By Janet Guthrie
What motivated you to partner with OC to create the annual Water Festival in Canadian back in 2011?
If memory serves me correctly, I believe it was Ramelle Farrar that introduced us (Janet to Darryl) when the EDC first partnered with Ogallala Commons to do a field day in Hemphill County. Then we discovered that other groundwater conservation districts had worked with OC and gave them a good referral. At the Water District we were looking for another opportunity to develop an educational program that would promote knowledge of the importance of water to every aspect of life and make it fun. OC was able to tweak their Playa Festivals platform to suite Hemphill County’s habitat.
What kind of collaborators do you bring on for the Festival, and how does it work with 5th Grade teachers?
The teachers have been great. Initially, I reached out to the 5th grade teacher and pitched the concept of a water festival. I had a draft agenda and bios on the speakers and information about who OC was. Then we met with the principal to get clearance. Then I met with the superintendent and asked that this not count against the number of field trips they are allowed to take as our school does limit the use of buses for transportation etc. We are on our fourth new teacher and it has been very easy to keep the annual event going as all the 5th grade teachers attend and they love it. They say it is the best field trip ever. We also cater to them and provide a meal for them while the kids each their sack lunch! We have had other GCDs help do presentations, our consultant has done a presentation, and our staff also helps with some presentations. We have reached out to the FFA and 4-H for their assistance. We now have a group of kids, hand selected by the FFA teacher to serve as our guides that get each class from presentation to presentation (and they help set up!). Most of them attended the festival as a 5th grader and they bring some additional enthusiasm and participation to the groups with “Oh I remember this!” or “Oh, I should remember this!”. This last year, we had a couple of 4-H kids do a presentation and the young kids like to see their peers in leadership roles. If we have a 4-H Water Ambassador, then he/she will also help at the festival.
What do you see as the best outcomes of the Festival–what are the indicators of success?
With this age group it is obvious to tell if kids are having fun or not. Our goal is to take the science from the classroom to the field. I feel it has been a successful event (1) when the presenters continue to be excited to come to Canadian (2) the students participate in the Q&As (3) I see smiling faces (4) I see kids actually using their journal and (5) the teachers don’t complain. One student got very emotional during the journal presentation and he said he always wanted to know how to keep a journal so he could document all the hunting trips he takes with his dad! He kept saying thank you! The most fun we had was the year we had the same teacher for the 3rd year in a row, we had the same speakers and the students were active ranch kids, and I knew we could really focus on building vocabulary. At the end of the day, we played a game based on the vocabulary words. It was based on the 100,000 $ pyramid concept. The teachers had to give the clues and the students shouted out the answer. We clocked them and the fastest class to get through all the words won. We had funny titles like Duck Duck Goose for the wetland buffers and waterfowl demonstrations. They didn’t really win anything except bragging rights and they got to hand out the rain gauges to the other students but hopefully they learned something and as they go about their life as adults they will remember “the water must come from somewhere”.