Arizona Project WET Hosts Flagstaff Water Festival

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – More than 660 fourth graders gathered with their teachers and parents at Foxglenn Park on Sept. 26 to learn about water on the earth system with the help of 37 volunteers from the City of Flagstaff, Northern Arizona University and Coconino County Public Health District.

Held during the school day, the interactive and festive event was organized by Arizona Project WET (APW) in collaboration with the City of Flagstaff Water Conservation Department. The mission was to help students and their teachers gain a deeper understanding of how water works and where Flagstaff’s water comes from.

Last year the Flagstaff Water Festival program was revitalized thanks to the financial support of SCA, a global hygiene and forest products manufacturer based in Flagstaff, working in conjunction with the City of Flagstaff Water Conservation Department who also provided funding, staff time in local coordination, and equipment.

SCA and the City of Flagstaff continued their key support of the program this year, enabling APW to support 15 new teachers with the Water Festival professional development workshop and to expand the festival to include charter and private schools, such as the Montessori Charter School of Flagstaff and Mountain School. At the professional development workshop, teachers practiced using the inquiry process and science note-booking in order to increase their students’ 21st century skills.

“I had a great time. It is an amazing curriculum and I can see the immediate learning the students were having,” wrote City Manger Kevin Burke, “Thanks for bringing it to Flagstaff.”

The Water Festival event is also supported by an expanded curriculum that includes pre- and post-festival lessons to prepare for and extend student learning. At the event, students engaged with interactive models to perform science investigations of watersheds, the water cycle, groundwater flow, and water conservation. NAU volunteers were trained in class, while community volunteers attended a separate two-hour training. 

The growth in teacher and student participation is in no small part a reflection of the Flagstaff Unified School District’s active support. FUSD provided teachers with reimbursement for their time at the workshop, as well transported FUSD classes for free to the Water Festival event.

Staff from the Willow Bend Environmental Center as well as the City of Flagstaff’s STEM City Connections Coordinator Mindy Bell helped recruit volunteers, many of whom were no doubt inspired to attend when City Manager Kevin Burke stepped up as the first City employee to sign up to volunteer.

From City Manager Kevin Burke and SCA engineer Annikki Chamberlain’s enthusiastic support as Area Coordinators to the NAU students missing class to gain field experience, everyone in the community pitched in – braving the windy weather – and made the Water Festival program a huge success. In addition to the sight of 4th graders smiling ear-to-ear after the festival, volunteers and staff were rewarded with delicious food donated by Fratelli Pizza and Oregano’s Pizza.

For more information about the Arizona Water Festival program, please contact Tina Sleeper at tsleeper@cals.arizona.edu.