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Students at D.C. schools are diving into a new academic subject: water conservation. Eaton Elementary in Northwest D.C. is one of 15 schools participating a program called Be Water Wise, which made its debut in Miami two years ago.
Eaton students are taking all their math, science and geography lessons and flushing them right down the toilet. Students there, with stopwatch and clipboard in hand, are making the rounds of their school's bathrooms.
Using the stopwatch, they measure the amount of water coming out of sinks and toilets. Then, they'll plot their findings on a graph, and use it to calculate the school's water bills.
Be Water Wise aims to directly engage students the a real world issue of water conservation and management, according to Diane Wood, president of the National Environmental Education Foundation, which created the program.
"What’s fabulous about it is it really engages kids in science, math and language arts and lets them feel that the learning they’re getting in the classrooms they can apply in their daily lives," says Wood.
In addition to the, ahem, field research, students will study the geography of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and learn new vocabulary words, such as aquifer and erosion. Fourth grader Pearl Benjamin says she's already learned a lot about her own impact on the world's water supply.
"At first I thought there's tons of water on Earth," Pearl says. "Now I see that we really have to start saving water."
And she has a message for her parents.
"They’re not very good with saving water," she says. "I want them to remember when to turn things off and if they can turn they off for whatever they’re doing, like washing the dishes. Which they don’t normally do."
As part of the 18-month effort, students will install rain barrels and plant rain gardens to address the impact of stormwater runoff on the Chesapeake Bay. They plan to present their findings to city officials this spring.