Impact of Arizona Water Festivals on Students, Teachers, and the Community
While I was at the Water Festival, I felt like I was the luckiest kid in the world!
(Encio in Mrs. Rogers' class)
In September 2000, the first Arizona Make a Splash with Project WET Water Festival hosted 300 Tucson students. In 2006, 6,289 students attended one of eight festivals held across the state along with 290 teachers and over 400 volunteers. Arizona's festival season now stretches from mid-September through mid-November.
Arizona Water Festivals are designed to deepen teachers’ and students’ understanding of water concepts, motivate students to be good water stewards, and help schools meet Arizona's 4th Grade Academic Achievement Standards for Science. They have also proven to be effective in building a sense of community among participants.
Over 94% of participating teachers agree that water festival participation increases student understanding of the concepts its activities cover. Students’ responses confirm the teachers’ impressions. Sixty-six percent of the students who participated in a water festival recognize the definition of a watershed. But just 41% of adults reached in a national poll could do so! (2004 Roper/NEETF poll) Fifty-nine per cent of the students know that Arizona stores water in groundwater aquifers and dammed reservoirs for times of drought.
Water festival participation is likely to stimulate more careful water use. Ninety-five per cent of the teachers agree that their students are more likely to conserve water after they attend a festival. Sixty-five per cent of the student attendees could name two or more ways to serve water at home or in the yard.
Teachers and administrators readily embrace Arizona Water Festivals as a way to bring required studies vividly alive! And they are fun! Over and over again we hear, “this is the best day of my life”. “It was all great.” “I had more fun learning than I thought I could.” Isn't the best education fun, too?
These educational events create their own community—over 95% of festival volunteers say they would return again to help with these events. And they do! In communities holding festivals more than 2 years, as many as 80% of the volunteers are returnees. In Eastern Arizona, water festivals have become a tradition for Graham and Greenlee County fourth graders and teachers and City of Safford staff.
Arizona Project WET coordinates Arizona MAS Water Festivals as outreach on behalf of both the Water Resources Research Center and Cooperative Extension Services of the University of Arizona. The Water Sustainability Program and Agricultural Education Department also provide key support. Through the years, the program has benefited from steadfast funding from U. S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Reclamation, Arizona Department of Water Resources, and Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, as well as Central Arizona Project and Salt River Project.