Every spring, as the weather begins to warm up and farmers start preparing for the coming growing season, something else happens - the irrigation canals spring to life, with water flowing through the long, winding ditches that intersect many Yakima Valley communities.
It's those same canals that have long been a concern for many in the community.
"I know children and adults in our community face a danger that is unique to us. That is when the canals open up," said Outlook Elementary School teacher Linda Hughes. Hughes, along with Sunnyside's Promise Administrative Assistant Lisa Fairbairn, served as the speakers at Wednesday morning's Sunnyside Daybreak Rotary Club meeting.
Hughes and Fairbairn, along with a committee made up of other local teachers and community members, decided it was time to do something about the danger. Hughes said the committee decided it wanted to work to create a coloring book that could be distributed to elementary students throughout the area, which would teach them about the dangers of canals.
She explained that funding for the project ended up coming from a grant from Pacific Corps. However, the project didn't get full funding. Fairbairn explained that originally the committee had wanted to put the coloring book together for every school in ESD 105, but with $5,000 that became impossible. Instead, the committee decided to focus on Sunnyside kindergarten students. Fairbairn said the committee decided to move forward with the coloring book project, as well as put together some brochures on canal safety for parents.
Fairbairn said the next step was finding a character that could tell the story of canal safety and be used in both the coloring book and the parent brochures. She noted that the committee decided to give this task back to the students, allowing children in the Yakima Valley to submit their ideas. The winner ended up being a drawing of a cattail submitted by a student from Sunnyside.
Once the main character was chosen, Fairbairn said the committee members realized that they would now have to sit down and write the story that would go with the coloring book.
Fairbairn said Hughes went home one evening, racked her brain and came back the next day with a story.
Once the story had been developed for the coloring book, Hughes said the committee decided to have another contest to find an illustrator for the project. She explained that the committee gave each interested person a set of specific pages and asked them to illustrate the story. The committee then reviewed all of the entries, looking for one that would be appropriate for kindergarten students. The winner ended up being Sasha Castro, a seventh grader at Harrison Middle School.
"You will appreciate her drawings," Hughes said.
The coloring book, now complete with a main character, story and illustrations, is currently being printed.
"This coloring book was quite the project," Fairbairn said.
She added now that the book is nearly complete there are several other school districts interested in purchasing it for use in their classrooms.
Hughes said in Sunnyside, the local school district is taking on the coloring book as an adopted curriculum. She explained that this meant the committee had to come up with lesson plans, time lines and conduct a teacher training on the book.