Inspiring Kids: Operation Gyre & Project Pure Water
The California Drought, flooding in North Carolina… water water here, there, not there, and where? Water is one of our most precious natural commons. We –you and me- must tend it as such. The fact is we all depend on it (we can only last 3 days without it) and we are all responsible for taking care of it. California has legally declared that every citizen has a right to safe drinking water, and Detroit has privatized it. Regardless of how our State governments perceive it, we need to learn the difference between natural changes and disruptions that are part of dynamic life on Earth, and the kinds of changes that we are contributing to, and, therefore, can do something about. There is never going to be more or less water on Earth. We have what we have. This is due to the First Law of Thermodynamics (Matter and Energy don’t appear or disappear on Earth) and gravity. We cannot run out of water, but, we can disrupt or displace the water cycle in our places, and we can undermine its quality by polluting it and by causing saltwater intrusion, if we are not careful. We are all responsible for the difference we make.
Here is what we can do:
- Respect and contribute to its purity. Keep it clean. Don’t dump chemicals or drugs or weird things down the drain or the toilet. There is no such place as away.
- Value its value. Celebrate it, think about it and use it well and wisely
- Avoid disrupting its natural cycles. Make sure our towns plant trees and plants, maintain and restore soil fertility, build green roofs wherever possible, make the shift to clean green renewable energy, and use permeable surfaces wherever possible (roads, sidewalks, driveways).
- Tap the power of its limits. Don’t waste a drop of it. Individually and collectively monitor the water tables in our regions and make sure we don’t use more faster than nature can replenish it there.
Here is a quote I picked out from an article at CityLab.com on the California drought. “The drought [in California] is dragging on. Water is only becoming more precious and more expensive.” 1
The truth is, water cannot become more or less precious. It is the source of life on Earth. It is more “expensive” because we have made good clean water a scarce commodity instead of a limited commons. We have not been tending it. Now would be a good time to do so.
- Jaimie Cloud for The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education
1. Bliss, L. (Oct 1, 2015) Before California's Drought, a Century of Disparity. Retrieved from http://www.citylab.com/weather/2015/10/before-californias-drought-a-century-of-disparity/40774
Inspired by her attendance at a couple of GSWA teacher education workshop, Great Swamp Watershed Association member and Madison Borough resident Nancy Kuster recently incorporated some of the water education activities she learned into her class at the Sundance School in North Plainfield. Kuster is a second grade teacher with 15 years of experience, and also serves as a facilitator for Awakening the Dreamer - a non-profit organization that helps people co-create a just, thriving, and sustainable world. Thanks to her GSWA workshop experiences and a grant from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, she was able to continue her sustainability education by enrolling in The Cloud Institute’s New Jersey Learns program. Now, she is teaming up with GSWA to develop more ideas for sustainability lessons that she can introduce to her students.
Kuster is developing her new curriculum by introducing year-long, integrated units on sustainability into her daily curriculum. As she conducts these lessons, she asks her students to think about cycles and systems, including decomposition, product, and water cycles. Along the way, her children have learned that the water cycle is much more than just precipitation and evaporation. And they have come to understand where their household water comes from and where it goes once they are finished with it.
"Second graders don't typically spend a lot of time thinking about resources and pollution issues," Kuster said, "but they are definitely capable of understanding that we have limited fresh water, and that we need to start taking care of our environment."
After a presentation on water use and the bigger water picture, Kuster's students used their artistic talents and language skills to make a mural explaining the water cycle as they understood it. They also enjoyed a presentation about non-point source pollution and learned how to clean up after themselves.
In the days and weeks to come, each child in Kuster's second grade classroom will be writing their own "Journey of a Drop"—a story aimed at describing a water drop's long trip from sky to earth and back again. What a fantastic program our teacher workshops have inspired!
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