Weather Watch

SLO grade schoolers learn just how precious — and rare — water is to developing world

Sinsheimer Elementary School students Phoebe Demarest, Ruby Latta and Brooklyn Michelle and their fourth-grade teacher Katie Peters.
Sinsheimer Elementary School students Phoebe Demarest, Ruby Latta and Brooklyn Michelle and their fourth-grade teacher Katie Peters. Special to The Tribune

It has been one of the driest rain season on record so far this year, and without any significant rain in March or April, it could be the driest rain season seen since 1870 at Cal Poly.

In just the last several months, much of the Central Coast has transitioned from D0 (Abnormally Dry) to D2 (Severe Drought), according to the United States Drought Monitor. In fact, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties never really saw the end of a multi-year drought.

This drought has put into sharp focus that water is a limited and precious resource. In many developing countries, the average person spends up to six hours a day trying to acquire water for their households. Tragically, women mostly bear this burden.

In fact, The United Nations reported that women do about two and half times the amount of unpaid domestic work that men do, such as cleaning, childcare and driving and picking up students from school.

In developing countries, the contrast is often more stark. This condition not only has profound consequences for the women but for the entire country as well, and here’s why.

These young women are left exhausted from carrying water and other unpaid task. Without the energy, time or resources to attend school, they are caught in a downward spiral with no way to escape. In other words, these countries have prevented half of their population from reaching their full potential, a significant loss indeed!

On Valentine’s Day morning, I got to meet a group of energetic folks at Canon’s “Well Worth It” pancake breakfast. Three Sinsheimer Elementary School fourth-grade students, Phoebe Demarest, Ruby Latta and Brooklyn Michelle and their teacher Katie Peters decided to do something about this situation.

Principal Jeff Martin told me that teachers are giving students a chance to learn about one of the most significant problems facing our world today: Water.

“As principal, I see the importance of providing students with an opportunity to learn instructional standards through real-world issues,” he said. “I’m proud that Sinsheimer teachers have taken on the challenge of project-based learning, and in doing so help students develop empathy for others who are less fortunate, take on a problem-solving mindset and be empowered to take action as global citizens.”

Katie Peters worked with the principal to co-author the project-based unit on water. Fourth grade began its water unit with this driving question: How can we, as water scientists, educate others in our community as to why water is essential and how to use it wisely? Students researched water-related topics to understand what water is, where it comes from when we use it, who has water and who doesn’t, and why water is important. Activities included keeping track of their water usage for a week and listening to a guest speaker from

Then students created their idea about how they could answer our driving question. Their topics ranged from local conservation to water challenges faced by people in Sub-Saharan Africa. They presented their final products to classmates and other age groups in our school.

After watching a video about a girl in Africa who has to walk 8 miles a day to retrieve water for her family, Ruby, Brooklyn and Phoebe decided to hold a bake sale to raise funds for These three amazing girls raised more than $580.00 in three hours! They researched the charity, planned their baked goods, created flyers and posters and managed the booth in their neighborhood. According to their calculations, their fundraiser will help provide clean water to 222 people for a year.

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In 2017, nearly 80 percent of the electricity that PG&E provided to our customers came from sources that are renewable and/or emit no greenhouse gases.

John Lindsey’s column is special to The Tribune. He is PG&E’s Diablo Canyon marine meteorologist and a media relations representative. Email him at or follow him on Twitter: @PGE_John.

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