people about water,” said Ahnika Campagna, one of about 50 third-graders who hit the streets. “I like teaching adults new things.”

At the first home, students found a bathroom sink with a faucet that flowed at 2.2 gallons of water per minute. They installed a new aerator that only used a half-gallon per minute.

The next stop were the showers, each of which had 2-gallon-per-minute showerheads. The group swapped out the old ones for 1.5 gallon-per-minute fixtures.

“Most people don’t even know how much water their faucets and showers use,” Bond said. “By making these simple changes, this homeowner will end up saving hundreds — perhaps thousands — of gallons of water every year.”

Denver Green School teachers Julie Yonkus and Emily Detmer worked with Bond to develop the water education unit for their students. In past years, the kids went around the neighborhood and put up “Use Only What You Need” yard signs.

Students learned how low-flow faucet aerators can save water.

Students gained first-hand experience about how simple steps in the home can reduce water consumption.

“This year, we wanted to do something that was really hands-on and could made an immediate difference in the amount of water being used in our community,” Yonkus said. “This was a great way to take what we learned about water in the classroom and apply it in the real world.”

Homeowner Donna Pate appreciated the water-saving tips. “I had no idea there were so many simple things I could do to save water,” she said.

“We hope the students take what they’ve learned, hold onto that knowledge for the rest of their lives and share it with their family, friends and neighbors,” Detmer said.

Are you smarter than an elementary schooler?

A kid’s perspective on all things water-bottle related.

By Steve Snyder

Kids are heading back to class, and water bottles are now a must-have school supply. We asked some elementary school kids at the Denver Green School what they know about what’s in their water bottles.


The first question was obvious: What’s in your water bottle?

“Water,” said Matteo Reen, stating the obvious answer.

“Sometimes we put juice in it,” Jasmyn Fisher said with a giggle.

“I don’t put anything in it,” Zach Kim said. “I just drink the water.”

But do the kids know how much water they actually drink?

“Maybe like a gallon,” said Xena Flemister as she smiled.

Paul Cunha went bigger. “Two gallons,” he said proudly.

“Two, three or four bottles,” Matthew Lufkin added.

But none could outdo Lizzy Valdez.

“One time, I drank three bottles, all in a row without stopping,” she said. “I was soooo thirsty!”

How about the taste?

“It’s kinda weird, but I like the taste of water,” Xena said. “It’s not really a flavor, but it tastes so good.”

“It tastes like nothing,” Gisel Martinez said, summing things up quite well.

Now for a tricky one. What is water is made of?

“Liquid?” asked Julius Jackson, after pondering the questions for a moment.

“Liquid and … uh … air?”  Yonas Wassen asked, sounding only slightly more certain.

“Liquid and … I don’t remember the other things,” Paul confessed. He sounded a bit disappointed in himself.

We ended with an easy one: What do the kids like most about water?

“Water fights,” Matthew said with a bit of uncertainty, perhaps for fear a teacher or parent might be listening.

“It’s healthy for me and gives me energy,” Yonas joyfully told us.

And Zach summed things up better than we possible could have.

“Because it’s good for me,”  he said, proving to be wise beyond his years.

Water your mind

Quench your literary thirst with this summer reading list.

By Sabrina Hall

Ahh, summer. The days are longer, Colorado’s weather is beautiful and kids and adults alike are putting together their summer reading lists. So kick back in a lawn chair, watch your sprinklers water your lawn with the greatest efficiency (obviously only between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m., using the cycle-and-soak method), and quench your reading thirst with these great books (despite the long titles). Here are some of our favorites, with summaries from the publishers:

“A Ditch in Time: The City, the West, and Water,” by Patricia Limerick and Jason L. Hanson


Tracing the origins and growth of Denver Water, “A Ditch in Time: The City, the West, and Water” places this case study in the big picture of regional and national history. Written in a lively style and enriched with photographs and images, this book raises questions of consequence about the complex relationship among cities, suburbs and rural areas. If you live in Colorado, this is a must-read in your personal library.

“Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do,” by Wallace J. Nichols


Why does being near water set our minds and bodies at ease? In “Blue Mind,” Wallace J. Nichols revolutionizes how we think about these questions, revealing the remarkable truth about the benefits of being around water. Combining cutting-edge neuroscience with compelling personal stories from top athletes, leading scientists, military veterans and gifted artists, he shows how proximity to water can improve performance, increase calm, diminish anxiety and increase professional success. Denver Water’s 1,100+ employees would tend to agree.

