Thursday, February 25, 2016

6 Ways to Educate Kids About Groundwater

6 Ways to Educate Kids About Groundwater
by Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation

Today's youth are tomorrow's leaders and decision-makers. Helping them understand groundwater, and their role in protecting it, is an important part of the work we do. Plus, it's fun!

1. Make it hands-on.
"I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand." Kids learn and retain much more when learning in an experiential setting, rather than passively receiving information. The Groundwater Foundation has a number of hands-on educational activities on our website. A searchable filter and even more fun, hands-on, brains-on activities are in the works, so stay tuned for more details!

2. Disguise the learning as play.
Kids don't realize their learning about turbidity when their squishing their toes in a muddy pond, or about stormwater when they're painting a rain barrel. Incorporating elements of learning into elements of play makes kids forget something is "educational."

3. Send the message home.
Make and take activities (they make something as part of the educational event, then take the item home) are great ways to ensure the message goes home. Growing with Groundwater and Water Cycle Bracelets are great examples of make and take activities.

4. Make the message simple, applicable, and actionable.
Kids want to do something, and get excited about making a difference. A simple message - you can protect groundwater - is enough, especially if you give ideas for what they can do.

5. Make demonstrations engaging.
Hands-on activities are best, but can be made even better when combined with a fun, engaging demonstration. Get kids involved in the demonstration in some way - adding contaminants to Frannie's water bowl, pointing out the water table in an Awesome Aquifer Kit.

6. Do it more than once.
A one-time exposure to groundwater education is better than nothing, but experience has taught us that there can be a greater impact if the same message is presented to the same group multiple times.

It's all of our responsibility to protect groundwater. Part of that is making sure the next generation of stewards have the knowledge and tools to become thoughtful and effective decision-makers in the future.

For more ideas, tools, and resources to educate youth, visit our website.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

How We View Water

By: Anthony Lowndes, The Groundwater Foundation

With close to half of the United States relying on groundwater for drinking water, it is important to ensure a sustainable supply. In Nebraska, it’s close to 85 percent. The 2015 Statewide Groundwater-Level Monitoring Report indicates that Nebraska’s groundwater supplies are on the rebound. Aside from subsiding drought conditions and heavy rainfall, the implementation of technological advances in irrigation have reduced water consumption. On the domestic water use side, public awareness and the installation of water saving appliances has helped lower demand.

But quantity is not the only issue facing Nebraska, or any other area. While drought often causes increases in the amount of water withdrawn from the ground resulting in declines, contamination can ruin an entire source of water. There are several contaminants highlighted in the 2015 Nebraska Groundwater Quality Monitoring Report that are not so unique to Nebraska, such as nitrates and uranium. We need to continue to think critically and creatively when it comes to protecting water sources.

In several states, communities can proactively develop local protection measures for source water through Wellhead Protection programs. For the 43 million Americans who supply their own water through a private well, be sure to have your well tested on a regular basis and check with your local USGS office about potential contamination concerns.

Water issues can be shared through a wide variety of mediums. For example, Kaneko, a public non-profit cultural organization in Omaha, NE, is currently exploring water issues in the Midwest and around the world through a variety of research and technological innovations and fine art displays, drawing the viewer into the world of water. One particular exhibit caught my eye. It is a to-scale outline of Nebraska that is over eight feet tall. The data points from the Quality Monitoring Report are represented by pompoms and color coded for each type of contaminant. Another is a fantastic artistic rendition of a combine and center pivot circling an enormous water drop.

Creating ways for people to visualize a resource that is often taken for granted is the goal of both the reports and the K
aneko Water exhibit. Find out more about water in your area and get involved in conserving and protecting it.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Beyond the Ordinary

by Lori Davison, The Groundwater Foundation
Can you imagine yourself working in a business community which lies 100 feet underground?  Your commute includes driving through a hole in the side of a hill with unbelievable scenery of walls, ceiling, pillars, and floor made of limestone.  Your office attire would be clothes suitable for a constant temperature of 68 degrees—no need for “winter” or “summer” clothes.  Everyone would be treated equal—no windows for anyone, just limestone and pillars for a view.  No--this isn’t from some sci-fi movie--it is an underground industrial park located in an excavated mine 100 feet below the surface of Kansas City, Missouri called SubTropolis.  It is the largest of eight underground business complexes in the area.  It includes 5 million square feet of leased warehouse and office space with a network of more than two miles of rail lines and 6 miles of roads.

In the 1960s, the Hunt Midwest company which owns SubTropolis began renting space that was created by the limestone mining in the area.  After the energy crisis hit in the 1970s, people came to appreciate the advantages of locating businesses underground. For example, the constant temperature underground leads to greatly reduced heating and air-conditioning demands—about 85 percent lower than for a building on the surface.  Subterranean development represents an innovative way to save energy and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Also, these underground offices do not have roofs, external siding, flooring and support structures so therefore require fewer energy-intensive construction materials.  The environmental impact of SubTropolis is huge also.  For instance, surface land is preserved since trees and other natural plants do not need to be removed and wetlands need not be filled to make way for commerce or industry. 

Other underground business developments similar to SubTropolis are located in Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.  You never know what “lies below!”  This is just one example of people creating innovative ways to save energy and other resources.  What other ideas can you come up with to protect and conserve natural resources?  Remember, we need to think beyond the ordinary?