London Elementary School students smiled as they spread pollution through a small town last week, laughing as a torrential rain overturned cars and filled a pristine blue lake with brown polluted sludge.
Thankfully the destruction was just one of several demonstrations at Hanging Rock State Park intended to teach elementary school children from throughout the county about nature, the environment and science as part of the annual Stokes County Soil and Water Conservation District’s Environmental Awareness Days.
At this station students learned about different pollutants, represented by coco powder on a plastic scale model town, created by factories, cars, agriculture and residential areas. After all of the pollution was placed on the model the students simulated the water cycle by gleefully spraying the model with squirt bottles, seeing first-hand how pollution in one area can impact the entire water system.
At other stations, students learned about bees and how to care for them, riparian buffers and good soil conservation agriculture practices, the resources animals need to survive and how over population can kill wild animal populations, the importance of trees as air filters in the environment, how the human cardiovascular and respiratory systems work, and differences between a variety of birds of prey.
The event is held over three days at the park every spring, giving fifth grade students from King, Lawsonville, Germanton, Pine Hall, Mt. Olive, Nancy Reynolds, London, Pinnacle, Poplar Springs, Sandy Ridge and Walnut Cove elementary schools a chance to have hands on enrichment on subjects they are learning in the classroom.
Students move from station to station, having time to learn about each topic, participate in a demonstration and ask questions before moving on to the next station.
Each station is run by one of the event’s sponsors, including Stokes Soil and Water, Hanging Rock State Park, the Cooperative Extension, Stokes County Emergency Management, Wildlife Rehab, Inc., N.C. Forestry Service, the Bee Keepers Association and Stokes County Schools.
“They teach this stuff all year and this reinforces what they have already been taught,” said Soil and Water District Administration/Education Specialist Janice Pack. “The teachers like it because it is right before the the EOGs so it is a good fun review.”
Soil and Water has been organizing the Awareness Day for over 30 years according to Commissioner James Booth who also serves on the Stokes Soil and Water Conservation District, noting that only half of the soil and water districts in the sate provide a similar program.
“It is a big thing for us to be able to use the park here for this,” he added. “They give us a cabin where we can have meals for the volunteers and they participate by running one of the stations. It has been a great partnership over the years.”
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.