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The Metro Water Festival: Wacky Watersheds

Since 1998 (with a few exceptions [COVID-19]) the Metro Water Festival has invited elementary students to the MN State Fair Grounds to explore the wide world of water science. In the form of a field day, classes move from station to station with activities centered on different topics presented by government orgs (DNR, MPCA, FWS, BLM) and local non-profits like River Watch. Patti and I had the pleasure of leading an activity at the Water Festival this year, working with 6 different groups of 4th Graders.

The activity was simple: define and create a watershed. Each student was given a ball of clay and asked to shape it into something we would find on a map (hills, valleys, farms, roads, bridges, parks) and we combined them all together to make a unique watershed. Then we poured water on the clay creation and saw how it moved across the environment.

The real strength of this hands-on activity is that students of all levels can use their creativity to participate and begin to understand how water moves across the environment. With a simple piece of clay, everyone can contribute something meaningful to the “map”. The secondary lesson is to point out how water creates runoff, and the environment/human impacts can move pollution through the watershed to downstream areas, where it collects.

Though the sessions were short (25 minutes) we witnessed so much creativity and mental connections being formed in the students' young minds. I hope we can participate in future festivals celebrating and investigating the vast topics of water science. It is our most important resource.

A Wacky Watershed assembled by Water Festival participants!

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