Guide to the High Line Canal, by Denver Water


If you’d rather read trail signs than books, then check out the Guide to the High Line Canal. This full-color, pocket-sized companion suggests what to look for, what to avoid, where to find the best scenery and where to park along the 71-mile High Line Canal. The guide offers mile-by-mile descriptions, as well as geographical and historical facts about this urban treasure.

“Did a Dinosaur Drink This Water?,” by Robert Wells


You didn’t think we would leave out books for our young water drinkers, did you? There are almost too many to choose from, but here are some great children’s books on the water cycle. We can’t resist “Did a Dinosaur Drink This Water?,” which teaches how the water we have on earth today is the same water that has been cycling through the different stages of the water cycle for millennia.

From bubbles to bioscience

Water Festival gives sixth graders hands-on experience with the world of water.

By Steve Snyder

If you want to teach kids about a complex subject like water, you’d better get their attention in a fun, engaging way.

That’s the idea behind the annual Denver Metro Water Festival — a hands-on educational experience bringing water to life for more than 1,200 sixth-graders representing 12 schools across the Denver metro area.

Hosted by Denver Water, the suburban distributors of Denver Water and the One World One Water Center at Metropolitan State University of Denver, the festival features more than 60 presenters and performers from 25 organizations across the state.

Check out the students from Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy at this year’s festival:

Teens learn the value of water, by teaching themselves

Teams from four high schools took up Denver Water’s challenge to ‘keep the water flowing.’

On April 7, 2016, "The Caring Cowboys" of West Campus took home the Challenge 5280 prize for sustainability.

On April 7, 2016, “The Caring Cowboys” of West Campus took home the Challenge 5280 prize for sustainability.

By Matt Bond and Tom McMichen

Issuing a dare to a teenager is akin to giving a Sharpie to a toddler in a freshly painted room. But that didn’t stop us.

Last September, Denver Water and seven other organizations challenged high school students to tackle some the toughest issues facing their communities. The program, called Challenge 5280, gave 21 high schools nine months to design and produce their programs.

For its part, Denver Water challenged students “to creatively educate your peers about the value of water and inspire fun, water-efficient lifestyles that will keep our water flowing today and far into the future.”

Four high school teams accepted: West Campus High School, North High School, Denver School of the Arts and Career Education Center/Middle College of Denver.

And as is often the case, plans rarely survive their first contact with reality. Factor in overly ambitious scopes, strong personalities, schedule conflicts and shifts in team direction, and each of the four water schools faced some tense moments, testing their burgeoning leadership skills.

But forge ahead they did. Here’s a quick look at their projects:

Teaming up for Trick or Treat

CEC/MCD teamed up with their North High School counterparts to educate the public about water during a community Trick or Treat Street event. The students talked about the healthy advantages of drinking tap water and using water efficiently. They passed out Denver Water-supplied shower timers, refillable water bottles and exchanged inefficient showerheads for high-efficiency models.

The North team collected the old showerheads and gave them to one of their art teachers to use in a class sculpture project. Both teams designed materials with water-saving tips and posted them around their schools. In the end, North and CEC/MCD opted to narrow their focus to their individual schools as primary audiences rather than their dauntingly larger community.

That said, the teams reached over a thousand people.

Clockwise from top left: Denver School of the Arts, CEC Middle College of Denver/North High School and West High School accepted Denver Water’s challenge as part of Challenge 5280.

Clockwise from top left: Denver School of the Arts, CEC Middle College of Denver/North High School and West High School accepted Denver Water’s challenge as part of Challenge 5280.

Going for a younger crowd

Students at the Denver School of the Arts wanted to develop a tech-based water conservation awareness plan, then opted instead for an education program targeting elementary schools. The curriculum they developed taught students about water conservation on a global scale. They focused on science, technology and the social importance of access to water worldwide, particularly as it relates to gender and economic inequality.

The program included hands-on activities like simple experiments around water, as well as written content to educate students on the international significance of water shortages. Focusing on a younger audience invigorated the team and jumpstarted them just as they were starting to stall.

Cowboys go video

There are actually two high schools on the old West High School campus, and they combined into a single team. Calling themselves “The Caring Cowboys,” the students set out to create a water efficiency awareness campaign. They produced a video stylized like a Spanish-language soap opera and hung promotional material around the school building asking their fellow students to think differently about the value of water.


The group faced some logistical issues, including how to balance their different schedules at the two schools. But The Caring Cowboys still found a way to meet, often on their own time. They even found ways to deepen and broaden the scope of their proposal.

