February 13, 2015

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” – Albert Einstein

Eyes alert, hands touching, and “why” bouncing off the tip of his diving board tongue, my nephew is a ball of inquisitive, non-stop energy. Traveling around Arizona as a water educator, I encountered youth in diverse circumstances – all with the same drive to see, touch, and ask.

Yet, we all know that too often, this curiosity is a “phase” that passes as kids get older. How many adults do you know are uncomfortable admitting they don’t know something? How often do you feel the pressure to bite back a question and then Google frantically after a confusing conversation?

The good news is: we were all born curious, and to tap into this natural curiosity, all you have to do is spend more time with kids.

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Water providers in the Valley have been connecting adults with kids for years to spread the message of wise and efficient water use.

For the past 10 years Cathy Rymer, Water Conservation Coordinator with the City of Chandler, has been organizing Water Festival events. The educational program utilizes the award-winning Project WET curriculum to help engage everyday community members, teachers, and students in the foundations of water science.

The lessons are effective because they invite participants to physically demonstrate or observe water phenomenon to provoke thinking, wondering, and questioning. When people are engaged, it “activates their curiosity thereby sparking an interest in learning,” says Kerry Schwartz, director of Arizona Project WET. When challenged to “explore, experience and think,” participants in Project WET lessons begin “thinking about water and all that is connected to it and dependent upon it.”

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Municipal water providers in Phoenix, Glendale, and Gilbert bring Project WET and other interactive lessons directly into local classrooms throughout the school year.

When adults from the community offer to teach the lessons, the result is even more impressive. At their very first Water Festival this past January, the City of Peoria was able to reach more than 850 students in one day when more than 20 volunteers from the community joined City Staff from various departments to lead the activities.

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The volunteers for Water Festival events attend a training provided by Arizona Project WET where they experience the lessons from the perspective of a child with an experienced facilitator leading the activity. Watching the adults come to life, shouting out questions as they role-play as kids, is evidence that adults are just as curious as kids.

The pressure to appear knowledgeable is real, but shutting down curiosity paves the way for indifference. Asking questions, on the other hand, is key to discovering new ideas and solutions. And it’s just a more fun way to live life.

Many Water-Use It Wisely partners provide curiosity-driven water education to their constituents, and the following have water education websites with resources for community members, educators, and kids.

Tina Sleeper is a Water Resource Specialist with the City of Phoenix Water Services Department, one of fifteen Water – Use It Wisely partners to offer water saving advice and programs.