Photos and story by Kirsten Delamarter
Sometimes, the best way to learn about water quality is by wading into the stream and getting a bit wet.
That’s what about 150 Bowling Green Junior High students, led by Kentucky Division of Water employees, did last week as part of Streamside Field Days at Romanza Johnson Park in Alvaton, Ky.
Streamside Field Days brought together a number of agencies that work with water quality and wildlife. Each organization sent professionals to teach children about water resources through hands-on learning.
“Most kids see the creek and they just see the water,” said Division of Water Environmental Control Supervisor Dale Booth, who has participated in the event for three years. “They don’t think that there’s anything below the surface, and this is their first opportunity to go in and physically be in contact with that part of their environment.”
The Division of Water operated two stations, both of which asked students to get in the water and explore the wildlife in Drakes Creek, which flows into the Barren River. At one station, Division of Water basin coordinators helped students catch and identify macroinvertebrates and taught them how the presence of certain species can provide clues about the health of a stream.
“There are classes of macroinvertebrates that are very tolerant of pollution, meaning that they don’t mind it if the water is very dirty, and then there are classes of macroinvertebrates that are very sensitive to pollution, so they need very high water quality to survive,” Booth said. “By looking at the types of animals that live in the stream, we can tell how healthy the water is.”
At the division’s second station, environmental biologist specialists helped students catch fish in the stream. Like macroinvertebrates, fish can be indicators of water quality, said Division of Water Environmental Biologist Specialist Jimmy Mullins.
Mullins helped students catch fish using a seine net and identify the different species.
“I want them to take away that there can be as much fun and drama and excitement doing stuff outdoors as there can be sitting in front of a television or a computer,” he said. “… I think we definitely succeeded because the kids were hyped.”
Streamside Field Days is in its fifth year and funded by a grant from General Motors. The event is organized by the City of Bowling Green Compliance Division and Warren County Stormwater, in partnership with local schools.
“We chose to do this event because when you can get the kids out in the environment, they understand a little better why it’s important to protect it,” said Andrea Strange, public outreach coordinator for Warren County Stormwater.
Other participating agencies included Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, University of Kentucky Warren County Extension Office, Western Kentucky University Center for Human GeoEnvironmental Studies and Warren County Soil Conservation Service.
During lunch, 6th-grader Reece Cowles and her friends discussed their morning sessions. She said the Division of Water’s activities were among her favorites.
“There’s a lot of cool animals in the creek,” Reece said.
Booth said Streamside Field Days provides a lot of value to student participants but also to the professionals who spend the day with them.
“It’s a really good time,” she said. “I have as much fun turning over rocks and looking for bugs as the kids do.”