Under a white tent at the Orange County Children’s Water Education Festival, Kevin Barnes of the Green Earth Magic Show transformed a plastic bag into a cloth bag with a quick move of his hand.

On the same small stage a few minutes later, "Doug the Water Wizard" (Doug Nolan) made the crowd of students name eight ways to conserve water before precariously balancing eight colored boxes on his chin.

Indoors, inside a room where chandeliers dangled from the ceiling like gigantic earrings, Lissin Lev Chaya and David Heartlife of the EarthCapades Environmental Vaudeville defied gravity by juggling bowling pins while reciting information about water and water conservation.

Though there was a lot of magic happening onstage at the 2010 Orange County Water Education Festival, there was one thing that all the acts didn’t want to disappear: the Earth’s water supply. The Southern California county has been a leader in water conservation education for years.

Around 5,300 fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders from approximately 91 schools took a field trip to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda to learn about the magical properties of water and the best ways to conserve it.

The event, in its 14th year, was presented by the Orange County Water District, Disneyland Resort, the Municipal Water District of Orange County, and the National Water Research Institute. With 55 organizations present, students were able to take in a wide variety of magic shows, talks, games, and hands-on demonstrations about water over the course of two days.

One presentation that always seemed to have a line of kids waiting outside to take it in was National Geographic magazine writer Joel Bourne’s “Think Global, Act Local” talks. As images from National Geographic’s April 2010 “Water Issue” were shown on a large projection screen, Bourne covered lots of ground deftly, touching on water facts—it takes 1,799 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef—and ending with an abbreviated history of Southern California’s water struggles.

Later, Bourne said that he hoped his half-hour long presentation might help students be better prepared in an increasingly water-constrained world. “If they can come away with an idea of how precious water is, they’ll get a real appreciation for the true value of their water,” he said.

Other presenters had similar goals of inspiring students to conserve.

“I’m hoping that they will walk away with a couple ideas,” said Nolan, the juggler. “One, water is a finite and precious resource. And, two, that they can make a difference.”
Acids, Bases . . . and Sweat

Under another white tent, members of Disneyland Resort’s Environmental Affairs team put on an engaging demonstration titled “Disney’s Incredible World of Water Chemistry.” Decked out in costumes that combined pirate regalia with Mickey Mouse attire, the Disney employees showed kids how to determine whether household liquids were bases or acids by pouring them into a glass full of purple cabbage juice. If the cabbage juice turns red, the liquid is an acid. If it turns green, the liquid is a base. If the cabbage juice stays purple, the product is neutral.

Volunteers from Costa Mesa’s Killybrooke Elementary School discovered that Monster Energy Drinks and Perrier mineral waters are acids, while household cleaning products, including Formula 409 and Pine-Sol, are bases.

Frank Dela Vara, Disneyland Resort’s director of environmental affairs and conservation, says the purpose of the experiment was to show that acids and bases are both water-based. An acid has more active hydrogen ions than pure water, which is neutral. A base has fewer active hydrogen ions. Both chemicals can be dangerous, although most acids and bases found in households are safe to use when you know what you’re dealing with.

A booth manned by the National Hockey League’s Anaheim Ducks presented an exhibit that allowed students to play street hockey and then analyze their sweat after a few minutes of vigorous play. The kids used cotton swabs to dab the sweat from their foreheads and then wrote words on pieces of paper with the liquid. When their sweat evaporated from the paper, it left behind words that were spelled out from the remaining salt and electrolytes.

On the last day of the festival, both teachers and students looked back on what they had seen at the sprawling event.

“It’s been awesome,” said Killybrooke Elementary School substitute teacher Cassie Carpenter. “It’s really well-organized, and the kids are really enjoying it.”

Meanwhile, Andru McCruden, a fourth-grader from Fullerton’s Topaz Elementary School, took something home from the festival besides the cloth tote bag given to all attending students. “You should not put oil down a storm drain, because it will turn water hazardous,” he said.

An outspoken Aleece Hanson, a fourth-grader from Santa Ana’s Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, admitted that she had fun at the event and gained some knowledge about conservation in the process. “I learned about water and pollution,” she said. “I might even do what they said and unplug my refrigerator to save energy.”

Water Wows
More than 5,000 students from Orange County learned about water conservation at the so-called "Water Fest."

Water Wisdom
Before the Groundwater Replenishment System began processing treated sewer water in January 2008, the Orange County Water District's Water Factory 21 was the first facility to use reverse osmosis to make municipal sewer water into purified drinking water.

abbreviate
Verb

to shorten.

acid
Noun

chemical compound that reacts with a base to form a salt. Acids can corrode some natural materials. Acids have pH levels lower than 7.

approximately
Adjective

generally or near an exact figure.

attire
Noun

clothing.

base
Noun

chemical compound that reacts with acid to form a salt. Bases have pH levels higher than 7.

beef
Noun

flesh of a cow used for food.

chandelier
Noun

large, complex lighting fixture that usually hangs from a ceiling.

Noun

management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect.

conserve
Verb

to save or use wisely.

Noun

political unit smaller than a state or province, but typically larger than a city, town, or other municipality.

determine
Verb

to decide.

electrolyte
Noun

chemical, such as sodium or potassium, that helps regulate fluids in the body.

energy drink
Noun

soft drink produced to boost energy.

engage
Verb

to interact with.

evaporate
Verb

to change from a liquid to a gas or vapor.

finite
Adjective

limited and not renewable.

gigantic
Adjective

very large.

gravity
Noun

physical force by which objects attract, or pull toward, each other.

hazard
Noun

danger or risk.

hoarse
Adjective

husky or breathy, forced voice.

inspire
Verb

to influence to act.

mineral water
Noun

water that is naturally or artificially full of minerals such as salts and sulfur.

plastic
Noun

chemical material that can be easily shaped when heated to a high temperature.

Noun

introduction of harmful materials into the environment.

precariously
Adverb

in an unstable or dangerous manner.

precious
Adjective

very valuable.

projection screen
Noun

large, flat surface on which images appear.

regalia
Noun

fancy or formal clothes.

Richard Milhous Nixon
Noun

(1913-1994) 37th president of the United States.

salt
Noun

(sodium chloride, NaCl) crystalline mineral often used as a seasoning or preservative for food.

sprawl
Verb

to stretch or spread out.

storm drain
Noun

system to empty streets of excess rainwater. Storm drains flow into local creeks, rivers, or seas.

sweat
Noun

moisture secreted by sweat glands, usually to regulate body temperature. Also called perspiration.

tote bag
Noun

bag used for carrying small items.

transform
Verb

to change in appearance or purpose.

vaudeville
Noun

theatrical entertainment made of several types of different acts, including comedy and music.

vigorous
Adjective

active or energetic.