“Flow like water. Feel the energy transfer. Move like water.”
Those were the tai chi instructions Ronnie Qi Harvey, a co-founder of the Apprentice of Peace Youth Organization in Denver, called to two dozen students standing on a rolling green lawn at Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood.
The sixth grade students from Merrill Middle School in Denver took a deep breath and pivoted, raising their arms to the startlingly blue May sky.
Elsewhere on the green lawn, sixth graders from Lumberg Elementary, part of Jefferson County Public Schools system, built cities on lunch trays using colored sponges. They watched as “rain” poured from a watering can to see how much water would be soaked up by the sponges, and how much would run off the city’s streets and buildings, through holes punched in the lunch tray, and into a plastic tub, acting as an aquifer, below.
“We’re learning about how we can use stormwater for water and how plants can filter the water and remove pollution,” said Caleb, a sixth grader at Lumberg, while watching as the water drained through his city.
The event, organized by Denver Water, the suburban distributors of Denver Water, Red Rocks Community College and the One World One Water Center, drew more than 80 presenters from Colorado businesses and organizations. Many of the volunteer presenters also work in the water field.
“We’ve come to the Water Festival for the last three years. It’s a great way to end the year, and it fits in with the water conservation and expedition learning that we do at the school,” Koda Lawhorn, a sixth grade teacher at Lumberg.
“The goal of the festival is to get the kids thinking about water, science and how water impacts their life, how it can inspire art, or be used by wildlife,” said Ellen Olson, the festival organizer from Denver Water’s youth education program.
“We often don’t think about water until we turn the faucet and it doesn’t come out, or we pay the water bill. But we want kids to start thinking about water and how important it is to everything that we do. They’ll leave here with a better understanding of water and where it comes from,” Olson said.
“There’s also the potential that our state’s future water leaders are here on campus today.”
The festival also is a chance for the sixth graders to see what a college campus and its classrooms look like.
“Red Rocks believes in life-long education, so having the kids come here and learn about water can be their first step into the college world,” said Barbra Sobhani, the director of Red Rocks’ honors program.
Red Rocks is the first community college in the state to offer a Bachelor of Applied Science in water quality management technology.
For Isaiah, a sixth grader at the Slavens School in Denver, the best part of the day was getting sprayed with water by volunteers at one of the tents set up on the lawn.
But he learned something at the tent, too.
“I learned how much better tap water is for your body than bottled water, and that it’s really important for your body to have water,” he said.
Seeing kids learn something is the moment Matt Bond, manager of Denver Water’s youth education program, favors the most.
“You’ll see kids turn to someone and say, ’That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen’ or ’I didn’t know that,’” Bond said.
“There’s nothing like that. It’s pure gold to see it when a student grasps a new concept.”