Wading in the water

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mike Hayman, a 2009 St. Cloud State graduate

Mike Hayman, a 2009 St. Cloud State graduate, talks about insect larvae with Madison Elementary fourth-graders. Hayman is a ditch/permit coordinator for the Sauk River Watershed District.

Mike Hayman, a 2009 St. Cloud State graduate Madison Elementary fourth-graders dip for insect larvae at Millstream Park in St. Joseph Photo of Michner Bender, associate professor of environmental and technological studies Westwood Elementary fourth-graders search for insect larvae in the south fork of the Watab River near St. Joseph Westwood fourth-graders with insect larvae and immature crayfish Two Madison fourth-graders examine insect larvae from the south fork of the Watab River A Discovery Elementary fourth-grader makes a big bubble 

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:

  • A collection of water-filled tubes and buckets that modeled the purpose and function of a municipal water system
  • A hula hoop in soapy water which produced kid-sized bubbles that illustrated the surface-tension properties of water

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
-- Story by Jeff Wood

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