Beyond the water cycle: Life and environmental lessons from a former BLM director

Story and Photos By: JAKE PHILLIPS 

Patrick Shea’s beard was wet.

It was an oddly fitting picture of the former director of the Bureau of Land Management, who despite being out of government for 20 years, has water on his mind a lot these days. It was a rainy Thursday morning, and Shea, 70, was strolling to class.

Not on the University of Utah campus, where he’s been a research professor of biology and taught a class on urban streams for years, but at a local elementary school.

Every Thursday morning Shea teaches a class on water to fourth graders at Rose Park Elementary School in Salt Lake City. He arrived to a roomful of damp students who had just returned from recess.

As their teacher, Hannah Dolata, instructed her students to find their seats, Shea dried off his bushy white beard. He asked them what they had learned the previous week. The students couldn’t wait to tell him about the written equation they’d learned that showed how much water they used when showering or teeth brushing.

One student proudly exclaimed that if he brushed his teeth with the water running for three minutes and showered for 10 minutes he would have had used 52 gallons of water in the process.

“I try to conserve water every day because my grandma complains about the water bill,” said Valentine, 9.

Shea then asked the students what they should do after wetting their toothbrushes.

“Turn off the water!” the students yelled in unison.

While most elementary school students learn about the water cycle, Dolata’s fourth-grade class at Rose Park Elementary School is getting a much more in-depth education about water and how it affects them. With Utah’s less-than-abundant water supplies and growing population, water conservation has become more important than ever.

Salt Lake is winning water conservation fight

Around 33 percent of Utah is considered to be true desert, meaning the state receives 5 to 8 inches of precipitation annually, according to Utah’s Comprehensive Weather Almanac. The heavily populated Wasatch Front receives around 15 inches of precipitation annually.

Along the Wasatch Front, Salt Lake City appears to be winning in its fight to conserve water. According to the 2014 Salt Lake City Water Conservation Master Plan, conservation has exceeded expectations and the overall trend is a reduction in water use in the area. Classroom programs like Shea’s are crucial in these efforts, the city’s Department of Public Utilities said.

Yet, with climate change and other environmental concerns an increasing reality to students both in childhood and their future adulthood, it’s especially important to teach children today about ways to address these issues, Dolata said.

While Salt Lake City has responded to calls to conserve water, planners expect the city will need to do more in the future. According to a University of Utah study conducted in 2017, the state population is expected to grow from 3.2 million to 3.9 million by the year 2030, an increase of about 22 percent.

If Salt Lake residents continue to use water at the same rate they did in 2000 Salt Lake City’s water usage is expected to increase by 23 percent by 2030, according to the Salt lake City Department of Public Utilities.

Shea asked the students about where the water they use every day comes from. He explained the majority of water in Utah comes from snow in the canyons. Then the children attempted to name some of the canyons near Salt Lake.

The class’ homework assignment was to look at the weather and to document whether it was an accurate report.

“The biggest problem for you growing up is figuring out what is true and is not true,” Shea said.

A different kind of ‘water bucket’ challenge

Shea wasn’t totally out of his element. It had been five years since he had last taught elementary students about proper water usage.

The daughter of a colleague, who Shea worked with on state water laws, was teaching fourth graders and challenged the research professor to speak to her class.

Hesitant at first, Shea said he’s come to enjoy the experience.

“The students are like sponges and want to learn more,” he wrote in an email.  

A few weeks later, the professor was back, this time leading a field trip to a water treatment plant up Big Cottonwood Canyon. With Shea was Jacob Maughan, treatment plant operator, who led a tour of the plant and explained how the facility purifies water to make it potable. From there, the energetic children then returned to their bus and traveled to City Creek Canyon.

At City Creek Canyon, a popular biking and hiking destination for Salt Lake residents, the students were met by John Wells, who manages the city’s watershed operations. With students trailing behind, Wells led the class on a walk up a winding, paved canyon road while explaining why it’s important to protect the watershed.

He told students that dogs are not allowed in the canyon to protect the water quality in the streams that the city depends on. As the students fidgeted and chatted, Dolata, their teacher, stressed the importance of showing students the real-life connection to the water cycle.

“In fourth-grade science they’re learning about Utah science and start to connect what they’re learning to the world,” she said. They “see themselves as scientists.”

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Hannah Dolata and her class overlook a water storage unit and the Salt Lake Valley.

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Dolata’s class walk across a concrete platform that serves as water storage at the Big Cottonwood Water Treatment Plant.

