Cal Water news release

Chico and Willows Represented Among Challenge Winners

Schools in Chico and Willows Areas Take 4 of 5 Winning Spots

In a very competitive year, fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms from schools located in Chico, Calif. and Willows, Calif. earned four of the five winning spots in the Cal Water H2O Challenge for their projects on water-related issues in their communities. Each class won a classroom grant, $50 gift card for each student to support the local economy, and Cal Water prize pack for each student.

In collaboration with California Water Service, the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), and DoGoodery, the Cal Water H2O Challenge ( is an annual classroom competition for grades 4-6 in schools served by Cal Water. The challenge asks students to tackle a local or global water-related issue through an interactive and collaborative classroom project.

Cal Water announced Friday afternoon the following winners of the sixth annual Cal Water H2O Challenge:

  • Second Place: Parkview Elementary School's (Chico, Calif.) Tammy Janos and her fifth-graders won a $2,500 classroom grant for their project titled "Engineering a Clean Future." Students addressed the issue of water quality and toxic soil in their local community that resulted from the Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif. in 2018 by designing a sustainable home engineered to conserve and purify polluted water. Students shared their knowledge with their local community by creating a student newspaper, filming an infomercial, and holding a community meeting, where they invited their entire school, families, and friends.
  • Third Place: Little Chico Creek Elementary School's (Chico, Calif.) Kristen Thomas and her fourth-/fifth-grade students won a $2,000 classroom grant for their project called "Reduce Plastic: a Classroom Challenge." Students wanted to raise awareness of plastic pollution in local waterways and oceans, so they launched a school-wide recycling program at their school and bought reusable BPA-free plastic water bottles that are available for purchase at Little Chico Creek Elementary's student store. Students also held a cleanup day, where they collected 119 pounds of garbage from their local creek. Ms. Thomas' class pitched their project to the
    Chico Enterprise-Record, and ended up on the front page of the paper's Saturday, February 15, 2020 issue.
  • Fourth Place: Emily Akimoto's fourth-grade class from Sierra View Elementary School (Chico, Calif.) won a $1,000 classroom grant for their project titled "How Climate Change Will Affect Our Future." Students sought to protect Butte County's water supply from climate change by launching a community-wide campaign that promoted sustainable practices aimed at reducing their carbon footprint. Class members distributed free, reusable grocery bags and self-made informative bookmarks on conserving energy at a local grocery store, purchased a water bottle refilling station to be installed at their school, presented to one of the school's kindergarten classrooms, and gifted the kindergarten class 24 reusable, metal lunch boxes and reusable snack pouches. Lastly, students remixed Lil' Nas' song, “Old Town Road,” and created a song and music video titled “Old Chico Road,” where they address how they can “save the world from climate change.”
  • Fifth Place: Murdock Elementary School's (Willows, Calif.) Mike Buckley and his fifth-graders won a $500 classroom grant for their project named "Junior Floodbusters." Students wanted to address the issue of flooding, so they used their school garden to educate their community on the importance of having adequate infrastructure to survive flash floods and heavy rains. Students noted that Murdock Elementary's garden had flooded three out of the six years of its existence. So together, Mr. Buckley's class designed and installed a French drain system (a trench filled with gravel and a perforated pipe that redirects surface water away from a specific area) that prevents future flooding of their garden and collects up to 1,100 gallons of floodwater for reuse in the garden, replacing the need for potable water to irrigate it. Students shared their knowledge by presenting to 14 classrooms in their school, giving tours of their project in the garden, and creating a website to highlight the project and post updates. The website has received more than 500 views.

When discussing the Challenge, teachers noted the educational benefits students gained from participating in the Cal Water H2O Challenge as being tremendous and lifestyle-changing, thus shaping leaders of tomorrow. "Our project is taking the first step toward changing the culture at our school. Instead of throwing plastic water bottles into the trash containers, students can now easily recycle them in highly visible containers in the lunchroom,” said Thomas. Buckley noted, “Students learned about the science of climate change, the engineering required to create a successful French drain, and the sustained focus necessary to internalize the project concepts for the purpose of communicating them to the surrounding community…Essentially, the students learned about a real-world problem and worked hard to execute a real-world solution.”

Teachers also touched on the emotional impact the Challenge had on both their students and themselves. "These kids are working toward healing from a traumatic situation. When they smell a fire, they get nervous, even if it is coming from a chimney. This project allowed them to take an active role in moving forward and healing from the Camp Fire, and it allowed them to feel a bit less powerless," said Janos. Akimoto said, "I beam as I always do with how much this project helps them grow academically. They become excellent writers, wonderful readers, great researchers, critical thinkers, supportive groupmates, and overall better students. But for me, watching my students grow as people and stewards of our planet was a much more amazing, and unexpected, outcome."

"Once again, we are impressed by the level of passion and dedication our participants have displayed in their highly innovative projects," said Martin A. Kropelnicki, Cal Water President and CEO. "We are well served when future generations build this foundation and engage in water issues, so together, we can improve the quality of life in the communities we serve."

"This project demonstrates how teachers and students can take real-world problems to create real-world solutions," says Christiane Maertens, founder of DoGoodery. "Most importantly, this challenge introduces principles of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and NGSS (Next-Generation Science Standards) early on in the classroom in a fun and interactive way, thus creating science-literate citizens of tomorrow."


For four decades, the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) has been dedicated to accelerating environmental literacy and civic engagement through the power of education. NAAEE supports a network of 20,000 educators and 54 regional affiliate organizations working in environmental education in more than 30 countries. For more information, visit

About DoGoodery

DoGoodery is a social impact agency for change makers seeking to do good in the world. DoGoodery offers a wide range of creative services, including strategic planning, program management, design, development, and content distribution. For more information, visit