Environmental Educators Dive Into Project WET Workshop at NGRREC℠

Article by: Louise Jett, ljett@lc.edu
ALTON – Environmental educators gathered at the Jerry F. Costello Confluence Field Station to participate in an all-day Project WET Facilitator Refresher Workshop on Feb. 1.

The National Great Rivers Research and Education Center is the new state coordinator for Project WET, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating children, parents, teachers and community members about the ways in which water connects all of us and must be managed sustainably and responsibly for all the various users of this critical resource.

Co-facilitators Natalie Marioni, NGRREC℠ Environmental Educator and Illinois Project WET Coordinator, and Patti Brown, Education Director of the Nature Institute, guided participants through activities aimed at bringing the outdoors into classrooms. 

“It’s a great feeling to finally host our first Project WET Refresher Workshop for our Illinois facilitators, since becoming the statewide host for Project WET last year,” Marioni said. “Our workshop facilitator, Patti Brown, did a terrific job bringing her enthusiasm and expertise to introduce some of the new Project WET 2.0 activities to our seasoned and very energetic facilitators.”

As a Project WET coordinator, Marioni’s mission is to work with current and new facilitators to help make Project WET available to formal and non-formal educators throughout Illinois. Project WET facilitators work with coordinators to provide workshops that spread water education throughout the world.  

“Project WET is important especially in today’s society,” Brown said. “We have droughts, floods, water main breaks, invasive species, and even water borne illnesses that are in the news locally, nationally and internationally. The curriculum and activity guide is so easy to read and use, it can be incorporated into any discipline.”

Every day, the quality and quantity of water resources affect the health and wellbeing of nearly seven billion people on the planet. Yet one in eight do not have access to clean and abundant water, according to www.projectwet.org. 

“When we think of water we believe it is infinite. That is just not true,” Brown said. “We have the same amount of fresh water our ancestors did. It is a reusable resource. Water will be more important to our lives and our children’s lives as we live longer. It is our most important natural resource. We can’t drink gold or oil, and we certainly don’t need it to live.”

Cyndi Duda, an environmental educator from Chicago, Ill. who attended the workshop, is proud to be a Project WET facilitator. 

“I am impressed with how relevant the activities are,” Duda said. “They teach real world concepts about big issues, like non-point source pollution, which is a real problem in Chicago. When we facilitate these excellent activities, we take a complex subject and make it attainable for students, so that they can be part of the solution.”

Stacey Clementz, Education Program Specialist for the Champaign County Forest Preserve District, found the workshop to be educational and interesting.

“Natalie and Patti did an excellent job with the Project WET Facilitator Refresher training,” Clementz said. “The Field Station was an excellent location for the training; plenty of room to move around to try out activities, warm atmosphere and excellent views. After I left, I immediately began thinking of when I wanted to do my first Project WET workshop and what activities I would want to share. I am already looking into doing one in August.”

Marioni will host two more facilitator refresher workshops this year, one April 25 in DeKalb, Ill. and another mid-June near Harrisburg, Ill. Educators and facilitators can contact her at (618) 468-2783 for more information about attending one of these or finding other educator workshops.

“I’m excited to continue working with current and new facilitators to help make Project WET available to formal and non-formal educators throughout Illinois,” Marioni said. “It’s easy to coordinate a program like this with facilitators as spirited as ours and workshop hosts as knowledgeable and passionate as Patti.”

NGRREC℠ is an innovative center for research, education and outreach located near the confluence of the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois rivers in East Alton, Illinois. The National Great Rivers Research and Education Center is a partnership of Lewis and Clark Community College, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the Prairie Research Institute’s Illinois Natural History Survey.

NGRREC℠ was the winner of a 2011 U.S. Water Prize, and Project WET was one of six Water Prize recipients in 2012. For more information about NGRREC℠ visit www.ngrrec.org. 

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