It’s difficult to believe that I’m already on to my last post as a summer intern at the Project WET Foundation. I have so much to be thankful for—more on that in a moment—including a very fitting close to my time here. Yesterday, Katie, Nicole, and I were able to visit Pilgrim Preschool here in Bozeman, MT, to help the students through a fun and interactive water-based activity.
Project WET has a “mission of reaching children, parents, teachers, and community members of the world with water education.” They do so through a combination of science-based strategies, including:
- publishing water resource materials
- training workshops that focus on a wide range of water topics
- building a global network of educators, scientists, and water resource professionals
- organizing community water events
Most of Project WET’s material is geared toward elementary and secondary school students—an age group with which Project WET has found much success in making a significant impact. But there are other critical periods in a child’s educational life, and Project WET recognizes this. For some time now, Dennis and the rest of the Project WET crew have had their eye on expanding materials to preschool-age children. I wrote on the importance of early childhood environmental education in a previous post; in summary, the early childhood years are an important time in development and thus education. However, not surprisingly, the biggest limiting factor holding Project WET back from producing preschool-aged materials—such as Little KIDs Activity Booklets—is funding.
Funding aside, our experiences with both Pilgrim Preschool and the younger age group in general speak well to Project WET’s ability to translate its materials into an approachable format for 2 ½ to 5 year olds. Katie, Nicole, and I used the “The Rainstick” with the preschoolers to explore water and its importance in our lives. The activity covered factual, scientific, and cultural information about rainsticks, how to build them, and a story that illustrates how water is life. Here’s what some of the children had to say during the activity:
- “Desert? How do you live without water?”
- “We drink water!”
- “Water is used to wash.”
- “A small apple floats in water but apple seeds sink.”
- “You can’t make a rainstick from paper, it needs to be hard!”
If it wasn’t obvious from the children’s comments, the preschoolers were engaged in the activity and had a blast. They shared many stories and insights about water and listened carefully to the story of a boy who discovered how to capture the sound of rain. Many children made comments similar to the one about apples and apple seeds—turns out early this week they learned about sinking and floating (so they listen!) We wrapped up the activity by working together and using their newly-crafted rainsticks to make a rainstorm and build up to a thunderstorm. Some of the parents were even there to listen. It was one of the most joyful rainstorms I’ve been part of!
While at the preschool, I couldn’t help but keep thinking that this is what it’s about. Teaching children about water and leaving with new lessons of our own. Learning is not unidirectional, but a continual dialog that perpetuates and feeds itself. Learning is contagious. And the preschoolers’ enthusiasm and interest was contagious indeed.
I think the experience at Pilgrim Preschool is an illustrative example of the importance of Project WET’s work. One of my earlier posts discussed why we ought to care to conserve water and why we ought to act on that calling. This is one significant reason why: children of today, tomorrow, and the distant future. Their curiosity and wonder are interwoven with their actions. Education at a young age propagates through the child and into the future as she or he grows up and into adulthood. And what wonderful seeds to plant at a young age—seeds of curiosity and wonder, kindness and love.
Source: Animator Frédéric Back.
I have thoroughly enjoyed having the chance to be part of the Project WET Foundation this summer. Project WET has provided an avenue for translating my education into a meaningful and measurable impact. Knowledge in itself is a worthwhile endeavor, but when we can use our education for the betterment of society—in however big or small of way—education becomes lasting. In a way it’s like author Nelson Henderson’s insight: The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit. We may never again see (or see in the first place) the children reached by Project WET, but the impacts are lasting and real. And I think that’s what strikes me the most about my experiences with Project WET—the working endlessly to make a difference in lives of people we may never meet. For Project WET, that is done through worldwide water education. It varies in the how, but each of us has the power to make an impact in our own ways.
I want to thank the entire Project WET staff for welcoming me so graciously into this family and for sharing all the valuable experiences over the summer. I thoroughly enjoyed my work, which included:
- contributing content to and reviewing Project WET materials for publication
- authoring weekly science-based and reflective blog posts (like this one!) covering various water-focused topics
- researching and composing executive summaries on topics as background for publications and proposals
- developing funding proposals and identifying potential funders for future Project WET materials
School and basketball both start up again shortly, and there’s much to look forward to in the upcoming year. I can’t commit to the weekly posts I’ve been writing during the summer, but I do plan on continuing to post when I find the time and inspiration on my website. I anticipate continuing to write about water-related topics, as well as other natural resource topics, basketball, and life in general.
With that, I bid adieu for now to Bozeman and this wonderful summer working at Project WET. I offer the following perspective in my wake: When in doubt, make tea.