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5 tips for teaching toddlers water conservation



Teacher Ginny Zywot shows her Smart Start Preschool students around their drought-resistant garden that they built to conserve water and promote native plant growth in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Teacher Ginny Zywot shows her Smart Start Preschool students around their drought-resistant garden that they built to conserve water and promote native plant growth in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Lauren Cioffi/KPCC
Teacher Ginny Zywot shows her Smart Start Preschool students around their drought-resistant garden that they built to conserve water and promote native plant growth in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Smart Start Preschool student Reese Waldron, 5, and teacher Ginny Zywot discover the smallest details of each native plant in their Zen Garden in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Lauren Cioffi/KPCC
Teacher Ginny Zywot shows her Smart Start Preschool students around their drought-resistant garden that they built to conserve water and promote native plant growth in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Teacher Ginny Zywot tells her students to “care and love for each other as well as care and love for our earth” before they head out to learn about their water conserving garden at Smart Start Preschool in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Lauren Cioffi/KPCC
Teacher Ginny Zywot shows her Smart Start Preschool students around their drought-resistant garden that they built to conserve water and promote native plant growth in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Smart Start Preschool students Seth Lee, 4, and Jameson Ruetz, 4, are careful to stay on the circle stones as they leap around their drought resistant Zen garden.
Lauren Cioffi/KPCC
Teacher Ginny Zywot shows her Smart Start Preschool students around their drought-resistant garden that they built to conserve water and promote native plant growth in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Logan Coles, 4, and Kenley Keffeler, 5, explore the environmentally sustainable wood mulch in their playground at Smart Start Preschool in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Lauren Cioffi/KPCC
Teacher Ginny Zywot shows her Smart Start Preschool students around their drought-resistant garden that they built to conserve water and promote native plant growth in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Students at Smart Start Preschool in Redondo Beach, Calif. race each other to the slide in their wood mulch playground that has been built to reduce water usage in the backyard.
Lauren Cioffi/KPCC
Teacher Ginny Zywot shows her Smart Start Preschool students around their drought-resistant garden that they built to conserve water and promote native plant growth in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Students Aryana Deshpende, 3, Seth Lee, 4, and Jameson Ruetz, 4, learn about each native plant in their drought resistant garden at Smart Start Preschool in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Lauren Cioffi/KPCC
Teacher Ginny Zywot shows her Smart Start Preschool students around their drought-resistant garden that they built to conserve water and promote native plant growth in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Blue Fescue Grass in Smart Start Prechool's zero-water garden in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Lauren Cioffi/KPCC
Teacher Ginny Zywot shows her Smart Start Preschool students around their drought-resistant garden that they built to conserve water and promote native plant growth in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Smart Start Preschool student Kenley Keffeler, 5, examines the wood mulch in her playground. Mulch is used instead of grass to cut back on water usage in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Lauren Cioffi/KPCC


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Driving by Ginny Zywot's Redondo Beach home, you can't help but notice something's missing: the front lawn.

She ripped it out and planted a zero-water garden, which she uses to teach the children in her home-based preschool about conservation, biology and environmental science.

Perhaps her favorite plant is the Amaryllis flower. From planting the bulb to first flower opening it only takes one month.

"It's perfect for preschool attention span," she said. "Everyday the children would come to school and watch how the stems would grow and they would go, 'it's getting bigger! It’s getting bigger!' " Zywot said.  

They would measure the plant stems regularly and note the growth. Then it finally flowered.

"It was very exciting for them," she said. And after the initial planting, they did not water it once. 

Next step: Zywot and the children will transplant the bulb, complete with multiple stems and flowers, into the front yard, alongside the other zero-water plants. (See slideshow above for images of the full zero-water garden.)

Want to teach your own toddlers water conservation? Here are five tips:

1. Create a Zero-Water garden with Preschoolers: Click on listen link above to hear about Redondo Beach LAUP Preschool teacher, Ginny Zywot, and her Zero Water garden. Read Teacher Ginny’s How & Why guide to creating a Zero-Water garden with kids.

2. TV worth watching: from Sesame Street: 45 sec skit that sums it all up.

3. Help kids become the Water Police in your home. (And junior scientists while they’re at it!): 90 second video will teach you how. 

4. Teach kids to do a “Water Audit”: Here’s video and activity guide from Project WET.

5. A case study from one Australian preschool: Education for Sustainability in the Early Years

Why is that last tip from Australia? Because that country, which has been in and out of drought for hundreds of years, hit another dry spell 30 years ago, programs teaching water conservation to the 0-5 set started popping up in different parts of the country. Educators connected and shared strategies - creating a strong network of early childhood environmental education.

Australian water expert Barbara Jensen said starting young has made a big change in family water consumption. 

"Children have an impact on the family and therefore have an impact on water use and reduced consumption," she said.

Jensen believes small children can  be advocates for change. They can learn simple practices - like turning off the tap while lathering hands with soap or while brushing teeth - and to monitor water waste in their own families.