GADSDEN, Ala.—Clean drinking water is something many Americans take for granted. While we drink, wash dishes and bathe in clean water on a daily basis, many people around the world are searching for clean water to drink.
Bea Jai Merriman, a 4-H Agent Assistant in Etowah County, brings 4-H to Hokes Bluff students in grades four through 12. Merriman works closely with the fourth grade class and their teacher, Samantha Matthews.
This is the first year Alabama 4-H has partnered with the Alabama Water Watch to bring a program fostering stewardship and water resource management to the classroom. Merriman is bringing the program to many of her classes this school year.
Program Makes a Difference
“The Alabama Water Watch program is something the kids really caught on to,” Merriman said. “After receiving the training for the program, I was excited to share it with students. I had no idea what kind of impact the program would have on the students.”
Matthews, the 2016 4-H In-School Sponsor of the year, has worked with Merriman to incorporate 4-H resources in the classroom. Last fall, Merriman brought clean water tablets to the classroom with dirty water and cookies. The students helped her put tablets into the water and the lesson continued outside.
When the students returned the water was clean and they got to drink the water and eat a cookie. Matthews and Merriman both said this was an eye-opening experience for the students.
“Bea Jai is a huge factor in bringing excitement and motivation to each child,” Matthews said. “She has well-developed lessons and every meeting results in conversations from the kids about what they’ve learned.”
Matthews said the students’ response to the Water Watch program was especially motivating in her classroom because it correlated with her curriculum and standards for science. The water testing reinforced what students had read and talked about in class.
4-H Changes Global Perspective
Merriman said one of her favorite things about 4-H programs are the opportunities provided for students to look at the world around them in a different light.
“The Water Watch program, specifically, ties being good stewards of natural resources to real-world applications that are age appropriate,” Merriman said.
For 10 years, Matthews has encouraged her class to forgo Christmas gift swaps and instead choose a charity to support.
“After the children used clean water tablets with Bea Jai, they were intrigued and asked if we could purchase clean water for our Christmastime fundraiser,” Matthews said. “I challenged the class to apply their knowledge of water impurity and consider the ways this could help kids across the world have clean water. It would change their lives!”
Matthews said her class collected $300. The class donated it to a program that provides 50 days of clean water to a child for $1. The students raised enough money for 15,000 days of clean water.
Merriman said 4-H provides ample opportunities for small projects that create ripple effects in the homes and lives of 4-H’ers.
“We must continue to bring quality programs to schools to help our children look outside of themselves and make the world a better place,” Merriman said. “As 4-H agents and volunteers we have that opportunity on a daily basis. I take that responsibility seriously and am proud to see young minds shift their focus to the world around them.”