Odette Sanchez, El Buen Pastor, and the children learning about water conservation.

Our mission at Cavanaugh is to cultivate stewardship of our earthly resources through innovation.  We accomplish this through our expertise in the areas of Bioenergy and Water Efficiency.  Forsyth Creek Week is a local program in the City of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County to educate and appreciate the importance of our local waterways, and one that I have been involved in over the last few years.  Historically, the program has primarily underscored the importance of water quality in our area, but has introduced other aspects of how we live and interact with our most precious natural resource.  This year, I was excited to bring more awareness to supply side water conservation.  After all, the tireless efforts that go into many dedicated water professionals every day to ensure we have safe drinking water should not be diminished by waste or water loss.  Teaching locals where our water comes from, how it is treated, and how we can use it wisely and efficiently is an opportunity that Cavanaugh was eager to accept.  For Forsyth Creek Week, we shifted from our typical training and technical assistance audience of water professional to those equally excited to learn…enter the amazing kids at El Buen Pastor, a non-profit organization for Latino Community Services.  With the assistance of Adolfo Briceno, Human Relations Specialist for the City of Winston-Salem, we were able to identify a need and opportunity to bring water conservation education to this community.  Adolfo introduced me to Ms. Odette Sanchez, Director of Operations at El Buen Pastor. Reflecting on the opportunity, Ms. Sanchez noted, “We are so thankful for many of the volunteer programs that our children are introduced to, especially those in the science.  Science programs are something our children are lacking and water conservation is an important topic that cannot be introduced too early.”

We started out by grabbing the student’s attention with a sleight of hand card trick using a deck of Water Conservation cards from the Water Education Group (If you are ever interested in teaching water conservation to a younger group and are up for learning a couple simple card tricks, I highly recommend this — each card in the deck has a water saving tip on it).  After wowing the kids with the  card trick, we discussed what water was made of, the water cycle, and where our water comes from before talking about ways we can save water in our homes.  Of course, we had to have some fun with this….that’s just what we do!

‘We ARE water!’

After explaining that water is a molecule made up of an oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms, we went Magic School Bus and took a trip to understand this better.  The kids closed their eyes and opened their imaginations as we climbed into a special machine that would shrink us down to the size of atoms so we could take a closer look at H2O (As the kids had their eyes closed, they were handed a circle with either an ‘H’ or an ‘O’).  Once the machine was done shrinking us, it malfunctioned and sent us all flying around the room.  Our job was to make a water molecule by finding other Hs or Os.

After returning back to our normal size we talked about the water cycle and the importance it plays in our environment.  What better way to do this than create our own environment in a terrarium.  Students pitched in one at a time by adding dirt, rocks, grass, trees, sand, and a pond to our terrarium and then placed it outside to later learn first hand about important parts of the cycle like evaporation, precipitation and condensation.  I think this was the crowd-pleaser…either that, or they were all just happy to be back to normal size.

Understanding the water cycle through a terrarium.

To wrap up, we had to unveil another card trick from our water saving deck.  One volunteer was asked to yell stop as the deck was shuffled.  MAGICALLY, it stopped on the 10 of Diamonds which explained that it takes 1.5 gallons of water to make a plastic water bottle.  Lucky for me, I just happened to have a plastic water bottle and a gallon jug to demonstrate this.  Much to my delight, there was disbelief as I saw a few light bulbs turn on across their faces!  This was the perfect time to pass out the Water Wheels from the Water Education Group and an activity book from the City’s Stormwater & Erosion Control Department for the kids to take home with them and share with their family.


Whether it is discussing water quality, aquatic life, stormwater management, water treatment, or water conservation, it is the act of teaching to others about the importance of this resource we sometimes take for granted.  Being stewards of our earthly resources through innovation is not just a company mission statement at Cavanaugh, but an example we strive to show to those coming behind us.

All photo credit goes to Caroline Blackwell, my daughter and trusty assistant for every Forsyth Creek Week activity I have had the privilege to be a part of.