For weeks, hundreds of Tucson Unified School District students soaked up the knowledge their teachers shared in class.Among each other, these 4th grade classes discussed the watershed and cycles that have shaped Southern Arizona’s landscape for thousands of years.Their hard work paid off with an interactive field trip to this year’s Water Festival at Udall Park. Out on the grass, the children and their chaperones benefitted from seeing both the natural process and the work that goes into protecting the community’s water sources.What looks like fun and games for park visitors passing by, matters to conservation advocates like Candice Rupprecht with Tucson Water.”This is really a generational approach to engaging Tucsonans,” she said — “making sure that we’re raising students who grew up to be responsible adults living here in our community.”For the minds who put together and staffed the festival — like Rupprecht, a water conversation manager, and Arizona Project WET director Holly Thomas-Hilburn — the investment in kids and in Tucson’s groundwater is for the long-term.”We’re starting now so they can make good decisions about water in the future,” Thomas-Hilburn said, “because they’re going to be working at Tucson Water, and voting, and using water in our community for a long time.”Each station and festival tent displayed concepts the kids discussed in class. But it’s never to late for adults to get a refresher course. Rupprecht led demonstrations for the first of the models, showing how water travels down into aquifers, and why her agency looks for the kinds that can store a greater volume.”It’s really about (what we call) those pore spaces,” she said, “and they’re much bigger in gravel than in sand. So when we talk about our aquifer, we’re looking for productive aquifers that have the capacity to store water like that.”Most of Tuesday’s tests of knowledge let the kids join the volunteers in seeing how these systems work. Talking about a team effort, Project WET staff and volunteers said the TUSD teachers who joined the kids at Udall park spent their own time taking professional development classes to support the kids’ lessons.Volunteers and conservationists said they hope the kids can share what they learned to their parents and family, and thus, make caring for groundwater a community-wide value.
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