Water Festival Makes a Splash

Alexander Gent


Lewis & Clark hosted its sixteenth annual “Water Festival”  Sept. 28, on the northwest corner of campus, where nearly 500 fifth grade students gathered for a somewhat literal field-trip to learn the importance of being a steward of the watershed in the Riverbend area.

Clear, sunny skies and temperatures in the 80s helped make the day that much more enjoyable for students from C.A. Henning Elementary, Carlinville Intermediate, East Elementary, Highland Middle, North Elementary, and St. Ambrose.

Students were invited to rotate through hands-on, water-related educational activities that were delivered by federal, state, and local governmental agencies, as well as local nonprofits and businesses. These activities covered water topics from fishing, to stormwater management, to agricultural runoff, to wildlife habitat, to water recreation and much more. This gave participating students a fairly diverse look at their freshwater resources and how they can interact with and conserve these resources.

“Living at the confluence of 3 major rivers, we feel it’s vital for our youth to understand the importance of freshwater and rivers to our local community as well as communities all over the world” said Allison Rhanor, an NGRREC educator and coordinator/ driving force behind this event. “Also, with so many different organizations here to facilitate these activities, students get exposure to a variety of different professionals and a glimpse into the many different research and conservation efforts happening along the Mississippi River and its tributaries.”

Illinois Department of Natural Resources Division of Fisheries, which has participated in the event since the beginning, was on site with Randy Holbrook to help students practice baiting and casting fishing lines at the lake. Having volunteered at this event 2 years prior, Holbrook was able to describe the importance and impact of this particular activity because it “ reaches kids that have never fished before and some catch their first fish here”.

Illinois Natural History Survey described for students the importance of long term research and how they set and use electrofishing nets for gathering information to monitor fish populations and water quality.

This event was made possible in part by the numerous Lewis & Clark student volunteers. While many were persuaded to help through extra-credit in their courses, and free pizza for lunch,Chad Gill, first semester Fire-Science and EMT student, said he participated because of his enjoyment of “ the environment and being involved with the care for it.”

Reenactors Ben Pollard and Brad Winn, who have been participating in the event for nearly 15 years, gave a demonstration of what life looked like for early settlers a part of the Lewis and Clark expedition, with period styled garb and accoutrements on display.

Kristen Mertz, of the Sierra Club, taught students the ancient art of Gyotaku a Japanese method of printing fish used by fishermen to record their catches. A discussion was also held describing the environmental problems around big rivers and what could be done to minimize them.

This program is run entirely off of sponsorships in the form of monetary and material donations as well as volunteer time. It continues to be made possible through the efforts of the Watershed Stewardship Committee Partners which this year included: Illinois Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Institute, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jason Chapman of North Elementary School and Alan Bruha of Lewis and Clark Community College.

The committee elected to have to major components be a part of this program: a professional development day for fifth grade teachers and a water activities festival for their students. The workshop provides teachers with curriculum and supplies to enhance their water education programs in the classroom. The water festival allows students the opportunity to participate in activities organized by a myriad of facilitators from federal down to local environmental agencies and organizations. Attendance to the festival and all materials supplied for the classroom are provided free of charge to the participating classes.

Sponsors of this years event included but was not limited to: J.L. Nash, Madison County Planning and Development. Phillips 66 Wood River Refinery, and Illinois American water.

For additional information about the event, providing sponsorship or volunteering for next year’s event, please contact Allison Rhanor at (618)468-2785 or via email @ arhanor@lc.edu.  

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