Engaging Young Students with Interactive Demonstrations of Microbes Cleansing Water

Achievement date: 

The Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Re-inventing the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt), an NSF-funded program based at Stanford University, designed and presented an entry in the 2012 Orange County Water District Children’s Water Education Festival, the nation’s largest of its kind for third, fourth, and fifth graders.


The ReNUWIt team hosted groups of elementary school students in half-hour sessions, ultimately reaching more than 400 students in two days. The student groups were engaged and worked well together, and were surprised to learn that microbes use our waste as food. The fourth graders deemed it the best booth at the festival, as the combination of interactive demonstrations with lesson plans made the ReNUWIt format more engaging than the oral presentations at other booths.


Held at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, CA, the festival engages grade school students through interactive science presentations taught to California State Science Standards. The ReNUWIt activity illustrated the role of microbes in cleansing water and used teams of participants to illustrate how different microbes work together to clean wastewater. Each group was about 35-45 students in size, and the activity lasted about 30 minutes with three rounds of simulation, so everyone got to participate.