Students dive into watery project

March 20, 2009 (CHICAGO) This Sunday marks World Water Day. It's a campaign from UNICEF to bring awareness to the need for clean, drinking water across the globe. Some local high school students are joining in the movement by highlighting Chicago's relationship with one of nature's precious resources.

It only takes a peek of sunshine to find Chicagoans reveling in our miles of lakeshore or enjoying the view from the Chicago River. It's no wonder most people in this region rarely think of water as being in short supply.

"Now I'm more careful when I brush my teeth, when I do the dishes, when I wash my clothes, everything," said Paola Lopez, a Little Village Lawndale High School junior.

Lopez is one of four Chicago Public Schools students who has been working most of the school year to create an exhibit for the Field Museum. The museum's Johanna Thompson heads the program.

"It's about Chicago's special relationship with water. We're the only city in the world that has reversed its river," Thompson said. "We have 20 percent of all the fresh water on the planet. We're living right next to it in the Great Lakes."

The exhibit's theme is "Chicago: Your City, Your Water," purposely displayed on a reusable water bottle.

"Disposable water bottles are really harmful to the environment and we make a big conservation point, so we wanted to stress it out," said Elyne Tran, a Whitney Young High school senior.

While Chicago's water supply is not in imminent danger, the exhibit aims to encourage conservation and to raise awareness about water scarcity elsewhere.

"There are places in Africa, in India, in developing nations that have run out of access to clean water and so they have to walk to a well to get that water," said Thompson. "The average American uses over 100 gallons of water a day for their washing, cooking and cleaning and the average person living in a water-scarce region uses 2 gallons a day."

The exhibit also includes living props to help Chicagoans understand their duty to keep their lake and river clean. That starts by not dumping unwanted pets into the water.

"We have fish in jars and we ask people if the fish in the jars are native to the Chicago area or not. Some fish are very common even though they're not native," said Jose Rivas, a senior at Multicultural Arts High School.

"So, if they do walk by the river and see a fish they can know: Oh, that fish is actually good for the water or it's bad for the ecosystem," said Raquel Arce, a senior at Multicultural Arts High School.

The student exhibition kicks off what will be World Water Day on Sunday at the Field Museum. There will be a number of activities for the whole family.

Some of the activities include:

  • Underwriters Laboratory will host several hands-on experiments through the use of learning labs, demonstrating how water contaminants such as E. coli and pesticides are analyzed in drinking water.
  • A blind water taste test will be conducted by the Museuology students for visitors to see if there really is a difference in bottled water and Chicago tap water.
  • The water calculator will be live, and the Museum will have laptops out for families to use and calculate their household water usage.
  • An expert from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago will be giving a "Sewer Science" demonstration, which will show visitors the process our water goes through after it goes down the drain.
  • There will be activities in the Crown Family PlayLab for younger children to enjoy.
  • In celebration of World Water Day on Sunday, March 22, The Field Museum will be host to water-related activities. The highlight of the day will be UNICEF's Tap Water Walk, a one-mile walk for families, schools, and communities to help raise awareness and support for those around the world who lack from readily available clean water.

    To participate or supporter a participant, visit and choose "Tap in Your City" and then "Chicago."
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