Wading in the water
Monday, September 28, 2009
More than 800 fourth-graders examined insect larvae, massive soap bubbles and more at water festivals last week in Millstream Park, St. Joseph.
"As fourth-graders they take home the idea that clean water is very important," said Noah Czech, a 2006 graduate and storm water expert for St. Cloud Public Utilities. "Something we do here in Minnesota, in the St. Cloud area, will affect people downstream."
Helping promote respect for water and its critical role in human existence were 72 St. Cloud State students and 10 alumni, according to Michner Bender, a festival organizer and associate professor in the Department of Environmental and Technological Studies.
An annual effort, the Sept. 23 Three Rivers Water Festival and Sept. 24 Lower Sauk River Water Festival are part of the Sauk River Watershed District's (SRWD) educational program.
On Sept. 24, fourth-graders from Madison, Westwood and Discovery elementary schools worked their way through learning stations on either side of the south fork of the Watab River. At the south end of the park students in wading boots used dip nets to retrieve sediment from the bottom of the mill pond.
"The kids here are looking for macroinvertebrates -- basically they're little bugs -- that live near the sediment," said Bender. "If they find a lot of different macros in quantity and species it indicates the water is really clean."
"Pretty much every student has wanted to get in and really dig around," said Mike Hayman, a 2009 graduate and ditch/permit coordinator for SRWD. "It's mainly been a lot of caddisflies, mayflies, dragonflies, some scuds, damselflies, crayfish -- they've been pretty good indicators of some decent water quality."
Among the other learning stations:
As experiential learning opportunities go, the water festivals are popular with students.
"They talk about it all year," said Tiffany Fahleen, a teacher at Discovery Elementary in Waite Park. "It gives them such a clear picture of pollution and how to conserve water and keep it clean."
The Sauk River watershed extends from the river's source at Lake Osakis in Todd County to the Mississippi River on St. Cloud's northern boundary. The watershed, which encompasses 1,041 square miles in parts of five counties, is about 75 miles long and 30 miles across at its widest point.
The festivals are a collaborative effort of SRWD, St. Cloud State, the City of St. Cloud, the City of Waite Park, the City of St. Joseph and Stearns County Environmental Services.
-- Photos by Neil Andersen