Municipal staff, councillors from Charlottetown and Stratford ‘just as excited as the kids’
By Nancy Russell
Some municipal staff and politicians in the Charlottetown area went back to school last week — to ‘Water’s Cool’ Water School.
The water conservation program for Grade 5 students was originally created by staff with the Town of Stratford in 2011.
The program expanded to include students in Charlottetown in 2019, and to date, more than 3,000 students have attended.
“Water School gives kids the opportunity to learn about water conservation and watersheds,” said Kaylee Busniuk, co-ordinator for the Stratford Area Watershed Improvement Group. “Hopefully help them conserve water in their own lives and also to understand the ecosystem better and protect it.”
The program has grown over the years and now takes two classrooms at Stratford Town Hall to hold all of the exhibits and activities.
“On the water conservation side, kids are able to see the difference between a high-flow and a low-flow toilet, and also high- and low-flow shower heads,” Busniuk said.
“On the watershed side, they have a really cool watershed model that shows kids how the water interacts with different human activities, such as farming and houses.”
More than 320 students will attend Water School over two weeks in 2022, in addition to this special demonstration for staff and politicians from Stratford and Charlottetown.
“The idea for having the councillors and staff here is to make them aware of what we’re teaching the kids in their communities, and hopefully to get them engaged and supportive of our project in the future,” Busniuk said.
“It was great. We were glad to see that they participated in our hands-on activities, just as excited as the kids.”
One of the Stratford town councillors was already familiar with the program because her daughter had also attended Water School.
“I had lived it through her eyes a little bit, but sitting here today, what I will take away from it is the visuals and how many opportunities you have to save water in a given day,” Coun. Jill Burridge said.
“I love the model of a watershed, and all the different pieces that can contribute to pollution in a watershed. I won’t forget that.”
“Getting the hands on is what will create those memories, and really solidify water conservation and watershed management in those kids’ minds”
—Jill Burridge, Stratford town councillor
Burridge said she liked how hands-on the program is.
“Getting the hands on is what will create those memories, and really solidify water conservation and watershed management in those kids’ minds.”
Burridge said she’s pleased that the program has now expanded to include Charlottetown and hopes it can reach even more students on P.E.I.
“If we can build this program up more, that’d be great,” she said.
Burridge said the town offers a free water audit program for residents and other programs to encourage water conservation.
“Water is a finite resource. It’s a limited resource in the world, and it’s our responsibility to conserve as much water as we can in our area,” Burridge said. “Programs like the water audit program are pieces we can all do personally to contribute to those goals of saving water.”
Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown also attended the session on behalf of his city.
“As a former teacher at Prince Street School, the town of Stratford provided this program to our students two or three times while I was there. Excellent response,” Brown said.
“I’m hoping the children will get their parents and their extended family to imitate what they’ve learned, so they can practice these great ideas to conserve water.”
The collaboration with Stratford has even inspired the Charlottetown mayor to expand the water audit program in his community.
“The Town of Stratford offers a free water audit. I brought that up at our standing committee for water and wastewater just a couple of weeks ago,” Brown said.
“I was told we offer the audit, but it’s income-based. And I said, look, guys, let’s open it to everyone.”
One of the presenters from the Stratford Area Watershed Improvement Group attended Water School when she was in Grade 5.
“I was definitely one of those kids that really, really found an interest for watersheds, and the environment, at a young age,” said Lily McLaine.
At the end of the Water School demonstration, the municipal staff and politicians recited a Water Conservation
Pledge, just as the students do at the end of their session.
“We often hear feedback from the kids saying to their parents, ‘Oh, we shouldn’t put that down the toilet because it will cause a clog’, or ‘Oh, you guys, need to make sure we’re checking for leaks in our toilets and showering for shorter times’,” Busniuk said.
“Because of that feedback, we know that it really makes an impact on them.”