South Florida is surrounded by water. And with summer, comes the rainy season. But while it’s one of the wettest areas of the country, with more than 50 inches of rainfall a year, there’s always the danger of drought conditions.
Conserving our water supply year-round is key, and elementary and middle school students in Wellington and across the state are being recognized for turning their water conservation ideas into award-winning works of art through the Drop Savers poster contest.
“This is an educational component of our water conservation effort,” Wellington Utilities Director Shannon LaRocque explained.
The Drop Savers poster contest is an effort by the Florida Statewide American Waterworks Association. Students are encouraged to create posters depicting water conservation and awareness.
A panel of judges base the winners on message, creativity and originality. First-place winners move up to the state level of the competition. In all, 195 students from four local schools participated this spring. Eight of the winners were from Panther Run Elementary School and Wellington Landings Middle School. The Wellington Village Council recognized them in March, while the posters helped promote April as Water Conservation Month.
“It’s starting that education at a young age, so it becomes habitual through life,” LaRocque said.
Last year was the first time that Wellington participated in the contest. Then a third-grader, Grace Bostwick from Panther Run won at the state level. Her artwork is now part of a special calendar.
This year, five students from Panther Run took top honors at the local level.
At the elementary level, fourth-grader Gabriella Pedicino took first place in Division 3, which is comprised of fourth-grades and fifth-graders. Paige Albert, a fifth-grader, took second. Returning first-place contest winner Lauren Allen, a fifth-grader, took third this time.
In Division 2, which encompasses students in second and third grades, Maibelin Fernandez, a second-grader at Panther Run, took second place, while Wilmide Derastel, a third-grader, won first place in her division.
“I drew a water drop that’s sad,” Derastel explained. “The letters are dry with no water, like land. I think water makes the world a better place to live in, because we use water for many things. If you waste less water, it’ll make the world a better place.”
That’s a lesson that’s close to the heart of her mother, Fabiola Gene. Gene is from Haiti, where she said clean drinking water is hard to come by.
“You see kids drinking dirty water. It’s sad. I remind my daughter not to waste water,” Gene said.
Panther Run has been recognized as a “Green School of Quality” for two years in a row for its conservation efforts. Principal Edilia De La Vega said that the school puts a big focus on teaching students about conservation and taking care of the environment. It also has Earth Club lead by teacher Tracy LaBrosse, the school’s “green ambassador.”
“One of the things we added this year, because of an abundance of water bottles coming on campus, is refillable water stations into the water fountains,” De La Vega said. “That was a wonderful resource, as well as to teach the kids the importance of refilling their water bottles, and not just using and getting rid of plastic ones.”
The school has two water stations. One in the cafeteria and one outside. “When they go out to PE, they always have their water, so they can refill it right there, and it’s filtered,” she said.
Wellington Landings Middle School is also working hard to teach the importance of conservation with separate recycling bins throughout the campus.
“I think the number-one thing this generation needs to focus on is conservation of water, our environment and making sure that we’re not being wasteful,” Principal Blake Bennett said. “We do a recycling program with bins and community-based instruction for students in our self-contained special education program. Students in the program are in charge of recycling and picking up recycling bins.”
Blake said that she is very proud of her school’s three students who placed in the Drop Savers contest for Division 4, which is comprised of sixth-graders through eighth-graders, including Deseray Johnson, an eighth-grader who placed first. Another eighth-grader, Lilly Paulitz, came in second place, while sixth grader Ciana Han placed third.
“I drew ways to save water inside droplets. Like short showers and planting plants that don’t require a lot of water,” Han said. “I pay more attention now, and I’m more aware of our water and not wasting it.”
All eight local winners attribute their art teachers for inspiring them. Art teacher Lyda Barrera, who just retired from Panther Run, and Ashlan Sheesley from Wellington Landings, both guided the students on their art posters for this contest, where the primary goal was making water conservation a way of life.