In 2004, Keep Georgia Beautiful, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and a team of local partners launched the first “Winning Water”: Children’s Water Festival in Columbus. Additional festivals followed in Dalton, Athens, Macon, Statesboro and Brunswick. Held regionally and based on watersheds the goal of the Festival was to develop a model for replication and to create teams across the state that would be equipped to repeat the Festival annually in their area. Designed to target fourth graders and correlated to the statewide curriculum the Festivals were exciting, hands on learning events for participating students, teachers and volunteers. More than 5,000 students were educated statewide using this model.
Several communities have used this system and the experience gained as part of the regional festival planning committee to host their own, community wide Festival. One of the most successful has been East Point. Keep East Point Beautiful has held an annual Festival for the past seven years. The East Point Festival is offered as a free field trip to 4th graders in schools that service a community with a 90% free and reduced lunch rate. The planning committee raises funds to host the Festival and even to pay for buses, improving the opportunity for schools to participate.
The Festival is held at a local college or university’s campus during that school’s spring break. Students learn about the water cycle by making water cycle bracelets; aquifers with the ice cream-based edible aquifers activity and the importance of picking up after our pets with a relay race game. Students also have the opportunity to sit inside the “Earth Balloon” a room sized inflatable globe that dramatically illustrates how much of the Earth’s surface is water. Annually 450 students participate in the East Point Festival and it makes a demonstrable difference in their understanding of water issues. “Teachers tell us that children leave the Festival really grasping these concepts but just as importantly excited about what they’ve learned”, said Frances Kennedy, Director of Keep East Point Beautiful, “I’ve even been stopped in the grocery store by a parent whose child had come home so excited that they described every single class they attended. It’s gratifying to see the students perform well and have a great time.” For more information about the East Point Festival, please contact Ms. Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For anyone interested in hosting a Children’s Water Festival there are resources available. You may download a complete planning guide at: http://www.keepgeorgiabeautiful.org/documents/WaterFestivalPlanningGuide.pdf. Keep Georgia Beautiful also offers a Water Festival Trailer for check out. It comes equipped with many of the materials you need to host a Festival including lesson plans, activity supplies, decorations and more. For more information about the trailer or to reserve it for your event, please visit: http://www.keepgeorgiabeautiful.org/water.asp.