Water Camps Educate Teachers About State’s Most Valuable Resource

Friday, May 27 2005

May 28, 2005 BOISE – Idaho school teachers will learn about the state’s most complex and valuable resource during a series of summer camps sponsored by the University of Idaho and Idaho Water Education Foundation. During the IdaH2O camps, teachers will tour wetlands, dams, and irrigation districts, and hear from water experts from the areas surrounding each camp location, said Julie Scanlin, outreach coordinator for the Idaho Water Resources Research Institute. The three camps will be held June 14 to 17 at Idaho Falls, June 21 to 24 at Twin Falls and July 19 to 21 at Lewiston. The teachers will learn basic facts about Idaho’s complex system of managing its valuable water supply for agriculture, industry and personal use, said Scanlin, who is based at the Idaho Water Center in Boise. The teachers also will learn about water’s role in the environment and efforts to protect water quality and supply. “We ask them to use the information we provide and local contacts to develop a water curriculum that they can use in their classes,” Scanlin said. The lessons are designed so teachers can incorporate what they learn in lessons about math, social studies, history or language arts. The camps attract about 20 teachers each session, and each session is different. The Idaho Falls camp typically includes a visit to Palisades Dam along the Snake River and the Idaho National Laboratory. Teachers have visited fish weirs along the South Fork of the Snake River’s tributaries. Biologists use the weirs to allow native cutthroat trout to migrate to their spawning beds while blocking introduced rainbow trout to prevent hybrids. In Twin Falls, teachers learn about some of the state’s oldest irrigation systems, dairies and trout farms. In Lewiston, participants typically tour either Lower Granite or Dworshak Dams, federal and tribal fish hatcheries and the Port of Lewiston and other sites. “The program is kind of a mile wide and an inch deep,” Scanlin said, “but we do localize it with speakers from each area so teachers get different perspectives.” In the seven years since the camps began, she estimated that more than 200 teachers have participated. Some teachers enrolled in camps in more than one location to get a broader view of the state’s resources. The Idaho Water Education Foundation underwrites much of the cost, Scanlin said. The foundation includes businesses, organizations and natural resource agencies. John Barclay, the foundation’s executive director at Boise, said the camps’ educational mission is critical. “As the state grows, we become more urbanized and more people move in. People have less understanding of the agricultural and industrial uses of water and about Idaho’s water resources in general,” Barclay said. “The goal of the foundation is to give teachers some tools and knowledge so that they can pass that information along to their students,” he added. For all the importance that water holds for the state’s economy, Idahoans generally could use some education about water – whether they know it or not, Scanlin said. “People deal with water all of the time, but they don’t understand much about the policies or how water even gets to their tap. I like to ask people which watershed they were born in, and most can’t do that because they don’t understand the concept. We try to clarify those kind of basic concepts and help teachers to make connections to their natural surroundings,” she added. Idaho’s current drought and the array of political and policy discussions swirling around the state’s water issues make the camps more timely than ever, Barclay said. “It increases the need for this kind of education and conversely the issues get people’s attention engaged,” he said. The camps employ the national materials for Project WET, or water education for teachers, which provide teachers with lesson materials for use with kindergarteners to high school seniors. Registration for the camps costs $144, and teachers receive two UI credits upon completion. More information is available by contacting Julie Scanlin of the Idaho Water Resources Research Institute in Boise at (208) 332-4414 or jscanlin@uidaho.edu Contacts: Julie Scanlin, Idaho Water Resources Research Institute outreach coordinator, (208) 332-4414, jscanlin@uidaho.edu; John Barclay, Idaho Water Education Foundation executive director, (208) 383-0694; Bill Loftus, UI science writer, bloftus@uidaho.edu, (208) 885-7694. -30- BL–5/28/2005–IWRRI

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The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.