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A Successful Launch of our Water Education Program at Great Falls Elementary
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A Successful Launch of our Water Education Program at Great Falls Elementary

Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation in partnership with 4-H Clemson Cooperative Extension successfully completed our pilot Education Outreach Program with 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students from Great Falls Elementary.

A Successful Launch of our Water Education Program at Great Falls Elementary

Great Falls Elementary third grade students participating in the food chain activity

Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation in partnership with 4-H Clemson Cooperative Extension successfully completed our pilot Education Outreach Program with 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students from Great Falls Elementary. The program is funded by the J. Marion Sims Foundation. Great Falls Elementary is the first school to receive all five water education lessons for each grade level. Our water education lessons are designed to fit seamlessly into the South Carolina curriculum. Because of that, each lesson meets a certain South Carolina academic standard.

In our third grade classes, we focused on the freshwater bodies within South Carolina and the freshwater food chain through the stomach of the Great Blue Heron. The students had fun pretending to be algae, frogs, turtles, mayfly nymphs, and great blue herons looking for their food. They then linked arms with their food to create a food chain, and ultimately a food web! The students also discovered how to recognize whether water is healthy or unhealthy based on the macroinvertebrates living in a specific creek, stream, or river. We would eventually like to have students test the health of a nearby stream in their town using the macroinvertebrates they find in the water.

Fourth grade learned about the water cycle and the importance of taking care of and conserving the finite amount of water we have on Earth. They had a great time making weather instruments, which allowed them to explore the water cycle even more. Students were also asked how they use water in their daily lives. Based on their answers, the students were able to see how well they conserved water, and in what areas they could increase their conservation (i.e. turn off water while brushing teeth, turn off lights when leaving a room, etc.).

Fifth grade had the messiest, which translates to the most fun experiments. We used water to test the absorption properties of pervious and impervious surfaces, emphasizing the importance of catching stormwater runoff before it reaches the Catawba River. We also had another experiment using soil and plants to demonstrate how plant life holds soil and sediment in place, which prevents excessive erosion. Finally, the students were able to test the pH levels of a few different liquids to see the effects the acidic, neutral, and basic liquids had on eggshells after being left in each liquid for two days. We then compared that to the effects each pH level would have on the wildlife in the water.

The teachers and staff at Great Falls Elementary were welcoming and helpful throughout the entire program. The students were active and engaged, and seemed to truly enjoy the hands-on activities for each lesson. It has been a very fun and successful few weeks, and we are grateful to 4H and Great Falls Elementary for working with us to get this program up and running!

With our first completed program under our belts, we are ready to take our program to more schools in South Carolina, and eventually into North Carolina elementary schools. If you are interested in a long-term volunteer opportunity with our Education Outreach Program, please contact our Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator, Hillary Zorman at hillary@catawbariverkeeper.org. Each volunteer will go through training and shadowing, which will prepare the volunteer to be able to deliver the lessons with confidence. Please be aware that all lessons are taught during the school day.

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