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article imageOrange County Water District sees education as key to future Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Feb 5, 2013 in Environment
Fountain Valley - As the 21st Century moves further along past its first decade, no doubt issues about resources and the environment will be at the top of the list of global concerns for the generations to come.
This is why education about the environment and our planet's resources is critical. This is especially so regarding water. Those who are born today, will undoubtedly face a much different global situation than what we know at present. As the population continues to increase around the world, even the simplest of things that previous generations have taken as granted like water, air and open spaces, will most likely be regulated like never before.
This concern for the future is not something only environmentalists are contemplating. It is now becoming more a part of public policy. This is why water officials and others want to bring more environmental awareness into the classroom. Communications specialist, Gina DePinto of the Orange County Water District is reaching out to the media to get word out that future generations need to know and understand these things now and not when a crisis occurs.
"There’s still time to be a part of the excitement that is the Children’s Water Education Festival," said DePinto. Presented by the Orange County Water District's (OCWD) Groundwater Guardian Team, OCWD has set March 27-28, as a time to help bring water awareness to the next generations.
The two day Festival will be held at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). DePinto noted that, more than 7,000 third, fourth and fifth grade Orange County students are registered to attend this free field trip to learn about water and the environment. "Since its inception, 17 years ago, said DePinto, the Festival has empowered more than 95,000 Orange County students to protect natural resources."
"This is the first year the Festival will be hosted at the UC campus at Irvine , and may be the first time many of the students will visit a university campus," she said.
Previous Festival locations include the former Boeing campus in Anaheim, Hidden Valley Park in Irvine and the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda.
The format of the event is a structured field trip with students rotating every 30 minutes to a different activity. Generally, the activities are presented by volunteers from the public and private sectors who are experts in science, technology, engineering, water/wastewater, recycling and the environment.
Most activities will take place in Aldrich Park, which is located in the center of campus surrounded by grass, trees and the various colleges, while a few activities will be hosted inside lecture halls. The average schedule has students participating in seven hands-on activities.
Other water and environmental trust groups like the Tuolumne River Trust, have educational outreach programs like "Paddle to the Sea" and such to help younger generations recognize the importance of the water and other natural resources.
Orange County teachers began registering their students in September, reaching capacity rather quickly even though the space at UCI allowed organizers to add 1,000 students at this year’s event has reached capacity but a waiting list is available. “We are excited to host the Festival at UCI and involve the campus community,” said OCWD President Shawn Dewane.
“This event is an opportunity to provide an enriching STEM educational experience for students and get them excited about possible careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The success of our economy depends on water reliability and preparing our future workforce to meet the challenges that lie ahead.”
Presented by the Orange County Water District, Disneyland Resort, the National Water Research Institute and the Orange County Water District Groundwater Guardian Team, the mission of the Festival is to educate students about water-related and conservation issues that correspond to California Science Standards.
The Festival teaches youth to think about our environment and make a difference in protecting natural resources for today, tomorrow and future generations.
Schools are provided with a very important opportunity to learn about water and the impact water and...
Schools are provided with a very important opportunity to learn about water and the impact water and water use has upon the population.
Courtesy of Orange County Water District media dept.
“Being a part of this event allows us to strengthen our commitment to environmental stewardship by educating students about conservation and inspiring them to take action to help the planet,” said Frank Dela Vara, director of environmental affairs for the Disneyland Resort, a Festival sponsor for 17 years.
DePinto pointed out that while, "The Festival is provided at no cost to schools, making public and private financial support is crucial to the success of this educational event and its continued growth." Even though the event is free, she also said, many schools are challenged with transportation costs.
"Individuals and organizations in the community can support their neighborhood school by contributing to transportation costs, which generally run $300 to $500 per bus," said Amanda Gavin, coordinator of volunteers for OCWD. Additional sponsorship levels and donation opportunities are available; contributions are tax deductible.
"In addition to monetary and in-kind donations, conducting a Festival of this size requires more than 600 volunteers, staff and presenters," said Gavin. Volunteers help with a range of activities, from staffing registration tables to directing students to their next activity. "The Festival is seeking 300 volunteers to work each day," noted Gavin. Volunteers must register online and complete a California Megan’s Law screening authorization form.
Previous volunteers have come from organizations such as Target, Behr, Disneyland, local colleges, and county, city and civic organizations.
Presenters are also needed to staff the Festival's interactive booths. More than 60 private, public and nonprofit organizations staff activities that feature topics such as the water cycle, groundwater and surface water protection, wetlands preservation, recycling, pollution prevention and water treatment, distribution and conservation, and local environmental issues. Festival organizers will assist presenters with the right tools, activities and partners to staff an activity booth.
To sponsor, donate supplies, volunteer or present an activity, contact Amanda Gavin at Orange County Water District at (714) 378-3202
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