Mini ice cream floats, beaded bracelets and buckets were all used to explain the marvels of water to 700 fourth-graders Thursday morning.
As part of the Douglas County Conservation District’s third annual Water Festival, fourth-graders from across Douglas County came to Clinton Lake to learn about all things water — including the water cycle, weather patterns, ways to conserve it and how to keep it clean.
“I think when it’s hands-on you tend to learn it better or remember it better. Hopefully they can go back to school and talk about it,” said conservation district manager SanDe Fishburn, who organized the festival.
In a station called The Long Haul, Jim Weaver, with the conservation district, told tales of what it was like for the pioneers to live on the Kansas prairie. He shared the story of his grandmother’s family, who took a bath just once a week, every Saturday night before church. All eight kids would use the same bath water, starting with the youngest who was also the cleanest.
“Then they took what was left of the water and washed the porch with it,” Weaver said. “We don’t want to get back to that point where we take a bath after someone else, do we?”
To get a sense of what it was like to carry all that water, students hauled gallon buckets of it. Weaver’s message left an impression with Deerfield School fourth-grader David Stuart.
“They had to go back and get the water, and a cow (drinks) 15 gallons a day,” David said about what he would remember most about the lesson.
To explain how the water ended up in the buckets, a station was operated by the aptly named Kathleen Waters, who is with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Waters explained the water cycle by using dice that took students, who had transformed into water molecules, from clouds to glaciers to rivers to oceans and to animals. At each station, the student received a bead for a bracelet.
Near Waters’ station was the real hit of the festival: A group of Free State FFA students was making what were called edible aquifers. The ice cream floats were a way to explain how aquifers filtered water.
“The gummy bears are the bedrock and the sub soil is the ice cream, and at the top we put cookie crumbs to show the top soil,” explained Free State junior Markus Roberts. “Then we pour soda over the top of that to show the water.”
And the fourth-graders’ favorite part was the spoon, which just like a well helps you drill down to the bottom.While the ice cream was a tasty treat, Fishburn hoped the students returned to school with a deeper appreciation for water.
“The message is we need to protect our water because this is all we have. We can’t really make any more water. So we need to make sure we protect it and save it,” she said.