By Kaitlyn Longstaff

Water is a vital resource that sustains life, and educating students about the importance of water treatment is crucial to students’ understanding of public health, environmental conservation, and responsible water usage. In this article, we will explore water treatment education in elementary, middle, and high schools, highlighting the benefits and approaches to fostering this knowledge. Exposing students early to water-related activities and topics can help inspire a career in water treatment.

Elementary Schools
Elementary school serves as a foundation for children’s education, and introducing water treatment concepts at this stage can lay the groundwork for future learning. Engaging and interactive activities can be incorporated to teach students about the water cycle, sources of water pollution, and the importance of clean drinking water. Demonstrations and experiments can help students grasp the significance of water treatment in ensuring safe and healthy water consumption.

Middle Schools
Middle school is an opportune time to delve deeper into water treatment education. Students can explore the science behind water purification processes, such as filtration, chlorination, and disinfection. They can learn about the role of wastewater treatment plants and the importance of conserving water resources. Engaging students in research projects or field trips to local water treatment facilities can provide practical exposure and enhance their understanding of the subject.

High Schools
In high school, water treatment education can be expanded to encompass broader aspects of public health, environmental science, and engineering. Students can study water quality analyses, including testing for contaminants and assessing treatment methods. They can explore the impact of water pollution on ecosystems and human health, as well as innovative solutions for water conservation and sustainability. Additionally, high school students can be encouraged to participate in science fairs or research initiatives related to water treatment and its implications.

Using a Holistic Approach
Water treatment education should adopt a holistic approach, integrating multiple disciplines and encouraging critical thinking. Incorporating subjects such as biology, chemistry, environmental studies, and social sciences can provide a comprehensive understanding of the significance of water treatment. Hands-on activities, laboratory experiments, guest lectures by professionals, and community engagement programs can enhance the learning experience and connect theoretical knowledge with real-world applications.

Environmental Stewardship
Water treatment education should emphasize the importance of environmental stewardship and the role individuals can play in preserving water resources. Students can be encouraged to explore water-saving practices at home, at school, and in their communities. Awareness campaigns, such as water conservation competitions or workshops on sustainable water management, can empower students to become advocates for responsible water usage.

Educational Opportunities

The 4-H Club
According to California Agriculture, “[t]he University of California 4-H Youth Development Program created the 4-H Water Wizards project in response to two related issues: the need for high-quality science education programming in after-school settings, and the desire to foster a citizenry that understands and can make informed decisions about water.”[1] The 4-H Water Wizards curriculum consists of 11 weekly sessions, each 45 to 60 minutes long, and encompasses three units: water and the environment (the water cycle, watersheds, water pollution, and conservation); water properties (taste test, salinity, density, and hardness); and a service learning project (exploring service learning, planning and delivering a water-related community service project, and project evaluation).

Michigan State University hosts the program “4-H Science Blast Activities: Where Is All the Water?” to address water use and conservation habits for students ages 10 to 14. According to the program overview, “[t]he ‘Where Is All the Water?’ lesson is designed for leaders to help participants understand where water comes from and its unique qualities, as well as how to conserve water efficiently.”[2]

South Dakota State University hosts a 4-H Water & Water Conservation Project for beginners, juniors, and seniors. The program website states that beginners “learn about the water cycle, what a watershed is, sources of water, how pollution affects water quality,” and more. “Juniors can expand their learning to include watersheds and wetlands ecology, local water sources,” and more. “Seniors grow their skills through scientific exploration and by becoming leaders in local water resources and conservation.”[3]

Young learners interested in exploring water treatment can also participate in the 4-H Wonders of Water Club hosted by Utah State University, the Water Science Program hosted by University of Kentucky, the 4-H Water Conservation & Education project through Texas A&M, and additional programs hosted by Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, University of Florida, University of California, and more.

The Groundwater Foundation
Since its inception in 1985, the Groundwater Foundation has offered a variety of programs and projects for youth, individuals, and communities to learn more about groundwater and how they can help protect it. Its website explains that “the Awesome Aquifer Kit is a fun and educational groundwater kit with everything needed to build an aquifer model.”[4] Through the Sponsor a Classroom project, The Groundwater Foundation can provide selected classrooms with class sets of their Awesome Aquifer Kits, as well as access to the digital version.[5]

Youth Water Quality Education and Engagement Project
According to the program outline, “[t]he Youth Water Quality Education and Engagement project is for high school students in Armstrong and surrounding counties” in Pennsylvania. “The seven-month project is free for students to participate in and educates high school students about the importance of clean and healthy water to their community, what may be impacting local water quality, and how they can be part of the solution for mitigating pollution or reducing future negative impacts.”6 Students who participate can take part in tree planting for stream-bank stabilization, planning and implementing a storm drain stencil project, touring the Kiski Valley Water Pollution Control Authority’s sewage treatment plant, working with scientists at the Army Corps of Engineers, and much more.

The Metropolitan Council
To educate youth on water resources, the Metropolitan Council has designed a program about wastewater treatment for kids. This program “provides a simplified look at wastewater treatment by taking learners on a tour of the process at the Metropolitan Wastewater Treatment Plant in Saint Paul,” Minnesota.7 Students will learn about the water cycle, how we use water from the environment, how communities and the council collect wastewater, and how the council’s largest wastewater treatment plan cleans the water so that it is safe to return to the environment.

Water treatment education in elementary, middle, and high schools plays a vital role in equipping students with knowledge and skills necessary to understand and address water-related challenges. By fostering an early understanding of water treatment processes, environmental conservation, and public health considerations, we empower future generations to become responsible water consumers, advocates for clean water access, and agents of positive change in their communities—not to mention build interest in the variety of careers available in water treatment. Through comprehensive and engaging educational approaches, we can shape a generation that values and actively participates in safeguarding our most precious resource: water.


About the author
Kaitlyn R. Longstaff is associate editor at Water Conditioning & Purification International Magazine. She studied English at Southern New Hampshire University and publishing at The George Washington University. She can be reached at [email protected].





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