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Diving into water issues

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: KENDRA FRANKLE - Students presented their speech to a panel of judges, including Mayor John Kovash, during a water summit at Rosemont Ridge Middle School on June 1.

Sixth-graders learn about city's water issues


'Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.' That is what sixth graders at Rosemont Ridge Middle School recently learned. Although the Earth is mostly covered in water, only 1 percent is drinkable.

Inspired by a sustainability class, sixth-grade teacher Lisia Farley wanted to get her social science classes to focus on a world issue and boil it down to a community issue.

At the start of the school year, students explored what civilizations need to survive. Water was a key component.

Working their way through history and around the world, students learned about topics, such as the Roman aqueducts and the scarcity of water in some regions of the world. One of their main questions was, how do cities provide clean water to their growing populations? They then applied that question directly to West Linn.

Students learned about the city's aging water system, its undersized and old reservoir, the clarity of the water, the Blue Heron site and the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Treatment Plant. Students conducted research, read articles and listened to guest speakers, as well as conducting some of their own water experiments.

'Some of our parents don't understand what they need to worry about,' sixth grader Lexi Pritchard said.

Many of the students expressed concern over West Linn's aging infrastructure and ways to fund replacement.

'Soon this is going to be really bad, and we need to do something,' Pritchard said.

'We are trying to find lots of ways to let people know about the issue,' Emily Foushee said.

Other students brought up the most interesting facts they learned during the unit, including the age of city pipes, the rust and lead in the pipes, the limited supply for fresh drinking water in the world and drug residue in drinking water.

'We kind of take our water for granted, don't we?' Farley asked a class.

To culminate the water unit, the sixth graders held a water summit, inviting city staff, the mayor, city councilors, the school district superintendent and members of the public. Eighth-graders were also invited to sit in.

During the water summit, which was held June 1, groups of students presented a four-minute speech to a guest panel. They could choose a topic from water rights, water pipes, Blue Heron, West Linn water quality and the water plant.

After each speech, the judges could then ask questions of the students for six minutes.

'We listened to them. It was a lot of fun to listen to these kids,' City Council President Jenni Tan said. 'These kids really impressed me.'

Mayor John Kovash said, 'I think they did a good job.'

Wanting to take action and help create awareness of West Linn's water system, several students from a couple of classes decided to make sculptures using some of the city's old pipes.