CalWater’s annual H2O contest could fill a Visalia classroom with cash

California Water Service offers $3,500 for winning entry in its Classroom Conservation Competition


VISALIA – If you think the idea of your elementary school classroom winning $3,500 is all wet, you’d be right.

Earlier this month, California Water Service (Cal Water), in partnership with the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) and DoGoodery, announced the launch and expansion of the sixth annual Cal Water H2O Challenge. The free, project-based competition invites fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grade classrooms in Cal Water service areas to develop and implement solutions for water issues. To date, more than 250 classrooms have participated in the program. This year, DoGoodery will work alongside Cal Water to expand the elementary student competition to an umbrella program covering multiple tiers for K-12 student and teacher participation.

The revamped and expanded Cal Water H2O Challenge will build on best practices gleaned from five successful years of the classroom-based competition to engage more people in caring for water at a range of levels. In addition to the continuation and expansion of the project-based challenge for grades 4-6 classrooms, the sixth annual Cal Water H2O Challenge will include a K-12 student media competition focused on caring for water, a grants program for teacher-led water projects, new outreach options for teachers interested in water conservation, a water conservation pledge to reach individuals and families, and a new H2O Challenge web series.

The classroom challenge will continue to ask students in grades 4-6 to identify a local or global water issue and work together to address their chosen issue through research and experiments over four to eight weeks. New opportunities from the program expansion will promote awareness of water issues and encourage civic engagement through the K-12 student media competition, provide additional funds and resources for teachers, and expand the reach and impact beyond classrooms to engage individuals, families, businesses, and others through the water pledge and web series.
“The Cal Water H2O Challenge is an immersive experience for everyone involved; it gives students and educators the chance to view water conservation through a unique lens,” said Martin A. Kropelnicki, Cal Water President and CEO. “We’re pleased that, through this partnership with NAAEE and DoGoodery, we can continue to provide quality, service, and value to the communities we serve by engaging our future leaders—and often our best ambassadors—in the importance of water-use efficiency and other water supply issues,” Kropelnicki said.

DoGoodery is a social impact agency with storytelling at the heart of its mission. NAAEE is a nonprofit dedicated to accelerating environmental literacy and civic engagement using the power of education. Executive director Judy Braus says that the project incorporates Common Core State Standards for English, Language Arts, and Math while complementing Next Generation Science Standards.

“Participating educators and students are offered an interdisciplinary approach to enhancing students’ understanding of water-based science concepts in their community and the world,” Braus said. “Research has demonstrated that this sort of real-world, problem-solving approach is the most effective way we can reach students and develop the understanding and skills needed to address our most pressing issues.”

The winning classroom will receive $3,500 and an all-expenses-paid camping trip to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area with NatureBridge. Runners-up receive grants and additional prizes for students and teachers. In October 2019, teachers of prize-winning classes from Years 1-5 of the Challenge will attend the NAAEE’s 48th Annual Conference in Lexington, Ky., for a winners’ summit and celebration.

Emily Akimoto and her fourth-grade students from Sierra View Elementary (Chico, Calif.) won the 2019 grand prize. In the wake of California’s most destructive fire in recorded history, Akimoto’s students felt a call-to-action to help devastated parts of their community and neighboring towns. “We realized this was our way to help. It was empowering for students, and also an outlet for healing,” Akimoto said. “This project has lasting implications. We stabilized a hillside that ran into a small tributary of Butte Creek. We made pamphlets to help those rebuilding think forward in their landscaping choices. While our target was to help the environment and the community, for me, the real target audience was my students. We learned to problem solve. We learned to work together. We learned how to be resilient. We set out to do something to help, and we feel like we did.”

In late 2019, Cal Water will also launch a teacher grant program, water pledge, and free individual challenge aimed at K-12 students living in a Cal Water service area. In the individual challenge, students can create and submit original art (along with a short statement) about caring for water, and prizes will be awarded to the winners. Winners and pledge participants will be highlighted on the Cal Water H2O Challenge site.

For more information about the programs and eligibility requirements, visit

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