HMF assists Children’s Water Festival

A local water festival has received financial support to continue focussing on the importance of water via a water education program.

For the first time in more than two years, more than 1,800 elementary students in grades 4 and 5 and 330 high school students volunteering at 45 activity stations attended The Chatham-Kent & Lambton Children’s Water Festival. The event has been halted for the last two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Chatham-Kent and Lambton Children’s Water Festival helps to improve our quality of life while maintaining sustainability in our community by fostering respect for water and encouraging environmental stewardship. The Festival is available to elementary students in Grades 4 and 5 level. The Festival was held at the C.M. Wilson Conservation Area.

“It’s all the basics of understanding water and water quality and water processes, so that forms the basis of the bigger picture,” said Don Hector, Festival Coordinator.

Hector said the Festival believes there is a strong need for a variety of outdoors, hands-on educational experiences around a number of environmental themes in the local area.

“It is our hope some of this may lead to future citizens with more awareness of environmental issues and what needs or could be done in the Chatham Kent and Lambton communities,” he said. “I think we are achieving that.”

He added themes dealing with water and water issues are particularly relevant in this area of the province, where a variety of rural and urban issues around water use, water contamination and aquatic habitat issues are currently very topical.

Each day, a new group of elementary and high school students attended the Festival and participated in various activities designed to teach about water and its imperative role in our lives.

The Festival included five themes: water science, water technology, water conservation, water protection and water attitude. The three-day event also included messaging around climate change, sharing and teaching about local impacts on communities, lakeshore flooding and erosion, algae bloom in lakes and rivers, and methods to reduce phosphorus runoff.

Two to three high school students held each activity to guide elementary school students through a demonstration. Some involved pouring water through small-scale versions of farms, cities, and terrain to see how it moves. Other activities included testing water pH, learning how clothes were cleaned before washing machines, and examining what types of fish can be found in Lake Erie.

According to Hector, the event is often described as a giant outdoor classroom.

Hector said dozens of volunteers help run the Festival, including high school students who are trained to run the activities, allowing the Festival to work as a learning experience for them as well. He said the volunteers are a major factor in the Festival’s success.

“We had 500 volunteers this year; 330 were high school students. For the first time, we had students from every single high school in Chatham-Kent volunteering,” he said. “After a two-year pause, I was not sure how we would emerge, but volunteers came forward and brought the Festival back to life for our 11th year. I have reflected and feel so lucky to have people freely coming forward to provide important water messages to the children in our community.”

To help with the efforts of teaching about the importance of water in the area, the local Howard Mutual Foundation issued a $1,500 cheque to The Chatham-Kent & Lambton Children’s Water Festival. Hector said the funding would be used to offset costs associated with The Children’s Water Festival.

Hector gave thanks to foundations, service groups, businesses and organizations who provided a total funding of $35,600 and in-kind support such as tents, trailers, water jugs and infrastructure.

Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News