Branching Out into Water Ethics

Nov. 9, 2023
image with text and a tree

How do we inspire young learners to become creative and critical thinkers, problem solvers, ethical decision-makers, and stewards of our environment? Each year, fourth-grade students from across Arizona participate in the Arizona Project WET (APW) Water Festival program, first completing the curriculum in the classroom and then exploring and engaging with large-scale models about the water cycle, watersheds, groundwater system, and water conservation technology, and how we can conserve water. This year, the Coconino Plateau Watershed Partnership (CPWP) kicked off the annual fourth-grade Water Ethics Contest at the Flagstaff Water Festival. The goal is to keep the conversation about water conservation in the classroom alive and promote stewardship through the identification, evaluation, reflection, and interpretation of water issues. APW and CPWP members also extend in-classroom learning opportunities on water conservation post-festival.

Caring is Sharing

Students learn how to get involved and their roles and responsibilities in water topics. In northern Arizona high country, forests play an important role in the filtration and storage of water. Students are challenged to think about all parts of the Arizona watershed, our impact and connection and accessibility to clean water. APW teaches about water supply systems and how water is transported and utilized to help students understand the local processes, the larger system, and their role in conserving water resources. Students learn concepts such as their own watershed address and how we all live in a shared watershed. In turn, students articulate to not pollute, to conserve, protect, allocate, and value this life-sustaining resource.

“Teaching students about the importance of water and ethical respect of this vital resource will carry them through their lives, allowing them to treasure and help preserve all that is truly required for human flourishment.” —Emily Melhorn, Chair of Coconino Plateau Watershed Partnership (CPWP) Public Outreach Committee (POC).


During the water festival, the CPWP asked students questions about water equity, quality, accessibility, and systems. They challenged students during the festival with questions such as “Should everyone have equal access to water?”; “Should we pay for water?”; and “Should a city shut a homeowner's water off if they can’t afford the water bill?” These questions prompt students to be creative in their expression and provide a narrative. The Water Ethics contest is open-ended, and students are asked to synthesize what they have learned from the Arizona Water Festival curriculum through art and essay submissions.


The 14th Annual Water Ethics Contest Deadline is approaching! Look for an upcoming article about contest winners and this year’s submissions!

Arizona Project WET is a proud team member of the Coconino Plateau Watershed Partnership. The CPWP has administered the 4th Grade Water Ethics contest since 2010.

Water Ethics Contest