Project WET relaunched in Arkansas

by: Angela Danovi, Arkansas Project Manager of Ozarks Water Watch & Sophia Stephenson, Executive Director, Arkansas Environmental Education Association

Project WET (Water Education for Teachers) was formally re-launched in Arkansas at the end of 2019. The Arkansas Environmental Education Association (AEEA) became the new host institution in September. In November, nine new facilitators became certified to provide WET training to teachers and educators.

Project WET is an international network of organizations and individuals dedicated to providing water education to people of all ages. Through partnerships with state agencies, municipal utilities, colleges, universities, and nonprofit organizations, Project WET is available in all 50 states and over 70 countries. Project WET’s mission is to reach children, parents, teachers and community members of the world with water education that promotes awareness of water and empowers community action to solve complex water issues

Project WET had previously been active in Arkansas; however, the partnership between the national office and the previous state host institution ended a few years ago. This left a gap in training for bothworkshop facilitators and educators who wished to use the materials. The first step for the reintroduction of Project WET through AEEA was conducting a facilitator training. AEEA developed an application form and distributed it to selected educators around the state. From the applications, nine facilitators were chosen, including AEEA director Sophia Stephenson, who now serves as the Project WET State Coordinator.

Project WET facilitators are individuals who are certified to conduct project WET workshops for educators. Facilitators have previously completed a Project WET Educator workshop and generally have used Project WET activities within their own program for at least one year.

The first training for Arkansas Project WET facilitators was held in November at the Boone County Cooperative Extension Service facility. The training was supported by a grant from the Multi-Basin Regional Water Council, an organization that represents Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kansas; whose mission includes increasing capacity of its members to cooperate on water quality issues and fulfill their respective missions. The day and a half long training was conducted by Project WET co-coordinators from Missouri. The facilitator training included an overview of the project WET Guide 2.0, an introduction to Arkansas state science standards and training on how to use the guide to connect activities to state standards, training on specific project WET activities, and an opportunity for each facilitator in training to lead a specific activity.

The next phase of re-launching Project WET in Arkansas is conducting educator workshops, which are held for classroom teachers, non-formal educators, and staff. Educator workshops are not only beneficial for classroom teachers, but can also serve as a foundation for ecology programs at summer camps and scout groups, educational programs at parks, and would also be beneficial for home-schooled students. Participation in an educator training workshop is open to paid or volunteer educators and staff who use water education materials in their work.

Part of the agreement for individuals chosen to complete the facilitator workshop is they each must conduct one Project WET Educator training workshop in 2020. This ensures their skills are up-to-date and that new educators are receiving training to provide Arkansas students with accurate and scientifically supported water education. Of the nine trained in November, four are able to provide workshops anywhere in the state.The remaining five are focused on a more local level.

In 2020 AEEA expects to conduct another facilitator training. This training will expand the location of trained facilitators as well as strengthen the network of the current facilitators.

If anyone is interested in receiving Project WET Educator training or would like more information about the Project WET program in Arkansas contact Arkansas Project WET coordinator, Sophia Stephenson at info@arkansasee.org or call 501.773.1107