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Students hope to solve water woes

Castaic Lake Water Agency offers $10,000 scholarship for novel solutions

Posted: November 24, 2008 9:17 p.m.
Updated: November 25, 2008 4:55 a.m.

A local scholarship program called the High School Water Challenge is not about swimming, diving or even getting wet.

It's about high school students identifying a local water need or problem and then coming up with a novel way of addressing it in hopes of earning $10,000 in scholarships.

Young local minds ponder the old problem of water supply and scarcity over the next five months as part of the scholarship program set up by the Castaic Lake Water Agency.

Students on more than 70 local high school teams of between two and five members are taking part in the challenge initiated by the district.

Diane Kim, a junior at West Ranch High School, and a friend are tackling the issue of water pollution.

"We're required to do it for school, but the more I learned about it, the more I got interested in it," she said.

"Our environmental class teacher told us that the whole class would be participating in the water challenge."

Kyle Zada, a junior at Hart High School, was inspired by his ninth-grade teacher, John Ahart, who spoke to competing students.

"I remember a lot of the information he gave us. He really made an impact on my life and on others," said Zada, who is putting together a project addressing water conservation with teammate Chad Phillips.

Castaic Lake Water Agency General Manager Dan Masnada, along with water conservation representative Tom Hawes, gave Water Challenge students a historical perspective of water supply and use in Santa Clarita.

"The CLWA has long history of reaching out to the community through an extensive school education program," Dirk Marks, the agency's Water Resources Manager, wrote in an e-mail. "Last year the agency reached over 15,000 elementary and junior high school students and teachers."

Students on the winning team will share a $5,000 scholarship award. Second- and third-place teams will divide awards of $3,000 and $2,000, respectively.

Water officials will judge the projects and award scholarships.

Teams have until April 1, 2009, to submit their projects.

Having students tackle water issues of the day is all part of "service learning," which combines services to the community with student learning in a way that improves the student and the community.

Under the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993, service learning is a way for students to learn and develop through active participation in thoughtfully organized service that is conducted in and meets the needs of communities.

It helps foster civic responsibility and also gives the water agency a crop of new approaches to water issues.

Water Challenge teams are expected to follow a scientific model in developing their water projects, including:

n Brainstorming - students are asked to look at their school, neighborhood or city and identify specific water needs there.

n Focus - Teams are expected to discuss the need and its solution, modify the solution and shape it according to critical analysis.

n Implement - Once the idea is fully developed, teams are expected to carry it out.

n Evaluation - Once the solution is implemented, teams are asked to step back and examine its success, review their procedures and the results. They're then asked to make suggestions on how to improve their project.

n Reflection - In the final stage of project development, teams are told to focus on what was accomplished and to think about the impact they've had on water users.


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