2,500 fifth grade students flooded the Colorado Mesa University campus, to participate in a two-day water festival May 15-16; sponging up information on water conservation, safety and so much more. What was this festival? The 24th Annual Western Colorado Children’s Water Festival!
Western Colorado Children’s Water Festival is the largest children’s water festival in the state of Colorado and second largest in the nation. It has become a rite of passage for fifth graders in the area, as they prepare to conclude their time as elementary students and transition to middle schoolers. The festival is a blast and a splash for participant and presenter alike. An opportunity to get outdoors, enjoy the spring weather, and engage in an interactive learning experience.
The festival showcases everything water. Focus areas touched on water conservation efforts, safety, fluoridation, sanitation, as well as, various other topics. Vocations that offered exhibits ranged from dentistry to oil and gas. Each organization uniquely demonstrated the importance of water to their industry and increased students’ knowledge of the versatility and the roles water takes on. This was also an opportunity for youth to get a glance at the careers that water offers.
I had the privilege to help present at the festival with the Mesa County Public Health crew. This year we offered a “water wheel of fun” as presented by Water Quality Specialist Michelle Colon. Our goal was simple; to educate students on safe water practices and consumption. Educating kids in the broader sense of what water safety means; water safety goes far beyond wearing life-jackets and knowing how to swim, although those are both crucial pieces. Precautions also include protection against water-borne illnesses, recognizing signs of a pool with chemical imbalances (murky or cloudy water), and what water is safe to drink.
It was fascinating to see what students already had a grasp of knowledge on and what sparked interest and curiosity. If there were a kids’ choice award for favorite discussion question, it would be “how long should you stay out of a pool after having diarrhea?” Students and teachers were surprised to hear that you should stay out of pools for two weeks after having diarrhea. Our bodies continue to shed the virus, bacteria or parasite even when we are no longer symptomatic, getting others or yourself sick.
While asking classes how they can conserve, I became more conscious of my water consumption as well. Days after the festival and I find myself identifying ways I already conserve, and ways I can step up my water game. I’m trying not to stand under the shower head for 15 minutes just because it is warm, to not leave the faucet running while doing dishes, and follow the “yellow let it mellow, brown flush it down” policy. As a parent, this festival has made me more aware of what aqua precautions I should instill in my child. I want to ensure the safety of my daughter around water in all forms; teaching her to swim, to wear life vests, to rinse before getting in the pool, not to consume recreational/pool water, and an overview of the illnesses silently lurking in the water. I do not want her to fear water, but want her to have a full understanding of this resource.
As we transition into the summer months and look to stay cool and stay hydrated, it is important for all of us to be mindful of how we are using and consuming water so we can conserve and protect.