CASA GRANDE — In years past, fourth graders across Pinal County were able to participate in the Arizona Water Festival, but come this November, the event will look a little different.

In the midst of COVID-19, students across the country have had to adjust to modified learning and minimal contact with others. This year’s Arizona Water Festival will be no different. In the past, students were able to interact with each other and teachers to learn about water in Arizona through different stations.

According to Miriam Aleman, the project coordinator, the event will be a celebration of learning through a live online event. Arizona Project WET focuses primarily in fourth grade classrooms where students learn about water and how it impacts Arizona in general.

The multisponsor program began to help teachers learn about Arizona water so that they would be successful in teaching it in their classrooms.

”This year we had to switch the program completely,” Aleman said. “We had to deliver these programs virtually.”

According to the website, the Arizona Water Festival instills a deeper understanding of water in the earth system and Arizona’s water resources through a fourth grade curriculum unit driven by exploration.

”I feel a bit sad, but most of all I will miss seeing them! Seeing their faces as they discover something they didn’t know before, it’s awesome to me,” Aleman said.

The program includes teacher professional development, 10 lesson plans that activate learning and festival modules on groundwater, watersheds and water conservation technology.

Additionally, the program also aims to celebrate the learning of water professionals and community volunteers.

Through these online resources, students can even track water savings for Pinal and Pima County and report them on the website for other students to see.

According to the project overview, between 2000 and 2010, the population of Pinal County increased by 109%. This population growth is mainly due to cities like Casa Grande and Maricopa and the unincorporated San Tan Valley. These cities and towns are largely dependent on groundwater for home and commercial use.

“Groundwater is unquestionably one of the most important resources in the arid Southwest, yet few people understand how the groundwater system works,” says the project overview packet. “Research has shown that people often have misconceptions about what groundwater is, how it moves, its relationship to surface water and its overall importance to the environment and people.”

Come spring 2021, Aleman is also helping launch the new Groundwater Education and Conservation Program for middle and high school students. “We will be using new tools such as an online groundwater simulation, compelling videos, demonstrations and live presentations,” Aleman said.

Despite the event being held online this year, Aleman is hopeful that this program still impacts students. “This past year at the Florence Water Festival, I had a volunteer that told me he had participated in the water festival as a student when he was in fourth grade and now he wanted to help as a volunteer,” Aleman said.

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Gabrielle Olivera is the Casa Grande reporter at PinalCentral, covering government, schools, business and more.

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