By Carol Martinson, Project Engineer at TriHydro
On Sept. 28, before WEFTEC 2018, a group of enthusiastic volunteers from the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) Student and Young Professionals Committee (SYPC) brought a water-themed fair to excited students at St. Mary’s Academy in New Orleans. The 6th-annual Water Palooza event included a day full of hands-on activities that engaged the students in learning about the importance of water.
More than 200 kindergarten through fifth-grade students participated in a variety of interactive activities that taught them about their community’s water environment. Students also were excited to meet Nile the Crocodile, the 1.8-m (6-ft) tall, bright-green WEF mascot, before breaking into small groups to visit the different education stations.
Education took the form of singing and dancing about the water cycle, helping build and test model levees with simulated flooding, playing a wastewater-themed game of cornhole to learn about what not to flush down a toilet, and using a model watershed to see how pollutants affect water supplies. Students also learned about amazing plant and animal diversity that is supported by the wetlands around New Orleans.
The students not only had fun, but also gained an introduction to a variety of topics from point-source pollution to wetland health. While sharing big smiles and loud laughs, they learned more about water resources, work being done to protect waterways, and actions they can take at home to help improve water quality. Many children shared how the floods from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 affected their lives.
Water Palooza sparks an interest in water that may inspire a new generation to work in the water sector one day. This year, that spark was especially apparent in the young minds at St. Mary’s as volunteers saw the sudden understanding of water science concepts dawn on each students’ faces. The enthusiasm of not only the students, but also the teachers, parents, and faculty, was contagious.
Representatives from the following organizations volunteered their time to the event, including:
- Duperon Corporation (Saginaw, Mich.);
- EarthEcho International (Washington, D.C.);
- Howard University (Washington, D.C.);
- Jefferson Parish (Jefferson, La.);
- Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation (New Orleans);
- Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality;
- Louisiana State University Ag Center 4-H Youth Wetlands Program (Baton Rouge);
- New Orleans City Park;
- Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans; and
- University of South Florida (Tampa)
Thank you to all of our volunteers for making the day such a success!!
Photo courtesy of Natalie Keene Photography
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Photos courtesy of Natalie Keene Photography