Reliable access to unlimited amounts of clean tap water is something that all Melrosians rely on every day, and the extensive infrastructure and people power that makes this immense feat possible is easy to take for granted in our community. This month, Melrose’s Department of Public Works (DPW) partnered with the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) to bring a free hands-on workshop to 3rd graders at all of Melrose’s public elementary schools. Students – acting as city planners, engineers, DPW employees and building owners – learned how tap water gets brought over 65 miles from the Quabbin Reservoir to every resident in Melrose, and 50 other cities and towns in the state, through collaboration between MWRA and DPW.
Meg Tobacsko, MWRA School Education Program Director, developed and taught this hands-on curriculum, in which students examined real world problems (such as how the properties of water affect the design and maintenance of the infrastructure that is used to deliver it to our city buildings). Students also demonstrated their understanding of concepts like estimation by actually building a model water distribution system with a series of “pipes” fashioned from cardboard tubes and plastic drinking straws connecting the large MWRA pipes to the smaller city pipes to the very small privately-owned service lines to each of their “buildings.” Students also worked through real life word problems, including using math skills to determine how many years it took to fill the Quabbin Reservoir (it took 7 years from when rain, rivers and runoff first began to flow into the reservoir in 1939!).
“Working with the kids was really fun and we were actually really impressed by how much they knew about the pipes under our streets and how water gets to your house and sink.” said Matty Hickey, DPW’s Water & Sewer Division Foreman of 45 years, who attended classes at the Lincoln and Roosevelt Elementary Schools along with City Engineer, Elena Proakis-Ellis. DPW Recycling Coordinator, Sadie Brown (whose grandfather rebuilt and raised a family in one of the houses that had to be moved from Enfield, one of the 4 towns flooded to make the Quabbin Reservoir) also attended classes at Hoover and Winthrop.
The relevance of the material covered in these lessons was not lost on the students, many of whom sipped from reusable bottles that they refill daily from the water bottle filling stations that have recently been installed by DPW in all Melrose public schools. These convenient amenities enable students, teachers and administrative staff to utilize the clean, free water provided to Melrose by MWRA to refill their reusable water bottles, thus reducing waste generated by single use plastic water bottles. “DPW infrastructure is present in so many aspects of daily activities children take part in. This was a great opportunity to help them understand the manner in which water gets to your home in a simple way and also give them the opportunity to learn some fun facts about the precious resource water is,” said DPW Director John Scenna.
In addition to this “Building the System” workshop, MWRA offers a series of other free lessons for various grade levels (elementary through high school). If you are a parent or teacher here in Melrose and think your children would enjoy learning about the essential services provided by MWRA and DPW please get in touch with Sadie (firstname.lastname@example.org or 781-665-0142 x18).