Standing in front of the June 2017 John Swett Unified School District School Board meeting, teens from John Swett High School (JSHS) in Crockett, CA advocated for the need for hydration stations in their school. This was the culmination of Project 4-H2O, a Youth-Led Participatory Research Project conducted by the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) in Contra Costa County.
Earlier in the year, an environmental scan of JSHS revealed that while there were eight water fountains throughout the school, some did not work properly and some did not have sufficient water flow, making access to water a challenge. Recognizing the need for research-based information to address this issue, the teens developed a survey to assess students’ beverage consumption habits and access to drinking water at school.
They collected and analyzed data from more than half of the student body. The survey data revealed that although 90% of students said water was their first choice of beverage and 67% of students have a reusable water bottle, the average reported daily water consumption was less than the recommended amount, 4.92 cups vs. 8 cups.
This is because 66% of the students reported not drinking the water provided at school and instead bring water from home. Top reasons given included a perception that the water in school was unsafe, undesirable taste, and inconvenient, revealing the need to advocate for hydration stations. The teens created an infographic to convey the findings and to educate the student body and staff about the benefits of drinking more water and fewer sugar sweetened beverages.
In June, armed with their research and the support of the JSHS school principal, the teens presented to the district school board and advocated for the need for hydration stations. Board members thanked the youth for their presentation and leadership, and expressed their support for installing hydration stations as part of a planned renovation at JSHS.
Not only did the teens’ presentation benefit their school, their work raised awareness about the need for hydration stations in all schools within the district. This project was funded by a Contra Costa Health Services Nutrition Education Obesity Prevention Program grant and local 4-H funds.
Special thanks to Charles G. Go, PhD, 4-H Youth Development Advisor, Marisa Neelon, MS, RD, Nutrition, Family, & Consumer Sciences Advisor, and Angela Shields, Project 4-H2O Coordinator for writing this post.