Monday, August 22, 2016

Aboard the Lake Guardian: A Watershed Educator's Experience - Part 1

By Tracy Leavenworth

 

I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. It was a sunny day in April and the email I had just opened from Cindy Hagley at Minnesota Sea Grant’s Center for Great Lakes Literacy (CGLL) informed me that I had been accepted in the Shipboard Science Workshop on Lake Superior. From July 9th through July 15th I would be spending a week aboard the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) research vessel, Lake Guardian, with fourteen other educators. Our mission: travel through the west arm of Lake Superior conducting research alongside university research biologists and EPA water quality monitoring specialists. It was a dream come true!

The experience with my fellow shipmates (educators, scientists and crew) was unforgettable and invaluable. We collected and studied aquatic organisms living in the sediments and in the water and analyzed water quality to better understand the ecology of Lake Superior. The shipboard science experience allowed my fellow educators and me to gain insights that we will use to inspire our students with new curricula, relevant data and a science network that spans the Great Lakes. 


Our experience also included several stops on land where local scientists met with us to share about the ecology of their region and the environmental challenges they face.

The first part of my shipboard story is told through photos …





The Lake Guardian

180 feet long and sleeps 42, The Lake Guardian was originally an oil rig tender in the Gulf of Mexico. It was purchased by the EPA in 1990 and converted into a research vessel. A worthy reincarnation!







Safety first! Our “frog suits”

Meant to keep a body alive in the frigid Lake Superior waters for at least an hour. Glad this was the only time we wore them (that’s me in the front row with the one-hand wave).





 
Leaving Duluth
 
Following an orientation in the Great Lakes Aquarium and our safety training onboard, were off! The lift bridge goes up for us; thats me on the right with my new friend, Quan, a teacher from Wisconsin.
 
 
 
  
 
 
 
 

 
Our first collection site just off of Silver Bay, Minnesota: The rosette.
 
Data is collected using three tools; first is the rosette which collects water samples at various depths. It also collects water quality data. The rosette is always first in a sampling stop, as it is important to not disturb the water column before collecting water samples. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In search of the thermocline:
 
Marine Technician, Max, in the rosette control room. Red is temperature, blue is dissolved oxygen, green is fluorescence, and yellow is beam attenuation.
How much does light scatter when sent through a column of water? The higher the beam attenuation, the more particles there are in the water column.

 
  
 
 
 
 
 

EPA scientist Glenn Warren explains how to use the water quality monitoring equipment.

Samples collected from the rosette will be tested for conductance, pH, alkalinity, turbidity, chlorophyll A and nitrate.











  





The zooplankton net

The zooplankton net was our second collection tool.














Research biologist Christy Meredith pours the zooplankton from the collection tube into a Nalgene bottle.

Everyone on the back deck must wear life vests, steel-toed boots and hard hats at all times.















Look at all of those miniature
crustaceans!





















The PONAR ...
It's purpose?

To grab the top layer of sediment in order to capture the Diporeia that live there. Diporeia are a critical part of Lake Superior’s ecosystem.















Agitating the sediment to collect the Diporeia
 
Those guys like to burrow! Talk about getting your hands dirty










Pouring the water and the critters away from the muck.
 
The net that collects the Diporeia allows water to flow through it. Each PONAR sample collected is rinsed, agitated and poured six times. Thats a lot of playing in the dirt!
 
 
 


 

Research biologist Joel Hoffman
Joel Hoffman is an international Diporeia guru in the biology lab.


 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 



I am filled with gratitude for my experience aboard the Lake Guardian. The learning curve was steep, the sleep was minimal, the motion of the boat stayed with me for days afterward, and I loved every bit of it.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Aboard the Lake Guardian: A Watershed Educator’s Experience. It will focus on the experience of being aboard the ship (living quarters, food, crew, pilot house and amenities

Thanks for reading!

Something's Brewing in September

By Sage Passi

Bang Brewing Company in St. Paul, site for the Master Water Stewards happy hour in September.

Come to Bang Brewing Company on September 20 from 5-7 PM when Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District, Capitol Region Watershed District and Freshwater Society host a happy hour for people who are curious about the upcoming Master Water Stewards program that begins its second round in the east metro area in October. Join us for light appetizers and a cash bar, hear first-hand stories from 2016 Master Water Stewards and check out the rainwater features on site at the brewery during a tour at 6:00 PM at 2320 Capp Road in St. Paul. RSVPs appreciated.
 
