Guest Blog by Kerry Schwartz, Director, Arizona Project WET and Faculty Member, University of Arizona

To me, the Colorado River is the keystone for all that we are and all that we will become in the noncoastal Southwest.

Colorado River Below Hoover Dam

It’s the source of life running through a rough, rugged, dry land. Having rafted the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon on three 12-day river trips, I’ve had the opportunity to experience some of the remote and inhospitable country that accommodates our river. Out there, your skin becomes sandpaper, as you drop down through the geologic section to the Vishnu Schist and then move up again to younger rocks. The flow is fast – sometimes tumultuous – and always cold. It’s a place of extremes, all or nothing, but the whole experience is about water.

The managed Colorado River fuels life in the arid southwest. Denver, Salt Lake City, Cheyenne, and farmers in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico all take their share of the river in the Upper Colorado River Basin. Lake Powell and Lake Mead bookend the Grand Canyon, after which Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Tucson, as well as farmers in the Yuma, Imperial and Coachella Irrigation Districts take their cut from the Lower Basin bank account in Lake Mead. Mexico too, sends the waters of the Colorado to cities and agriculture. As James Brown was to show business, the Colorado River is to the economy … the hardest working one.

So bringing the story of the Colorado River Watershed to teachers and students fuels my passion. That’s why I am so excited to announce the 2018 Teacher Academy focused on the Colorado River. This is an opportunity to tell the tale of ingenuity, innovation, determination and long-term planning on the part of the people who came here and made a home. We invite teachers to come and learn about this vital subject.

Central Arizona Project has invested in water education through sponsorship of Arizona Project WET for more than a decade. Its 2018 sponsorship enables us to bring our two-day “Explore the Colorado River” Teacher Academy to the East Valley on May 31 and June 1. Inquiry and exploration drive the lessons in Discover a Watershed: The Coloradothe 400-page Educators Guide that teachers receive for their attendance. Titles like Sharing the Shed, First Come-First Served, Plumbing the Colorado and Many Happy Return Flows give a hint of not only the engaging nature of the lessons but also the depth and breadth of the content.

Arizona Project WET develops water stewardship and STEM literacy by providing teacher professional development that evolves instructional practice and deepens content knowledge. This comprehensive water education program has instructed more than 11,150 teachers in regionally and locally significant water concepts. Those teachers have engaged more than three-quarters of a million students in water education. Academy participants last year rated their knowledge before and after attending the academy – and their knowledge gain was more than 80% on: Drawing parallels between past, present and future perspectives on the Colorado River and understanding its management and distribution.

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