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Patrick Shea looks on as Jacob Maughan explains how snowmelt is cleaned and transformed to drinking water.

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Maughan telling the students what chemicals are added to unclean water to make it potable.

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Maughan advises students to be cautious in his lab, because there are dangerous chemicals present.

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Dolata and her class watch water spill over a weir used to control water flow and filter out solid matter.

Zane Law

zane

Originally from Newport Beach, CA, I decided to leave home and pursue a college degree. I am a third year student at the University of Utah, majoring in Strategic Communications. I currently maintain a GPA above 3.5 and plan to graduate in the Spring of 2019, heading into the field of marketing/advertising. This field has always held my interest because analyzing and appealing to the minds of consumers has felt like a game to me. I have enjoyed finding different ways to sell clothes online, pawn off my crappy lemonade as a kid, and make/sell stickers, so pursuing this on a more professional scale seemed like the right fit. Work should be something I enjoy, and I plan on doing just that!

While I do not mean to write for a career, I am still proud of the content I have produced thus far. Besides the Greek life piece, my portfolio contains a marketing campaign pitch that was accepted and used by All Seasons Resort Lodging, an article that analyses the top-grossing Korean film and its relationship to Japanese-South Korean tensions, and a story about college athletes’ battle for compensation.

In my free time I enjoy all things sports. I do not know whether I am proud of or disappointed in the fact that I have only missed the viewing of one NFL game this 2017 season. I was the running back at University High School in Irvine, CA, so football is a passion of mine. I also ran two years of track and was named MVP both years. I was extremely disappointed when I discovered that the U does not have a collegiate team. These two high school teams have shown me what teamwork and perseverance are, so using those in the workplace is something I look forward to.

Fraternities are a valuable resource for many college men

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Zane Law- Enterprise Story

Fraternities are a valuable resource for many college men
Story by ZANE LAW

SALT LAKE CITY— College campuses across North America are hosts to hundreds of men’s fraternities. These fraternities are seen by many as misogynistic and cruel, while others view them as places to build character, a resume, and a social network. With over 6,000 chapter houses and millions of Greek members across North America, the benefits outweigh the negative image for the many joining the Greek system.

For generations, fraternities have been linked to the cultivation and development of successful men. Forty three of the United States’ 50 largest companies are run by fraternity men, with 85 percent of all Fortune 500 companies having a fraternity member CEO. According to the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Greek men also account for all but two United States presidents born since the formation of the first fraternity in 1825, 76 percent of all U.S. Congressmen and U.S. Senators, and all of the Apollo 11 astronauts.

University of Utah’s Interfraternity Council President, James Morrell, explained why he thinks this is far from coincidence. Morrell says Greek life has helped him in three core areas: networking, leadership, and academics. The people he has met through his fraternity, “have served as an invaluable resource in my life, helping me further my career options and improve my academics,” he says. A current member of Beta Theta Pi at the U, Morell says several alumni remain actively involved. Through alumni he has received several job opportunities and plenty of guidance.

Dillon Clark, recruitment chair of Phi Delta Theta and president of the Young Americans for Freedom organization at the U, also praised his relationships with alumni. While Clark has received internship opportunities from active alumni, he credited one event in particular to the help of his older “Phis”. “I would not have been able to bring Ben Shapiro to the U without the help of alumni,” he says. The Ben Shapiro event that Clark hosted in Salt Lake City received significant media attention and hundreds of attendees. With donations from alumni that believed in his efforts, Clark was able to pool together the tens of thousands of dollars needed for the event.

Both Clark’s and Morrell’s achievements are significant in terms of resume-building, but are only a few of the things that they believe their organizations can help people achieve. Both are happy that they have support from their fellow Greeks and feel as though these people and opportunities give them an edge.

Fraternities help to hone interpersonal skills, time management, and team-building techniques, but are expensive and are not financially accessible to many. According to USA Today, the average cost per semester in a fraternity is $605, not including additional costs such as fines for absences, tardies, and other penalties. A national survey taken in 2014 by the Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics indicated that fraternity members are more likely to graduate on time, however, potentially saving thousands of dollars on tuition. Staff members at the U’s Fraternity and Sorority Life office even reported that that in 2016, 80 percent of all Greek life students had gone on to graduate, whereas 57 percent of non-Greek students had been able to do the same. Graduating at a faster rate translates to less tuition money spent, therefore negating much, if not all, of the per semester costs.

