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School District 28 students teach water conservation

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Student council leaders from School District 28 are brimming with ideas on how to tackle the city’s drought through water conservation.

They are taking some lessons from the city Department of Environmental Protection about teaching their classmates and the communities in the district about the city’s water sources and cutting down on usage.

“If every one of us worked to adjust our habits,” a lot of water could be saved, said Neil Kreinik, the district’s superintendent. “It seems like it’s an unending commodity, but it’s a serious issue.”

Last month, student council leaders from District 28 schools got to take a tour of the Kensico Dam and the reservoir in Valhalla, N.Y., which supplies water to the city. They learned about water’s journey from the upstate watershed to the city’s pipes as well as the Stage-One drought emergency in the five boroughs, which triggered restrictions on use when levels at reservoirs were 40 percent below normal.

District 28 covers schools in Forest Hills, Rego Park, Richmond Hill and Jamaica.

With the help of the DEP and educators, student leaders known as the Junior Water Conservation Corps are passing their knowledge onto the community, especially to their classmates. Their effort has only just begun, however, and the district said it plans on teaching and implementing water conservation throughout this school year and the next school years.

To spark some ideas, DEP officials met with educators on Wednesday, May 29, at the District 28 office in Forest Hills to impart some water lessons they could teach to their kids. They used hands-on learning projects, such as building model watersheds, drawing pictures of water routes from upstate to the city and pretending to be 19th century New Yorkers fetching water from a well.

Campaigns such as the one at PS 174 in Rego Park will be used as a model for other schools in the district. As part of the effort student council leaders will announce a water-saving tip each day over the pubic address system.

Not only have they checked their building for leaky pipes and water fountains, but they also have taken their learning to the streets, printing up water conservation fliers and stuffing them under apartment doors.

Young scientists from PS 82 in Jamaica visited each of the school’s classrooms to tell classmates about the upstate watersheds that provide the 1.1 billion gallons of water New Yorkers use everyday. The posters they tack up all over the school also remind students to take care with water.

The district wants to spread such efforts to all of its schools. “This is really about not only an initiative, but also something that has great implications for teaching and learning,” said Janice Schwarz, the district’s director of gifted-and-talented programs. “It’s applied learning with a real world application.”

Water conservation learning “can be integrated into math, social studies, writing and creative projects,” said Kim Estes-Fradis, director of education for the DEP. “Water conservation is going to be the theme.”

Reach reporter Brendan Browne by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 155.

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