Fifth graders discover nature at first Walloomsac Watershed Festival


Photo Gallery | Students learn about wildlife at the Watershed Festival

BENNINGTON — For the first time, One World Conservation Center teamed up with the students of the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union and the Sacred Heart School to present the Walloomsac Watershed Festival.

Organizers hope that the event, which was funded with help from Price Chopper's Golub Foundation, will become an annual tradition. The festival took place at the Greenberg Headwaters Park, which has also been called the Morgan Street Wetlands, and involved all the fifth grade classes of the SVSU, as well as Sacred Heart. Students spent about 30 minutes at each of the five stations, where they learned from experts about the plants, animals and natural systems that could be found in the wetlands.

Jim Henderson, regional planner and environmental program manager at the Bennington County Regional Commission, led one of the stations, where students learned about watersheds and how water flows. "A drop of water landing right here could go past the Statue of Liberty!" he said, explaining that the Walloomsac watershed flows into the Hoosick Watershed, which flows in the Hudson Watershed. He also talked about how erosion and development can make flooding more of a danger to towns like Bennington. "Wetlands act as a sponge," he said, "Slowing down the water helps prevent floods. Wetlands are very important for flood control."

Jack Irons, a Bennington native who has presented at One World in the past, taught students at his station about the different types of macroinvertibrates that could be found in the wetlands. After learning about the creatures and their food cycle, students were able to look at some of the examples he provided, and were instructed to try drawing some of them.

One World Conservation Center Executive Director Holly Betit was running a station that stressed the importance of environmental stewardship. She spoke about the importance of conserving water (to which a student responded, "You mean I can't take showers anymore?") and had the students participate in a relay race in which they picked up garbage from one of the park's trails. "No one's going to win," she said, "It's more about running, getting your energy out, and practicing being a good steward."

Jen Loyd-Pain, former One World executive director and professor of wildlife ecology at the Community College of Vermont, talked to the students about beavers, and the important role they play in a wetland habitat. She explained adaptations, and how they enable animals to find their ecological niche, using beavers as an example.

Finally, Bennington County Forester Kyle Mason took the students on a walking tour of the wetlands, where they kept an eye out for environmental indicators of animal presence. For example, he explained how to identify a sensitive fern, and how turkeys are common where sensitive fern can be found. He explained the concept of habitats in a way that was easily accessible to the children — in terms of Pokemon. "If I was walking around a volcano, would I expect to find a (water-type) Squirtle? If I was walking around a river, would I expect to find a (fire-type) Charmander? No! Just like with Pokemon, I can look at the things around me to tell what kinds of animals I can expect to find there."

Students from Monument, Pownal, Shaftsbury, Sacred Heart, and Woodford Elementary participated in the festival from 9-11:30 a.m., and students from Molly Stark and Bennington Elementary attended in the afternoon, from 12:20-2:45 p.m, according to event organizer Jenica McEvoy.

The Golub Foundation, named for Price Chopper's parent company, was founded in 1981, and donates to non-profit organizations in New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and New Hampshire.

Contact Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.


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