They developed a video game about saving water and used social media outlets as channels for their messages. They even entered a second competition called the Think It Up Challenge and won $1,000 to help fund the creation of a nonprofit organization with a mission to replace bottled water vending machines in the school with bottle-filling drinking fountains.

When asked to reflect on the challenge and the process, one Cowboy replied, “We learned that having fresh water come out of our (faucets) is a luxury, and that (many) children in the world do not have that. So even if we are not rich and feel that we might be marginalized, our lot in life is still better than most children in the world.”

On April 7, all 21 Challenge 5280 teams met for a final award ceremony to showcase their projects. The judges, including several members of the Denver Board of Education, visited every team to discuss the projects.

A winner was selected in each of the three award categories: innovation, collaboration and sustainability. The Caring Cowboys of West Campus took home the prize for sustainability and will now attend a leadership summit in Orlando, Florida, with the other two winning teams from the challenge.

Entertainment, with a splash of water education

Teaching sixth-graders about water is no small feat. It took a group of talented actors to pull it off.

By Matt Bond


A few times a year, I get together with my fellow education managers at two other utilities: Aurora Water and the city of Boulder. We compare notes, toss around new ideas and generally pontificate on the best ways to develop the next generation of water citizens.

We call ourselves The Three Amigos.

At one of our sessions in 2012, we talked about finding new ways of reaching audiences bigger than a classroom. How could we reach students more efficiently? Was there a better way to hold the attention of 300 sixth-graders than standing and talking at them?

After all, just getting them to pay attention at that age, let alone learn anything, can be like herding three-legged, blind mountain lions. Surely it was be possible, but how?

What about learning disguised as entertainment? Aurora and Boulder had been using theatrical elements in their programs for years. But the sing-alongs and puppet shows they provided for sweet third-graders wouldn’t fit the bill for grizzled middle-school veterans.

We needed pros.

Students from MSU Denver perform their skit, “Water Wise Circa 2015,” for Denver Water employees in May 2015.

And we found them, in the One World One Water Center for Urban Water Education and Stewardship at Metropolitan State University of Denver. (That’s OWOW for short, pronounced, “Oh Wow!”)

We knew OWOW’s program, newly formed in 2012, offered an interdisciplinary, hands-on Water Studies minor for students from diverse backgrounds and in any major. What if they could help?

So the three amigos trudged over to program director Tom Cech’s office at the Auraria Campus and asked. Absolutely, was his answer, and he soon roped in Dr. Marilyn “Cookie” Hetzel, chair of MSU Denver’s renowned theater department. The three amigos were now five.

After nearly three years of work and a few setbacks, we developed and cofunded a semester-long theater class that would audition and train a dozen budding MSU Denver thespians and teach them about water at the same time. Their assignment: to write, produce and deliver a short skit about water-wise practices in Colorado for sixth-graders in each utility’s service area.

Their challenge: to make it entertaining and thought provoking without using props, for an audience whose attention span can be measured in nanoseconds.

The actors did just that. After a two-session utility-led crash course on water in Colorado, they spent the remainder of the semester putting together a witty, informative, sixth-grader-approved gem they named Water Wise Circa 2015.

They took it on the road and performed it nearly 20 times to more than 4,000 students and adults in Aurora, Boulder and Denver schools, and at water festivals.

Members of the Water Wise project team accept the 2015 Innovative Environmental Education Program Award from the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education on March 18, 2016.

Water Wise Circa 2015 was so popular that the amigos secured matching funds from the Colorado Water Conservation Board to create a troupe to deliver the skit again at water festivals hosted by Aurora Water, Boulder and Denver Water this spring.

The cast enthusiastically reassembled, including several members who already have graduated. They also continue to share water-related information via their cast Facebook page.

In March, the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education awarded the Water Wise project its 2015 Innovative Environmental Education Program Award. It’s not exactly a Tony Award, but all involved agreed: Entertaining people is one thing, but entertaining them into learning is really satisfying.

You can’t learn about water without getting a little wet

At the Children’s Museum, the kids are launching geysers, playing with water jets and creating a thunderstorm.

By Kim Unger

Kids running around, squealing with delight, water splashing everywhere. Is this any way for a museum to behave?

It is if you’re the Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus. The museum’s new expansion includes an interactive exhibit called, appropriately, “Water.”

Sponsored by Denver Water, the exhibit encourages children to splash around, make objects float and even make music with raindrops — all while learning about what makes water do the things it does.

It’s a delightful experience for kids and their parents, as you can see in this video.


Contributing: Jessica Mahaffey and Travis Thompson

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