Water Festival marks 20 years

Students examine a geoduck during the 2014 Kitsap Water Festival as Jennifer Whipple explains the importance of shellfish. The festival drew more than 1,000 students from across the peninsula for a full day on education regarding the importance of water.  - Seraine Page
Students examine a geoduck during the 2014 Kitsap Water Festival as Jennifer Whipple explains the importance of shellfish. The festival drew more than 1,000 students from across the peninsula for a full day on education regarding the importance of water.
— image credit: Seraine Page

Water, water and more water. If there was anything Kitsap County students learned about at the Water Festival, it was about the importance of H2O.

On Tuesday, more than 1,000 students from across the peninsula scattered across the Kitsap County Fairgrounds to learn more about the precious commodity during the 20th anniversary of the event.

In an effort to spread the word about the importance of water conservation, professionals from environmental and natural resources fields shared their knowledge with students from 23 schools across the county. The goal of the festival was to provide hands-on learning experiences in a fun atmosphere outside the classroom.

“This watershed educational program showcases the dynamics of water and demonstrates how pollutants travel over land and under ground to eventually reach groundwater, streams and the Puget Sound,” a 2014 Water Festival pamphlet states. “The program teaches students how their actions affect water quality.”

Aside from teaching children about the necessity of clean water, how their actions affect water quality and the importance of water conservation, community members also offered fun activities, such as painting fish.

Michael Chichester from Crownhill Elementary, spent time painting his “creepy” dead fish to create pressed art. He quickly ran the brush back and forth over the scales before pushing it onto a white sheet of paper.

Chichester said the event was “awesome” and that it was important to keep water clean “so we can stay healthy instead of drinking dirt.”

While keeping dirty items out of the environment was part of the lesson of the day, practical applications of daily routines were also highlighted.

During lunch, students were shown the best way to recycle their leftover lunch items in a recycling and composting lesson. Students sorted items into compostables, recyclables and garbage to learn how best to be waste-free.

One of the event’s organizers, Pat Kirschbaum, said she hopes to get students thinking early on about the impact they may have on the environment.

Kirschbaum noted that sharing information on recycling with younger students is a way for them to take environmentally-friendly practices into their adult years.

To stimulate students in numerous ways, vendors offered information by answering questions and allowing students to touch items that would be found in the Puget Sound, like geoducks.

“It was a little hard and a little squishy,” said fourth grader Amaya Cook of holding a geoduck for the first time. “It felt a little weird.”

Jennifer Whipple, educational outreach director for Taylor Shellfish Farms, stood behind an icebox filled with various shellfish for students to pick up.

“Today I’m teaching kids about shellfish and how they grow and clean water. If we don’t have clean water, we can’t have shellfish,” she said. “That’s kind of our message -- help keep the water clean so we can enjoy the bounties of the Puget Sound.”

Whipple answered questions as students touched manilla clams, oysters and a geoduck.

“It’s pretty priceless when a kid sees a geoduck for the first time,”she said. “The rest of the shellfish are pretty cool, but geoducks are so unique.”

Other students were more excited about receiving a young tree to plant on Earth Day, which is Tuesday. The Olympic Resource Management team was on hand to pass out the trees to students wanting to help the earth in a special way.

Barbara Bromley, a teacher at Clear Creek Elementary, said her students were thrilled to receive trees to plant. Throughout the year, she’s taught an extensive lesson on helping the environment, including planting trees around the school’s nearby creek.

“I think it’s important that they know they can make a difference in small ways,” she said. “Just that gesture of planting a tree, it’s empowerment.”

Her class was also on site offering salmon charm bracelets to those who voted for an official name for the school’s salmon mascot that’s in the works. Bromley’s students also created photo booth costumes for other students to try on in exchange for a Poloroid group photo.

Clear Creek Elementary student Lila Rahm offered her thoughts on the importance of water quality after visiting several booths.

The message was as clear as day to her: “If you don’t have water, we’ll die because we’ll get dehydrated,” she said. “If you throw trash in it, it’s going to be toxic.”


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