Learning Lasts All Year

A kids’ calendar helps the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office get students interested in keeping water clean.
Learning Lasts All Year
Water Resources Commissioner John P. McCulloch with the 2012 calendar winners.

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Getting young people involved is easy for the Oakland County (Mich.) Water Resources Commissioner’s Office (WRC). The agency just asked kids to draw pictures related to clean water. “Usually the really funny ones have to do with poop for some reason,” says Jacy Garrison, environmental planner II.

First printed in 2006, the Kids’ Clean Water Calendar features drawings representing each month. There were 125 entries the first year, and now more than 1,000 come in annually.

“We send solicitations to fourth and fifth graders because it’s the time in the curriculum when kids are introduced to the water cycle and water quality,” says Garrison. Teachers collect the drawings and submit them for judging in fall.

Get creative

Themes for the drawings include cleaning up after pets, ways to conserve water, disposing of household hazardous waste properly, and keeping pollution out waterways. All topics relate to water quality and the importance of keeping water clean for everyone.

The WRC operates and maintains the Commerce Township Wastewater Treatment Plant (8.5 mgd design) and operates, maintains and owns the Walled Lake-Novi Wastewater Treatment Plant (3.5 mgd design).

To date, operators have not helped with the calendar judging, but they “could be involved if they wanted to be,” says Charles “Chip” Tischer, WRC community liaison. “The more the merrier.”

With 12 winners each year — one for each month — it can take quite a while to sort through the entries. “Jacy and I sit in a room for hours on end and funnel through all the submissions, then get down to a core group and send them out to judges,” says Tischer.

“Say we get in 1,200 drawings. We’ll whittle that down to 100, 200, 300 depending on how many great ones there are, and then we have a panel of judges. They’ll do the final judging and the ranking. That’s how we get it down to our 12 winners, honorable mentions and special acknowledgements.” Judges include office personnel, local environmental professionals and project partners.

Awarding artists

Along with the main drawing for each month’s calendar, one honorable mention and two special acknowledgement drawings are chosen and displayed at the page bottoms. “This way we can recognize some of the really good entries that weren’t able to be winners,” says Garrison.

In December, winners take part in an awards ceremony at the Cranbrook Institute of Science, Michigan’s Museum of Natural History. “Water Resources Commissioner John P. McCulloch presents each winner with a plaque of his or her drawing, and they get an annual membership to Cranbrook,” says Garrison.

A major funding mechanism for the calendar is a nonprofit called Great Lakes Guardians. “It provides the funding for the printing and the awards ceremony, along with a number of other sponsorships and partners from companies across Oakland County and southeast Michigan,” Tischer says.

The funding jump-started the drawing contest, but the students’ enthusiasm about the importance of water quality keeps it going and growing. “It’s a thrill for me to be part of the Kid’s Clean Water Calendar Contest,” says McCulloch. “The sense of achievement that our 12 winners have, along with the environmental lessons learned by them and the more than 1,000 participants, is invaluable. Since 2005, this program has helped educate thousands of young people on the impact they have on the environment.”


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