Pfeiffer-Burleigh fifth-grade student Diora Jones feverishly mixed the layers of chopped ice, ice cream, sprinkles and soda that made up her edible aquifer.
She enjoyed learning about water conservation and environmental protection earlier that day, and getting to enjoy some “brain food” was an added bonus.
“It is good,” said Jones, smiling as she sipped.
“Yeah, it’s kind of like a root beer float,” added Denanyae Evans, also a fifth-grade student at Pfeiffer-Burleigh.
Jones and Evans were two of more than 1,100 Erie County fifth-grade students who attended the Children’s Water Festival, held May 18 at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. The festival, which is modeled after the national Children’s Groundwater Festival, is designed to educate students about the importance of water, including ground water, surface water, watersheds, water quality and water conservation, through dynamic, hands-on activities.
“They’re getting to see firsthand how they can play a role in conserving water and protecting our environment,” said Ann Quinn, director of Greener Behrend and chair of the festival.
One of Jones’ biggest takeaways directly related to the region’s most valuable natural resource, Lake Erie.
“We learned about how you cannot just throw stuff in the lake,” Jones said. “If you throw a bottled water in the lake, it doesn’t go away. It would take billions of years for it to go away.”
Activities during the day were led by Penn State Behrend faculty members and water and natural resource experts from several organizations, including Pennsylvania Sea Grant, Penn State Extension, the Water Systems Council, the Tom Ridge Environmental Center, Erie County Conservation District, Erie County Sustainability, the Erie Maritime Museum and others.
Brynn Baker, a student at Rolling Ridge Elementary School, especially enjoyed participating in the Interactive Watershed Map. Students rolled a die as they moved throughout the map, learning educational tidbits at each stop.
“You have to try to make it to the lake without creating pollution,” Baker said. “This is important because we’re learning about conserving water and also keeping it clean.”