Rural Arizona Water Education

A STEAM Water Education Project by Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC) at ASU.

In conjunction with the Smithsonian Water/Ways exhibition, touring 12 rural Arizona communities between 2018-2020, DCDC is offering training for teachers to integrate water education in science and humanities classrooms.

STEM Tool & Curriculum

We will train teachers to use WaterSim Arizona, an online water systems model which students can use to visually explore the complexity of local water sustainability through role play, decision making, and navigating trade-offs.

Engage Students & Your Community

We offer WaterStories, a platform for students to engage in discussions about local water sustainability by expressing personal stories about water in their culture and communities.

Teacher Stipends

Stipends are provided to participating teachers:

  • $500 Attend training on WaterSim Arizona and WaterStories
  • $500 WaterSim Arizona class implementation
  • $500 WaterStories class implementation
Support and Equipment

For teachers and communities who participate in this project, DCDC will provide:

  • Training to be held in your community. Our training team will come to you!
  • Arizona web-based systems model and curriculum. Free!
  • WaterStories guide, loaned video and audio recording equipment. Free!
  • Verizon Wi-Fi Hotspot loaned to teachers with no internet in the classroom. Free!
  • Logistics support for hosting WaterStories in site community activities. Up to $1,000!
  • Catering at training workshops. Free!

Emily Grunspan, DCDC Education Coordinator,

We offer training for teachers on WaterSim Arizona, a web-based user interface to a water balance systems model which mimics the water supply and water use dynamics for five distinct regions of the state of Arizona. The model uses the United States Geological Survey (USGS) data as a starting point to simulate future water supply and demand; water supply may decrease as a result of drought and water demand increases as population for a region grows. Teachers will be paid a $500 stipend to attend training.

Student Objectives

  • Use a water balance systems model.
  • Gain an understanding of water management in your Arizona region.
  • Compare different trade-offs associated with choosing different water policies.
  • Compare various stakeholder perspectives as they relate to water.
  • Explain how decisions made among diverse stakeholders involve collaboration and compromise.
  • Generate date and refer to evidence for decision-making processes.
  • Propose a viable solution for sustainable water use in your Arizona region.
  • Express their understanding of the takeaways from working with WaterSim Arizona through audio or video recordings.

WaterSim Arizona Classroom Implementation

DCDC will provide the WaterSim Arizona URL and standards-based companion curriculum. Once teachers have implemented a lesson(s) on WaterSim Arizona in the classroom, they will notify of the day, lesson duration, and number of students participating. Teachers will then be paid a $500 stipend. DCDC will also loan a Verizon Wi-Fi Hotspot to those classes without internet access.

An educational initiative of the Smithsonian Institution in partnership with Arizona Humanities and Arizona State University—engages rural youth in telling the cultural stories about the deeper meaning of water to their communities. After visiting the Smithsonian exhibition Water/Ways at a local cultural organization or using WaterSim Arizona in the classroom, youth interpret the impact of significant events and regional water issues on local history and culture. They conduct research using primary and secondary sources, interview locals, and analyze their data to weave a story narrative using oral history, historic images and archival documents. The initiative connects youth with a community of educators from rural organizations and schools, providing hands-on experience with new technology to learn the skills required by a modern workforce.

Student Objectives

  • Conduct research using primary and secondary sources.
  • Research and carryout an interview with a community member.
  • Combine the interviewee’s oral history with images, audio, and/or video.
  • Create an accompanying video and/or audio piece.

WaterStories Classroom Implementation

DCDC will provide a WaterStories guide, Smithsonian Storytelling Toolkit, and loan video/audio equipment for students to capture their personal and cultural stories about water in their communities. Once teachers have implemented a lesson(s) on WaterStories in the classroom, they will notify of the day, lesson duration, and number of students participating. Teachers will then be paid a $500 stipend.

Sharing and Uploading WaterStories

Students may upload their final WaterStories projects to the Smithsonian’s Stories from Main Street website, which provides a public venue to show their work or they may be housed as ASU Libraries. They may also present their projects through mobile apps, video programs, local exhibitions, or on digital kiosks. Content is based on unique water stories and cultural heritage of each community. MoMS exhibitions provide an impetus for communities to rally around youth exploring local culture and identity. Contact

Community Support of WaterStories

If a Water/Ways site community chooses to highlight student WaterStories, DCDC will provide up to $1,000 for logistical support. Contact

This project was supported by a grant from the Ellis Center for Educational Excellence of the Arizona Community Foundation. Established in 1978, the Arizona Community Foundation is a statewide philanthropic entity support by thousands of Arizonans. Last year, ACF and its affiliates awarded more than $40 million in grants and scholarships, funding projects of some 3,000 nonprofit organizations, schools and government agencies. Visit to learn more.