Annual Water Convention Encourages Youth to Conserve Water in Engaging Ways
On a scorching hot Monday in late May, hundreds of schoolchildren of different ages and backgrounds-secular and religious, Jewish and Arab-gathered at the Neot Kedumim Nature Reserve near Jerusalem to participate in an annual Water Convention.
The convention is organized by Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA) and partner organization Green Horizons, a youth movement offering schools throughout Israel educational activities with an emphasis on water preservation and collection. As the need for water conservation grows increasingly important, new schools are added each year to JNF-USA’s Rainwater Harvesting Program, with over 50 schools participating to date. The program teaches students how to collect rainwater from their schools’ roofs to supply the toilet flushing, cleaning, irrigation, and gardening needs of their schools.
This ecological and cost-effective strategy saves up to two-thirds of the cost of water for schools in areas of the country that may not be connected to Israel’s National Water Carrier. The rainwater harvesting system is constructed and managed by the students, providing them with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with water conservation. In addition, each year JNF-USA provides scholarships to new students interested in taking part in the program.
“It’s a chance for the kids to understand the water issues facing Israel and to contribute solutions,” said JNF-Green Horizons Liaison Ido Reichman-Eisikovits. “It also creates awareness, which is then spread to their families and peers. The only way to continue our water use in Israel is to educate our youth, give them an opportunity to conserve water, and make a difference in their schools.” According to Reichman-Eisikovits, the Rainwater Harvesting Program saved six million gallons of water last year alone.
Green Horizons was founded in 1974 in memory of Uri Maimon, an IDF soldier with a passion for projects, hiking, and green living who died in the Yom Kippur War. Today, the organization takes part in water conservation, and leadership and outdoor educational activities for students in grades 5-12.
Although this is only the third Water Convention Green Horizons has participated in, the organization holds meetings with the students on a weekly and monthly basis where they to learn about water harvesting and work together to activate and maintain the school’s water system.
To encourage confidence and character building, every four months they go on a camping trip for several days organized by the youth counselors. “These trips build confidence and make them more independent. They do everything on their own—from cooking to collecting water to setting up their camp,” said Reichman-Eisikovits. “We focus on forging social values and friendships. They aren’t even allowed to bring phones on the trips.”
Danielle Cohen, 17, from Akko, is a youth counselor involved with the Rainwater Harvest Project year-round, and also helps organize events and weekly activities for students involved with the organization. “I’ve known about Green Horizons from a young age, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” she said.
Describing the influence Green Horizons has had in her life, Cohen said: “It’s absolutely amazing. I feel like I’ve learned a lot about Israel, and it might seem cliché, but I can see how nature helps children develop and heal their personal issues. They become connected. It’s one of the best experiences and ways to educate and learn at the same time.”
Back at the convention, a jovial and light-hearted atmosphere was felt as the different schools were divided into groups, moving from station to station, each providing entertaining and educational games.
“We loved counting how many water drops we saved,” said a few of the girls from Mabu’im, a small town in Southern Israel. Some stations involved games that explain the order of water circuits and how to recycle. The schools that conserved the most amount of water in the games received first, second, and third place prizes at the end of the convention.
After lunch, the participants gathered in the outdoor auditorium, waiting anxiously to hear who the winners were. Three schools won prizes for earning the most points in the games. One school, Ha’avigar in Ofakim, won a prize for most involvement throughout the entire year.
The day’s events ended on a high note with a drumming performance and a dance routine that captivated the young crowd. “I enjoyed every single game we played today,” said one of the boys from the winning team. Above all, the day’s events at the convention, as well as the successes of the Rainwater Harvesting Program, serve as examples that educating about water conservation can be accomplished in a fun, exciting, and engaging way.