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El Cajon Water Conservation Group Wins California’s Highest Environmental Honor

When it comes to educating children about saving water, a nonprofit group in El Cajon is doing it right.

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Water Conservation Garden

The Water Conservation Garden's education director, Pam Meisner, as Ms. Smarty-Plants.

2013 Governor's Environmental and Economic Leadership award recipients

The Water Conservation Garden

Western Riverside Council of Governments

University of California, Irvine

California National Guard

Homewood Mountain Resort

PEP Housing

City of San Jose

Hilton Concord Hotel

California Department of Public Health

NASA Ames Research Center

Nissan of Downtown Los Angeles

Inland Empire Regional Composting Authority


Source: California Environmental Protection Agency

The Water Conservation Garden was one of 13 recipients of the 2013 Governor's Environmental and Economic Leadership award, the California Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday.

The award specifically recognizes the Water Conservation Garden's Ms. Smarty-Plants program, an interactive presentation led by a character of the same name that teaches children ways to save water.

The Water Conservation Garden was the only recipient from San Diego County.

The group's director, John Bolthouse, said one of the program's goals is to pass on water conservation information from the kids to their parents.

"When you're trying to make major changes in a culture, it really starts with kids," Bolthouse said.

Ms. Smarty-Plants was developed five years ago by Pam Meisner, the Water Conversation Garden's education director. Meisner, or another member of the staff, dresses up as the charismatic Ms. Smarty-Plants and uses props, other actors and audience participation to engage kids.

"It's not just fun right on the spot, but they're retaining this education in subsequent months and years," Bolthouse said.

By year's end, Bolthouse said the Ms. Smarty-Plants program will have reached 50,000 children.

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