10.09.12Alan Harris

Were You Bitten by the Green Bug via Conservation Education?

H2O Puppet ShowConservation Education Poster from WaterSmart Innovations Expo

Conservation Education Yesteryear

At the WaterSmart Innovations conference Cynthia Barnett (author of Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis and Mirage: Florida and the Vanishing Water of the Eastern U.S.) showed a brief clip from the show Mad Men during the annual meeting of Alliance for Water Efficiency. The clip showed the family picnicking on a grassy slope next to the lake. When the man finished his beer he unceremoniously tossed the can into the lake. When it was time to leave, the family picked up their belongings leaving all their rubbish behind. Today if you were to witness such behavior you certainly would think it was an atrocity.

So how were attitudes changed? As a child growing up in the 1970′s I remember Woodsy Owl and the “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute” campaign. Woodsy is still around today, though the new slogan is “Lend a Hand – Care for the Land”. The goal then as it is now, was to indoctrinate children at a young age to care for the environment.

Conservation Education Today

The same strategy is being used today to promote water conservation. Through the Poster Session at WaterSmart Innovations I discovered a creative program currently being used by The City of Hamilton in Ontario, Canada. H2O Puppet Show is an interactive show targeted toward elementary aged children. Characters including Beaver, Don Swan, Lady Wawa and their friends put on a professional 30 minute show for 250 to 400 kids, 40 times a year. This effort promotes the water conservation message to over 10,000 children a year. The city has two different shows so they can reinforce the message with a second show the following year. According to Chris Wilson, Project Manager – Conservation & Education, they typically schedule shows two days a month and visit two schools each day.

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Songs like Water Walkin’ and Only Rain with memorable melodies are used to engage the children during the shows. A 28 page post show activity package left with the teachers also includes a CD with the catchy tunes from the show. The music can be played again… and again… and again during the water conservation education activities to keep the children entertained.

In addition to the great program and activities the schools also get points towards their journey to become a certified EcoSchool.  One point is earned when the kids are brought into an assembly to learn about water conservation. A second point is earned as a result of the teacher package provided for classroom use.

Early childhood education is an important and imperative tool for the success of future water conservation. Surely the children who are exposed to the H2O Puppet shows will remember when they were first bitten by the green bug. Do you?

If you liked this post, please share it with a friend, leave a comment, check out my previous posts, follow me on Twitter @h2oMatters and

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Twitter handles mentioned in this post:

  • @CynthiaBarnett
  • @A4WE (Alliance for Water Efficency)
  • @Forest Service
  • @WSIConfExp


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Alan Harris

Alan Harris is a water management pioneer. With roots in landscape architecture, Alan has worked with irrigation throughout his career experimenting with hydrozones and a variety of high efficiency irrigation systems. Now, over thirty years in the landscape industry, Alan continues to stay apprised of the latest technology even in a sales leadership capacity as our Director of Sales Operations and Regional Sales Leader for our landscape maintenance division. In addition to his contributions to this blog, Alan keeps his hand in water management as a regular contributor to Lawn & Landscape Magazine.


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  1. Tuesday, 11:57 MomH2O

    I’m passing this great blog on to some of our science teachers. I see that your bio should also be shared with teachers who can take advantage of your play on words “roots” and other creative writing.
    Have you gotten to catch your breath from the conference last week? or isn’t that an option? I’m working on applying what I learned b/c the sharing was quite relevant to my education world.

    Thanks for inspiring me. (but do I have to take up drinking coffee in the morning so that I can hope to keep up with my contacts?)

  2. Tuesday, 12:28 Alan Harris

    @MomH2O – I am glad you are finding multiple uses and inspiration from the posts. Please encourage the science teachers to share their comments too.
    It was fun to meet the woman behind all the witty comments…please keep them coming. Yes, have caught my breath, but now have a lot of writing to do as a result of the inspiration from the conference.
    P.S. I recommend a latte’ as it provides both a caffeine kick and a healthy amount of calcium.

  3. Wednesday, 8:45 Lorraine DiBacco

    Oh Alan…a blog post about Canada, government run school programs to indoctrinate children…this really makes me question your Republican street cred. But hey…I’m just happy we’re all green.

  4. Thursday, 12:46 Alan Harris

    @Lorraine – I realize in today’s climate the mainstream media likes to portray Republicans wanting dirty water and dirty air, but you might be surprised with the facts in this article. .

  5. Saturday, 3:40 Cynthia Barnett

    Alan, thank you for the shout-outs. I read the joke about your GOP street cred, and the story in The Street that you suggested, and think you make an important point about the media, that we too often create a construct of polarization when that is not the pulse of the country. More than anything, my book talks have convinced me that there is a vast, caring middle in the U.S. that doesn’t see water as a political issue. I think it will be this caring middle, and not the elected officials, that carry the water ethic throughout the country, the way they did the anti-littering ethic in just one generation. And go MomH20!

  6. Tuesday, 6:44 Lorraine DiBacco

    So true about the middle…that’s where the momentum begins to shift. I’m just glad all the time Alan is spending in California is finally rubbing off on him.

  7. Wednesday, 6:46 Alan Harris

    @Cynthia: thanks for your comments and I am glad you appreciated the shoutout as I am currently reading Blue Revolution. When I finish I will be writing a review (so far so good).
    @Lorraine: I do enjoy my visits to the west where the water scarcity issues and solutions are both complex and plentiful.

  8. Monday, 11:50 Avi Djanogly

    What converted me? Picture this…. The summer of 1982. Dexy’s Midnight Runners were No 1 in the charts with Come On Eileen. I was eighteen. Thinner, definitely more hair. Though not as engaging as I am now… But I digress that summer a group of us went touring in Israel and Egypt. No parental constraints. Wonderful. Two things happened that are etched in my memory forever. Went to the sea of Galilee which was beautiful, moonlight stroll, with a gorgeous girl, a long deep chat and carving our initials into the wood of the base of a life guarding tower while the waves lapped just metres away, Oh and I got arrested in Egypt.

    Fast forward to the Spring of 2009. 27 years later. For those of you with the musical bent Lady Gaga Poker Face is Number 1. I’m back in Israel at the Sea of Galilee with my family. And that was my epiphany moment. Being nostalgic we found the life guarding tower where we had carved our initials. But this time there was no sound of lapping waves nearby. The lifeguarding tower was now nowhere near the water. The lake was about 150metres away. The fresh water sea had retreated. Gone. Leaving lots of isolated lifeguarding towers like forlorn giants. As I strolled towards the shore I realised that Jesus would have had a far easier time walking on water because I could see land banks in the middle of the lake. The retreat of the water bore terrible witness to the culture of just taking what we want, just feeding the habit,
    So determined to do something about it.
    That’s why we started GabiH2O (in partnership with Nickelodeon UK dedicated to getting the message out there that we need to make better and wiser use of our natural resources

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