The North-American Interfraternity Conference also reports slightly higher Greek GPA’s than their non-Greek counterparts. Many fraternities and sororities require a minimum GPA to join and remain an active member, with chapters on the U’s campus requiring anywhere from 2.5 to 3.0. Fraternities even gather alumni donations to fund tutoring and “Chegg” accounts. Chegg is an online resource to help students with homework, rent textbooks, offers tutoring, and helps to identify scholarship and internship opportunities.

While such resources and encouragement are important, others benefit purely from having an organization that keeps them in check. “Our scholarship chairman is really on us about getting our big assignments in on time, constantly reminding us in meeting,” says Elliot Ansari, a third-year member of the Greek system. He and his fraternity brothers feel obligated to perform academically because one of their fraternity’s founding principles is “Sound Learning.”

Although personal development and social network expansion compose a large part of the good arising from Greek organizations, Greek members also participate in community service and philanthropic events. In the academic year of 2013-2014 alone, the North-American Interfraternity Conference reported four million hours of community service contributed by fraternity men. Making blankets for the homeless, writing letters to military personnel, and sorting goods at the local food bank are some of the events that the U’s fraternities and sororities do together, knocking out good deeds and creating fun memories with each other.

In terms of philanthropy, most fraternities “have two events per year and the money raised goes to a charity organization of our choice,” says Elliot Ansari. The University of Utah’s Sigma Chi chapter frequently makes the news, with the Huntsman Cancer Institute’s website praising them for raising $66,806.65 during the 2015/2016 school year.

 

To see the author’s thought process whilst writing this piece click here

For more about the author click here

 

Pre-K Schools Operate With Little Oversight

by Aodhan Hayter

SALT LAKE CITY – For most of our country’s history, parents were content to keep their children at home playing in the yard or having them entertain themselves around the house until kindergarten or first grade. Nursery or pre-schools were considered a luxury of the middle and upper classes.

Today, however, it is estimated that 51 percent of the 3-year-old population in the nation and 74 percent of the 4-year-old population is enrolled in some type of pre-kindergarten program.  (See Fig.1)

Pre-K enrollment

Here in Utah the increase in enrollment could be contributed to the large number of women with preschool age children that work outside the home, which, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services, is 59 percent. Another factor is study after study indicating the importance of learning-development prior to age five.

Pre-K, as it’s often referred to, is a squishy term used for a wide range of programs offered to children the year or two before they enter kindergarten. In a strictly legal sense, pre-K may resemble anything from baby-sitting, group childcare or a traditional kindergarten, depending on the state.

In most states, anyone caring for five or more children for pay must be licensed and follow strict health and safety rules, ranging anywhere from keeping immunization records to limiting the number of children per supervisor and square foot.

Some of these same regulations are applied here in Utah, but many organizations are exempted in the Utah Child Care Licensing Program.

Apple Tree School House is one of those institutions that do not have to obtain a license from the state. This is because Apple Tree’s students attend in two- and-one-half hour blocks. As long as no one student stays at a childcare facility for four hours or more there is no need to have a license.

“We get questions about what kind of licenses the school and our teachers have all the time. Parents are usually fairly surprised to learn that we don’t have some kind of license and aren’t required to have one,” said Mrs. Dansie who’s been running Apple Tree School House since 2001.

The lack of licensing doesn’t seem to turn off parents.

“Every Spring and Fall we have all of our classes full, getting a spot can actually get kinda competitive” said Mrs. Dansie.

After reading through the Apple Tree School House mission statement and curriculum it’s clear that the staff is aware of their student’s needs. Their curriculum clearly lays out the materials and skills that will be developed with the students, with the main goal being preparing them for entrance into kindergarten.

“Apple Tree did a great job getting my son ready for kindergarten this year,” said Allison Birch, a mother of a former and current student of Apple Tree School House.

But Apple Tree is not a unique occurrence in our state. The vast majority of preschool facilities are privately owned and operated with little to no oversight. In fact, only 3 percent of Utah 3-year-olds and 8 percent of Utah 4-year-olds are enrolled in a federally funded pre-K program, which are subject to strict oversight, according to The National Institute for Early Education Research.

“I don’t think there would be a huge benefit to our school if we were always worrying about staying up to date with a licensing procedure every year,” said Jamie Birsdsoel, a teacher at Apple Tree School House.

Parents and teachers seem to agree that in the end all that matters are results. With Apple Tree’s track record of adequately preparing students for kindergarten it’s hard to say their methods are in need of review. Another parent, Brad Fowler, summed it up nicely while explaining why he chose to enroll his daughter in preschool.

“When it came time for kindergarten, I wanted Katy to have real school experience.”