TecH2O pivots to continue water education

TecH2O pivots to continue water education
Posted on 12/20/2021
TecH2O pivots to continue water education

Nearly two years after the pandemic hit El Paso, the Carlos M. Ramirez TecH₂O Water Resources Learning Center remains closed to the public, but the educational outreach to students is flourishing. The TecH₂O Center is owned and managed by El Paso Water to help the community understand and appreciate total water management in the Chihuahuan Desert.

COVID-19 halted all tours, visits, school field trips and in-class presentations, forcing staff to pivot on their outreach strategies.

“We didn’t know how long this pandemic would last so we had to think of new ways to improve the delivery of our educational materials,” said Anai Padilla, EPWater Conservation and TecH₂O Manager.

Before the pandemic, TecH₂O welcomed visitors year-round with interactive exhibits focusing on conservation, desalination, the history of water in the region and groundwater resources. “We quickly learned how to navigate virtual platforms to continue our presence in classrooms,” Padilla said. “Kudos to my team; they stepped up and came up with new ideas.”

Adapting to a new normal

 The success of the TecH₂O Learning Center relies on a small team of water enthusiasts who thrive when sharing their knowledge with students and the public. Alma Klages, Water Conservation Technician, aims to make every presentation, virtual or in-person, a memorable one for students.

“That is what I miss the most, going out to the schools and seeing kids face-to-face,” Klages said. “When we were presented with the idea of virtual presentations, I knew it was an opportunity we had to take.”

The key to making virtual presentations successful relies on the team’s creativity to ensure students are engaged and learning. “I sing a lot, and I tend to get loud,” Klages said.

Klages has incorporated hands-on experiments, with materials provided by TecH₂O, so students can follow along and immerse themselves. TecH₂O has gone beyond the classroom to host virtual camps while students are on summer break or during fall intercession.

During the fall semester, Klages and staff reached nearly 1,500 students through more than 30 virtual presentations across El Paso. “We want El Paso Water and TecH₂O to become a resource for teachers and students,” Klages said.

Water education in the desert

 Water conservation goes on-line in the classroom.The desert is most known for a lack of water, but in El Paso, residents and the utility alike understand it is a precious resource that requires protection. It is a lesson that the TecH₂O Center wants students to learn early in life.

“Conservation is not just about turning off the water while you brush your teeth,” Klages said. “It is a combination of direct and indirect use, like learning not to be wasteful with food products because it takes a lot of water to produce what we eat.”

TecH₂O staff has collaborated with a local educator to create a suite of lessons and tools for grades 4-6  that are regionally focused and align with the Texas Essential Knowledge Skills, state-mandated standards for what students are expected to know and be able to do. The educational offerings  were presented at a conference this year and received positive and constructive feedback from Texas educators that will help refine current and future educational tools. The goal is to offer a curated curriculum, complete with videos, labs and activities for grades 1-6

“Teachers were raving about the lessons,” Padilla said. “Our work is reaching classrooms here and in other parts of the state.”

To learn more about the Carlos M. Ramirez TecH₂O Water Resources Learning Center, click here.

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