Kids learn about watersheds thanks to John J. Reilly Center and Hoosier RiverWatch

Author: Jessica Baron

Article by Jennifer Krauser and photos by David Jansen

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On February 8, 2016 the St. Joseph County Library held their annual Science Alive event which invites kids of all ages to come explore the world of science and technology. This year 37 groups came and offered kids hands on activities that will hopefully spark their interest in science.

Thanks to a mini-grant from the John J. Reilly Center there was a very special Hoosier RiverWatch booth at this event where kids learned about watersheds, pollutants, and recycling. The booth supplied fun and environmental education for 436 kids and their parents and guardians in the St. Joseph County area.
 

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Thanks to ten amazing volunteers from Hoosier RiverWatch and local Master Naturalists, Jennifer Krauser was able to organize the Hoosier RiverWatch booth at this year’s Science Alive. At the booth there were four watershed models running simultaneously where groups of 3-5 kids could make their own watershed. The volunteers asked the kids to make topography out of recycled bags, then placed a sheet over the top to act as the land. Then kids added houses, cars, and animals to form a community (See Figure 2). Once the kids established their community, they got to make it rain (using spray bottles) and watched how the water moved over the “land.”

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Then the volunteers talked about different non-point pollutants that are found right here in our community. These pollutants were represented by different colored sprinkles and liquids (Figure 3). Some of pollutants shown were fertilizers, animal waste, mircobeads, plastic bottles, used oil, detergents,heavy metals, and soil. People were amazed that the number one water pollutant in Indiana is soil. Then the kids made it rain again and saw how all the pollutants also flow downstream affecting waterways and other areas, perfectly described by a child participant as, “a mess.”

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At the end of the activity, volunteers talked with the kids about how to improve their community by recycling, not littering, buying environmentally friendly products, and placing more wetlands and rain gardens in the area. All of the supplies were purchased using a John J. Reilly Center mini grant; all the volunteers, organizers, kids and parents were grateful for the activity at Science Alive.