Under a white tent at the Orange County Children’s Water Education Festival, Kevin Barnes of the Green Earth Magic Show transformed a plastic bag into a cloth bag with a quick move of his hand.
On the same small stage a few minutes later, "Doug the Water Wizard" (Doug Nolan) made the crowd of students name eight ways to conserve water before precariously balancing eight colored boxes on his chin.
Indoors, inside a room where chandeliers dangled from the ceiling like gigantic earrings, Lissin Lev Chaya and David Heartlife of the EarthCapades Environmental Vaudeville defied gravity by juggling bowling pins while reciting information about water and water conservation.
Though there was a lot of magic happening onstage at the 2010 Orange County Water Education Festival, there was one thing that all the acts didn’t want to disappear: the Earth’s water supply. The Southern California county has been a leader in water conservation education for years.
Around 5,300 fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders from approximately 91 schools took a field trip to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda to learn about the magical properties of water and the best ways to conserve it.
The event, in its 14th year, was presented by the Orange County Water District, Disneyland Resort, the Municipal Water District of Orange County, and the National Water Research Institute. With 55 organizations present, students were able to take in a wide variety of magic shows, talks, games, and hands-on demonstrations about water over the course of two days.
One presentation that always seemed to have a line of kids waiting outside to take it in was National Geographic magazine writer Joel Bourne’s “Think Global, Act Local” talks. As images from National Geographic’s April 2010 “Water Issue” were shown on a large projection screen, Bourne covered lots of ground deftly, touching on water facts—it takes 1,799 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef—and ending with an abbreviated history of Southern California’s water struggles.
Later, Bourne said that he hoped his half-hour long presentation might help students be better prepared in an increasingly water-constrained world. “If they can come away with an idea of how precious water is, they’ll get a real appreciation for the true value of their water,” he said.
Other presenters had similar goals of inspiring students to conserve.
“I’m hoping that they will walk away with a couple ideas,” said Nolan, the juggler. “One, water is a finite and precious resource. And, two, that they can make a difference.”
Acids, Bases . . . and Sweat
Under another white tent, members of Disneyland Resort’s Environmental Affairs team put on an engaging demonstration titled “Disney’s Incredible World of Water Chemistry.” Decked out in costumes that combined pirate regalia with Mickey Mouse attire, the Disney employees showed kids how to determine whether household liquids were bases or acids by pouring them into a glass full of purple cabbage juice. If the cabbage juice turns red, the liquid is an acid. If it turns green, the liquid is a base. If the cabbage juice stays purple, the product is neutral.
Volunteers from Costa Mesa’s Killybrooke Elementary School discovered that Monster Energy Drinks and Perrier mineral waters are acids, while household cleaning products, including Formula 409 and Pine-Sol, are bases.
Frank Dela Vara, Disneyland Resort’s director of environmental affairs and conservation, says the purpose of the experiment was to show that acids and bases are both water-based. An acid has more active hydrogen ions than pure water, which is neutral. A base has fewer active hydrogen ions. Both chemicals can be dangerous, although most acids and bases found in households are safe to use when you know what you’re dealing with.
A booth manned by the National Hockey League’s Anaheim Ducks presented an exhibit that allowed students to play street hockey and then analyze their sweat after a few minutes of vigorous play. The kids used cotton swabs to dab the sweat from their foreheads and then wrote words on pieces of paper with the liquid. When their sweat evaporated from the paper, it left behind words that were spelled out from the remaining salt and electrolytes.
On the last day of the festival, both teachers and students looked back on what they had seen at the sprawling event.
“It’s been awesome,” said Killybrooke Elementary School substitute teacher Cassie Carpenter. “It’s really well-organized, and the kids are really enjoying it.”
Meanwhile, Andru McCruden, a fourth-grader from Fullerton’s Topaz Elementary School, took something home from the festival besides the cloth tote bag given to all attending students. “You should not put oil down a storm drain, because it will turn water hazardous,” he said.
An outspoken Aleece Hanson, a fourth-grader from Santa Ana’s Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, admitted that she had fun at the event and gained some knowledge about conservation in the process. “I learned about water and pollution,” she said. “I might even do what they said and unplug my refrigerator to save energy.”