Real world science

Fourth-graders spend a day learning about their local watershed and how to protect it

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There’s a few rules for the students attending the Columbia River Watershed Festival.

One, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Two, worms are not gross. Three, recycling is crucial.

“The goals of this event are to bring a bunch of fourth-grade students out here to start their year inspired by the watershed and realize the actions they take every day make a difference,” said Jenna Kallestad, education coordinator for Columbia Springs. “At this age, they are still very excited about playing outdoors, but are old enough to take actions to make a difference.”

Kallestad helps organize the festival, which is held in a Clark County park annually. This year, it took place in Capt. William Clark Park in Washougal. It also rotates with visits to Klineline Pond, Vancouver Lake and Lewisville State Park. The festival is in its 25th year and began with a single purpose: Get kids into nature while they are still young enough to appreciate it.

“We bring in a lot of different organizations and all work toward this same goal,” Kallestad said. “The idea is that students who have the opportunity to come out here feel connected to their local watershed. Nature is not in this far away place, it’s right here.”

On Thursday and Friday, approximately 1,000 kids, including those from Camas and Washougal, participated in the event. They made their way through several rotating stations, which ranged from environmental storytelling to conservation to searching for evidence of animal activity along the beach.

Carie Zerba, a fourth-grade teacher at Woodburn Elementary School in Camas, said the field trips helped her students connect with what they learn in the classroom.

“They get to use their hands, get involved and see real life examples about how what we learned in the classroom makes sense in real life. They see a real life application.”

Columbia Springs partners with Clark County Department of Environmental Services, City of Vancouver, Clark Public Utilities, and other funding sources.

Local schools do not pay to attend the event.

Emma Stammer works in the City of Vancouver’s urban forestry department as the neighborhood trees coordinator.

“I enjoyed getting the kids excited about trees and watersheds, and how it effects them in their daily lives,” she said.

Eva Bryan, a student at Woodburn Elementary, enjoyed Will Hornyak’s environmental storytelling the most out of all the activities.

“I learned about how things decompose and to make sure to put them in the right spot,” Bryan said. “This whole day has been amazing.”

Tim Zhurbytskyy was worried that the field trip would be boring.

“I thought we were just going to stare at the beach all day or something,” he said. “But I really liked hearing the storytelling, and getting to go on stage and act.”

Charlee Crinstead enjoyed creating a model of an urban watershed.

“I learned that trees slow down water so it doesn’t flood,” she said. “I thought it was really fun because we got to learn about new things, but in an exciting way.”

Kallestad’s favorite aspect of the watershed festival is seeing all of the hard work come to fruition when the event is a success.

“It really starts off the year right for these kids and shows them that learning can be fun,” she said. “Science is about learning, observing and enjoying nature.”