Laughter and learning are good partners, and a lot of both occurred at Black Moshannon State Park on April 20 and 21.
Eager students from two counties learned where our drinking water comes from and how to keep it safe. Clean Water Days, sponsored by Central PA Source Water Alliance for Protection (SWAP), gave many area fifth graders the opportunity to learn about watersheds, streams, groundwater and water treatment during the two-day event.
With an emphasis on source water protection, Central PA SWAP was formed in 2011 to help protect drinking water in Clearfield and northern Centre counties. One of the alliance’s missions is to educate citizens about their role in identifying and preventing water contamination. Started in 2013, Clean Water Days at Black Moshannon is a part of that educational effort.
Volunteers and employees of participating partners staffed the six learning stations as more than 600 students received a healthy dose of education in an outdoor environment. Some of the stations were split into two concurrent learning centers to further stimulate student interest. About 330 students attended on Thursday and an additional 270 students on Friday.
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Participating school districts included Bald Eagle Area, Philipsburg-Osceola, West Branch Area, Clearfield and Moshannon Valley.
The 30-minute sessions passed quickly as students sprinkled salt on pretend highways, identified aquatic macro-invertebrates, watched water percolate through a groundwater model, visited a water treatment plant and learned the difference between cold-water and warm-water fishes. Station titles included Watersheds and Water Pollutants, How Drinking Water Is Made, Fish Ecology, Wastewater Treatment, Stream Exploration and How Groundwater Is Recharged.
“This is a really good event that reaches a lot of students over the two days,” said Michelle McCloskey, an Environmental Education Specialist at Black Moshannon State Park who helped staff the Stream Exploration station. “It is a very enjoyable program that helps the students learn about clean water and how to protect it.”
West Branch elementary student Kadynce Knepp agreed: “I liked the aquatic insect station because it was cool looking at new bugs that I’ve never seen before.”
Of course, all students are not excited by the same topic, and a good field trip covers many bases to hit the varied interests of as many students as possible.
“I liked the fish station because we learned the difference between cold-water and warm-water fish,” Hunter Bell said.
Greysyn Gable was engaged by the Groundwater Recharge station. “My favorite station was the one where we learned about wells,” she said, “because we found out that, if we dump something down the drain, it can pollute other people’s water.”
It took many partners to bring this event together. This included the Pennsylvania departments of Environmental Protection and Conservation and Natural Resources, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Friends of Black Moshannon State Park, the Pennsylvania Rural Water Association, water providers, local municipalities, both the Clearfield and Centre County conservation districts and the staff at Black Moshannon State Park.
Many partners working together for a common goal is a good thing. Megan Lehman, from the Northcentral Regional Office of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, passed along sentiments that were shared by the other Clean Water Days’ partners.
“Staff members from PA DEP were pleased to be a part of this successful event, which, through youth education, supported the Department’s mission of preventing pollution and restoring our natural resources,” she said
I visited the stations and mingled with students, teachers and presenters. Student interest was high, and I was impressed by the level of organization and the quality of the presentations. An event such as this does not happen by accident. I salute the organizations, agencies and companies that made this annual event a success.
Mark Nale, who lives in the Bald Eagle Valley, is a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association and can be reached at MarkAngler@aol.com