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Legislators seek funding for water education

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WHITE BEAR LAKE — Two local legislators are advocating for funding from the Legislature this session for an educational water program in White Bear Lake Area Schools. 

Sen. Chuck Wiger said he and Rep. Peter Fischer will introduce a bill and seek Gov. Mark Dayton’s and the Legislature’s support beginning this week for the Race 2 Reduce water conservation education initiative.

The bill would include $143,000 for H2O for Life, the nonprofit involved in the project and $110,000 for White Bear Lake Area Schools’ portion of the costs. 

“Water issues are a recognized problem in Minnesota, the United States and the world,” stated Judy Onufer, education project manager for H2O for Life, in a proposal. “Race 2 Reduce educational programs, initially developed through a collaboration of H2O for Life, White Bear Lake Area Schools and Mahtomedi Public Schools, educate students about local water resources and introduce water conservation actions through youth engagement in their community.”  

The goal is to empower students to be advocates for change through educational activities. Past projects have included lessons on aquifers, watershed models, tracking of personal water use, a student-led water summit and building a rain garden. 

“For next school year, H2O for Life and White Bear Lake Area Schools are requesting funds to complete curriculum module development, drafting, implementation and dissemination,” Onufer stated. Currently, work has been completed in White Bear Lake Area Schools on modules for kindergarten through fifth grade; a sixth-grade module is in progress. Funding would be used to support continued implementation and drafting of preschool, seventh- and eighth-grade curriculum. 

H2O for Life also has a goal to make the final curriculum available to all schools throughout Minnesota.

The educational program has received state funding for a few years. Last year, it received $307,000.

Mahtomedi Public Schools does not have plans to apply for the 2018-2019 grant. 

“Now that we have our water conservation curriculum in place, we do not anticipate re-applying for the same grant if it’s made available for the 2018-2019 school year,” said Lynne Viker, director of learning and accountability. “However, we would consider applying again if the grant usage parameters are different and align with a need in our district.”

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