It’s all about water at annual festival on Beaver Lake

May 19, 2009

By Christopher Huber

 

Sunny Hills Elementary School students point to an area of pollution on the model at the enviroscape presentation booth taught by a Nature Vision presenter during the Sammamish Watershed Festival. By Christopher Huber

Sunny Hills Elementary School students point to an area of pollution on the model at the enviroscape presentation booth taught by a Nature Vision presenter during the Sammamish Watershed Festival. By Christopher Huber

The rain subsided just in time for the fourth-graders from Endeavour and Sunny Hills elementary schools to break for lunch May 14 at Beaver Lake Park. 

Although the misty blanket of precipitation went with the theme of the day’s events, participants welcomed its end. They were there to learn about water’s role in the environment, not to get soaked in the process.

Fourth-graders from the Issaquah, Lake Washington and Northshore school districts participated in the 15th annual Sammamish Watershed Festival, a celebration of water education.

The festival ran for three days, but each school’s fourth-grade classes spent one day learning about water and watersheds through numerous interactive activities and instruction. “It’s to teach kids and parents and teachers that they can live within a watershed and minimize their impact,” said Janet Sailer, conservation and public information specialist for the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District. “They can make a difference.”

Each day, the festival opened with a Pacific Northwest native dance and drumming ceremony in the Lodge at Beaver Lake with performer Elizabeth Baty. 

Throughout the more than three-hour festival day, groups of students traveled to 16 different interactive stations, where representatives from Redmond-based Nature Vision taught them about pollution, and taking care of their surroundings. 

“We pretty much take over the whole park,” Sailer said as she walked from tent to tent.

As Sunny Hills students — pretending to be salmon in the wild — performed tasks to make it through the Run Salmon Run station, parents helped direct them. 

“I think this is fantastic,” said Sunny Hills parent volunteer Keri Monroe. “The kids are actually having fun, because it’s interactive. They’ve adapted the curriculum well to the attention span and the age group.” 

The salmon activity exposes students to the types of threats salmon face in the wild, Sailer said. 

“I think it gives them a greater appreciation of what salmon go through,” she said.

Other students took water samples from Beaver Lake and observed the critters and organisms up close through portable microscopes. At another station, the Water Wizard offered explanations for anything the students wanted to know about living in a watershed.

“It was pretty fun,” said Sunny Hills fourth-grader Matthew Oss. “I learned we need to build more dams because of electricity.” 

Yet another expert offered the students advice and techniques for surviving in the wilderness. 

In the past, grants from various organizations funded the event, Sailer said. But this year, sponsors like the area water and sewer districts, REI, Nature Vision and other companies supported the festival. 

Sailer and parents said the festival also provided a good venue for outdoor field trips that supplement educational units.  

“It’s always good to have the kids outside,” Monroe said.

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