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Water education program awarded grant

February 11, 2002

Austin Peay's Center for Field Biology and Project WET (Water Education for Teachers) have been awarded a grant from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture for phase II of water education in Tennessee. This expands the mission of Project WET to all Tennesseans, not just K-12 educators.
An international water science and education program, Project WET teaches children the importance of water in their daily lives and why wise water management is vital for providing tomorrow's children social and economic stability in a healthy environment.

"The purpose of Project WET is to facilitate and promote the awareness, appreciation, knowledge and stewardship of water resources," said Laurina Lyle, Tennessee's Project WET coordinator and director of Project WET at APSU.

According to Lyle, water is degraded by two sources of pollution: point and nonpoint.

While the origin of point source pollution is identifiable, the origin of nonpoint source pollution, created by people, cannot be found.

"Nonpoint source pollution provides the greatest risk to water quality but is difficult to regulate since the source is unknown," said Lyle.

Project WET teaches it takes a collective effort to protect a community's water quality.

"It can't be just one person. It takes the whole community to protect the drinking and recreational water supply," said Lyle.

"The Environmental Protection Agency and other state regulatory agencies can locate the source of point pollution, and there are laws that enforce compliance. However, the answer to nonpoint pollution has to be education, not regulation."

Funded in part under an agreement with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the purpose of Tennessee's Project WET phase II is to educate adults and children about nonpoint source pollution through community-based education.

Along with training K-12 educators, the program teaches nature center employees, science specialists at museums and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation employees to be facilitators and lead workshops.

"The goal of our facilitators is to show this presentation to as many groups as possible," said Lyle, who plans to retrain facilitators using a one-hour slide show highlighting the condition of Tennessee waters.

Other phase II activities include a traveling exhibit, directory of experts and group of water volunteers to help with water education.

Lyle also is developing a service-learning model on water quality. Described by former U.S. Senator and astronaut John Glenn as "academics in action," service learning provides students with hands-on experience outside the classroom.

This model allows students to learn about water quality by collecting and analyzing samples from local water sources, documenting their results and presenting their findings.

Lastly, Lyle coordinates statewide "Make a Splash" water festivals. Co-sponsored with the Perrier Group of America, these daylong events teach children about the science and history of water.

"Twelve schools and 1,600 children were involved statewide in 'Make a Splash' last year. This year, our goal is to have 2,500 children across Tennessee celebrating water on the same day," said Lyle.

Each year Project WET reaches approximately 125 facilitators, 3,000 teachers and 60,000 children in Tennessee.

"Water is a great teaching tool because everyone connects with it in some way whether it's fishing, swimming or just sitting by a stream enjoying the sound," said Lyle.

For more information about Project WET or becoming a water guide, telephone Lyle at 6480.