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5 ways to teach kids about the California drought

California Drought Dries Up Bay Area Reservoirs

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A pipe emerges from dried and cracked earth that used to be the bottom of the Almaden Reservoir on January 28, 2014 in San Jose, California. Now in its third straight year of drought conditions, California is experiencing its driest year on record, dating back 119 years, and reservoirs throughout the state have low water levels. California Gov. Jerry Brown officially declared a drought emergency to speed up assistance to local governments, streamline water transfers and potentially ease environmental protection requirements for dam releases.

California just experienced its driest year on record and there's no relief in sight. Governor Jerry Brown is calling on citizens to conserve and children are no exception. Here are some tips to help parents and teachers explain the problem to kids and how to save those precious drops. 

1. What is a drought? How Stuff Works, the online site owned by Discovery Company, has a three and a half minute video explainer on drought. Includes lots of little-known-facts and beautiful images. A little dense, keep your toddlers away. 

2. Why are we having a drought? The National Drought Mitigation Center has an entire section of its website devoted to helping kids understand drought. It even includes a page defining water words ("desalination: the process of removing salts and other minerals from seawater so that it can be used for drinking water"). Perfect to help with drought related homework assignments. 

3. What can we do about the drought? Retired teacher Michael Thal gave tips on how parents can teach their kids to conserve water in a piece for Examiner.com. Among his suggestions: fix leaky faucets and take shorter showers - the average person uses seven gallons of water per minute, according to Thal. Your kids might also take inspiration from third grader Heero Bigby. The nine year old, who goes to school in Vacaville, Calif., recently became an unofficial spokesman for water conservation when he decided to give two presentations to his fellow students at school assemblies.

4. Why should I care? The nonprofit Water Education for Teachers has a fun interactive game for younger learners about all things water related. Kids can learn how to use water wisely and study the water cycle among other things. It's bright and colorful, and mixes simple animation with useful facts.

5. What about fires? The blog, The Kids Should See This, features a Smokey the Bear video from 1960 that explains the causes of forest fires and how to prevent them. The site is run by Rion Nakaya - she curates fascinating videos (with her two and five year olds' help) that adults and kids can enjoy together.

Know of other gems to get kids interested in the drought? What classroom lessons are you seeing in your schools? Let us know in the comments below.

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