HCC transforms into a “waterworld”

Fifth-grade students enjoy their field trip to the Bay State Children's Water Festival at Holyoke Community College this morning. (Photo by Chris Yurko, HCC)

Franklin Avenue fifth-graders enjoy their field trip to the Bay State Children’s Water Festival at Holyoke Community College this morning. (Photo by Chris Yurko, HCC)

HOLYOKE – While also the title of a  notorious ’90s box office bust starring Kevin Costner, the campus of Holyoke Community College transformed into a “Waterworld” of sorts, as the first Bay State Children’s Water Festival.
Over 1,400 fifth grade students representing 65 schools from six communities in western and central Massachusetts poured onto HCC’s campus at 8:30 a.m. for the day-long event, where they learned about drinking water, groundwater, watersheds, surface water and water quality.
The Westfield Public School system was well represented at the event, as fifth graders from Abner Gibbs, Franklin Avenue and Paper Mill elementary schools attended the event and retained large quantities of both water and knowledge.
HCC officials were more than happy to host the event, which was put on by over 200 volunteer workers from all over Massachusetts and from as far away as Wisconsin.
“Community is our middle name, so we are pleased to offer this educational opportunity for students of Holyoke and the surrounding school districts,” HCC President Bill Messner said in a statement. “Not only does this introduce children to the college campus, the festival fits right in line with our emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.”
Activities were conducted in the school’s academic buildings and also under large tents on the school’s tennis courts.
One of the more popular activities included edible aquifers. Presented by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region One office in Boston, the aquifers taught students about the geologic formations in an aquifer. Students constructed confining layers, contamination, recharge, discharge, and water tables out of ice cream and soda, surefire hits with students during the mid-afternoon heat.
Other activities such as Water Jeopardy, building rain sticks and even a well drilling rig were conducted in the Donahue and Kittredge Centers and the campus tennis courts. Grammy-award winning environmental singer Tom Chapin was on hand as well, performing in Kittredge’s Leslie Philips Theater.
Perhaps the finest touch of the day came in the form of fact cards situated around the campus.
“It surprised me how much signage there was,” said Jo Ann Roselli, a teacher from Franklin Avenue. “The kids couldn’t believe that 80 percent of a pineapple is water, that 90 percent of human lungs are water. It was a lot of walking, but the signs were great.”
Mary Mueller, another Franklin Avenue fifth grade teacher whose class was present for the event, agreed, finding the event to be well run.
“The kids were gaining a lot of facts that were posted around campus,” she said.” They were really engaged, asked lots of questions. The kids were really excited.”
The water-related activities were far from the only valuable aspects of the trip.
“It’s the exposure to HCC, as well,” said Jack Sweeney-Thayer, a teacher from the Kelly School in Holyoke, “It’s been lots of fun, the events, everything. It’s a neat day.”
While students were able to get out of their homerooms for the day and enjoy a classic field trip, they also gained knowledge that will hopefully last them a lifetime and give them a hands-on appreciation of  what it takes to protect this valuable natural resource.

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