By: Anna-Maria Roaché, Senior Program Manager, ACOG
On February 15 2017, I had the privilege of being a guest reader for Loudoun County’s “Its Water Time!” Initiative. On this day, the program was being held at Sully Elementary, located in Sterling, Virginia for two classes of children in the STEP program. This initiative was developed through intensive research by this agency for best practices in drinking water promotion campaigns and increased drinking water access in school systems. Based off of this research, Loudoun County developed a toolkit entitled, “Summary of Best Practices in Drinking Water Access in Schools.” This toolkit was presented to the Director of School Nutrition Services by this local agency. Discussions were held regarding options for increasing water access in the K-12 school system. The toolkit was shared with other stakeholders in the community, including the Head Start Advisory Committee, which led to a partnership with Head Start and STEP as they worked to eliminate juice from their classrooms. A collaboration was created between the Head Start and STEP Program Director and Supervisors, and the “It’s Water Time!” program, a curriculum for preschool and elementary aged children to promote drinking water, was developed. This program has been performed for all 400 children enrolled in the Head Start and STEP programs throughout Loudoun County, and has helped teachers make the switch from serving milk, juice, and water to only serving milk and water in their classrooms. Reusable water bottles are also provided to every student and teacher to encourage children to drink more water.
I joined Jennifer Brady, WIC Project Coordinator, and Michelle Apple, partner from George Mason University at the elementary school, and they proceeded to explain the order of the program. The “It’s Water Time!” program includes a water mascot, a storybook, a song and dance routine, a coloring page, and a parent educational flier. We began the first class with Jennifer introducing the program, she discussed the importance of water and asked the children if they drank water. The kids were so happy to see new faces in their classroom! They were also excited and engaged in the first part of the program. Jennifer then introduced the “It’s Water Time” mascot, Captain Hydro, and I proceeded read the story. The children loved the mascot and were interactive with me as I read the book. We then went on to sing a song and do a dance routine; the kids loved it so much we did it twice in both classes!
After we conducted the activity, we passed out Captain Hydro coloring pages and walked around the room talking to them about the lesson and Captain Hydro. Each child has their own reusable water bottle so they can have their own “Water Time” during their class periods. The bottles either had the child’s name on it, or were assigned based on shapes that corresponded to a specific child. This was such a great experience to see the children in both class periods be so enthusiastic and ready to learn about such an important topic. Loudoun County has made great strides with this initiative and continues to see success. Jennifer shared an anecdote with me pertaining to the success of this program: at one of the schools, one of the bus drivers, requested that teachers require their children use the restroom before they got on the bus, as a result of the increased water consumption! They currently have classes scheduled to the end of February. NWA and ACOG are very excited to see the continued success of this initiative and this agency through the duration of the project period.