Each year, as we at EarthEcho International gear up to celebrate Earth Week, we challenge ourselves to do more to elevate the voices of young people in the environmental movement. We know that the very best connection to young people happens in the classroom where teachers across the world build transformative experiences for their students daily. In celebration of Earth Week 2017, we are excited to share information and resources from the EarthEcho Water Challenge to support teachers as they connect their students to learning about the perils facing our planet and our role in protecting it. EarthEcho Water Challenge resources will help teachers support authentic, project-based learning to help students take a leadership role in uncovering new and innovative ways to address global water issues.

Connecting to Community Matters

Do your students know where their water is sourced? How much do they know about their local waterways and surface bodies of water?  How does that knowledge, or lack thereof, contribute to the global water crisis facing many communities around the world?  Citizens must begin to take ownership of their local water issues to solve the growing global water crisis. The limited supply of fresh water, and our dependency on it, means that we must use this resource wisely. It is essential that citizens of all ages become involved in protecting the health of their local waterbodies. But before any person can care about conserving or protecting, they must first understand and connect. Teachers across the world use the EarthEcho Water Challenge to do just that – connect kids to understanding the water cycle in their local community. The program is designed to equip individuals, groups and communities to become advocates for their local and regional water resources.

The Opportunity: Water Monitoring Events

The EarthEcho Water Challenge is an international program that prepares anyone to combat the global water crisis, starting in their own communities. Through the simple acts of testing their local water, sharing the results, and taking action to restore and protect this resource, anyone can be a citizen scientist and play a critical role in ensuring the overall health of the environment and our communities.

The Water Challenge is a program that runs annually beginning on March 22 (the United Nations World Water Day) through December 31st. To date, more than 1.4 million participants from 143 countries have taken these three easy steps:

Step 1: Test

It starts by helping students to understand the state of water quality in their community. Teachers can order a water quality test kit for their classroom and support students to give a check-up to a local water source.  A simple, inexpensive kit can be purchased at www.monitorwater.org or use whatever kit or probe is available at your school.

Step 2: Share

Students then enter results to the international EarthEcho Water Challenge database at www.monitorwater.org and share stories and photos via the database or through social media.

Step 3: Protect

Take ACTION to restore and protect your local waterways. Once students have run the tests and have their data, they can interpret results and develop a plan for action. EarthEcho offers a number of resources for teachers to help students develop their own community environmental action to conserve and protect their local water resources. Environmental action ranges from simple projects—conducting surveys or posting signs—to complex and collaborative events—daylighting an enclosed stream or crafting legislation about nonpoint source pollution.

You can find more information and resources on how best to implement these actions at www.monitorwater.org/tools.

Take the Challenge

Water monitoring programs such as the EarthEcho Water Challenge not only inform students about the threats to surface water but empower them to take action to improve water quality in a way that is data-driven and youth-lead. Activating students to lead their own learning opens natural opportunities for seamless cross-curricular integration. Jim Trogdon is a middle school science teacher in Coventry, Ohio, whose students have quite literally rescued a stream in 2016. Mr. Trogdon’s students work on a variety of project-based learning units throughout the school year, including the EarthEcho Water Challenge to examine water quality and raise trout in their classroom to stock local rivers. Through recent investigations, the students learned there was an opportunity to daylight a stream—essentially bringing a trapped tributary back from underground. These students were part of a team working alongside professionals including civil engineers, tree planting experts, ecologists, landscape designers, hydrologists, and educators who removed the pavement and culverts that filled the stream with storm water runoff. They installed bioswales (landscape elements) and riparian buffers (vegetated area), and planted more than 1,000 native plants to support the processes that filter runoff and power the water cycle.

Stories like this are not rare; they are the result of students connected to their learning through place-based connections and project-based learning that is data driven. Connecting students to local water resources is just one way to celebrate Earth Week, but it’s one that can have an impact for many Earth Weeks to come!

The following are great PBS LearningMedia resources by grade level that can expand your students’ understanding of the water cycle and the importance of water quality:

The Hydrologic Cycle - Grades 3 - 8

Variation About the Mean: Boston Harbor Project  - Grades 5 – 7

Water Quality: Urban Runoff - Grades 5 – 8

Human Impact on Water Quality Lesson Plan - Grades 6 – 8

Water: The Lifeblood - Water Consumption and Usage in the United States - Grades 5 – 12

See more Earth Week Blog posts in the PBS Teachers' Lounge