RWMWD Master Water Stewards explore the rainwater features at Maplewood Mall as a part of their watershed tour this past spring.






R
Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District launched the Master Water Stewards program in 2016 in partnership with the Freshwater Society. Eight Master Water Stewards were recruited for involvement in the program in RWMWD. In the coming year, new stewards-in-training will participate in twelve classes and a tour where they will learn about local water resources and how to identify sites and projects in their communities that can help reduce water pollution.

As part of the program, Master Water Stewards will work in teams to complete a capstone project. These projects are initiated by Stewards to reduce stormwater run-off. Each project includes education and an in-the-ground practice that allows more water to soak into gardens, grass or other vegetated areas. Once Master Stewards complete the training and capstone projects they will apply their knowledge by continuing to volunteer in their local watershed district in subsequent years.


Master Water Stewards ponder their design recommendations at a rainscaping workshop.
Anna Barker (upper left) and David Rittenhouse (right)





T
Two RWMWD Master Water Steward teams are currently in the process of meeting with and helping residents decide on planting designs and preparing for the installation of several curb-cut rain gardens in a targeted sub-watershed that drains into Bennett Lake in Roseville. Another team is working with a homeowner who lives on Battle Creek in Woodbury. Here are testimonials from three Master Water Stewards who have participated in the program this year:
 

“Becoming a Master Water Steward has been the kick in the pants that I needed to get myself out there and help people make informed, sustainable choices. I have way more confidence in my ability to work with others towards building healthier waters and healthier communities.”  
Mary Henke-Haney, 2016 Master Water Steward


“By going through the Master Watershed Stewards program I feel confident and energized to engage my neighbors around water quality issues. I feel prepared to discuss with others about the issues facing our water bodies, and more importantly what we as individuals can do to reduce our negative impacts.”

David Rittenhouse, 2016 Master Water Steward


“The Master Water Steward program has increased my knowledge about water quality issues and what can be done to improve our precious water resources. One of the surprising things I’ve learned is working with smaller groups or individuals makes people more comfortable and willing to ask questions. This interaction encourages people to follow through and make the changes they can. It results in community members committing to act and making changes to improve local water quality.”
Linda Neilson, 2016 Master Water Steward


Together Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District and Capitol Region will be sponsoring up to twenty residents from neighborhoods in Saint Paul and cities throughout the east metro in 2017. These Master Water Stewards will complete the training and implement projects in their respective watershed districts.

Attend an upcoming info session for both watershed districts on September 6 at Capitol Region Watershed District from 5:30 PM - 6:30 PM at 1410 Energy Park Drive #4 in St. Paul or join us for the happy hour on September 20 at Bang Brewing Company. 


To learn more about this training opportunity, visit masterwaterstewards.org or contact Sage Passi by email
 or by calling 651-792-7958.

For an online application, click here.

Planting your Yard to Help Nature and Wildlife

By Carole Gernes, Ramsey Conservation District

Avoid invasive species like Miscanthus sacchariflorus (Chinese Silver Grass)! It escapes from ornamental plantings and forms large clumps along disturbed areas, displacing native vegetation.
Photo Credit: Paul Erdman


Fall is a great time for planting! Mindful planting in your yard can help struggling pollinators, birds and native plant communities nearby. 

Help Pollinators by Avoiding Neonics

Alarming articles about disappearing monarch butterflies and bees are all over the media. One way to help pollinators is to avoid buying plants and seeds that are treated with systemic pesticides; sometimes called neonicotinoids or neonics. Stores may have signs saying their garden/vegetable plants are systemic pesticide-free, but still sell treated seeds, flowering plants, shrubs and trees. These pesticides move to tissues of the entire plant, including flowers and may stay in the plant for years. They do not wash off. Pollinators that visit treated flowers may be killed instantly, experience a slow decline in health leading to death or be unable to reproduce. Look for seed companies that offer “untreated seeds” and ask before buying plants. Click HERE for more information on native plants for pollinators.


Don't Plant Invasive Plants
Avoiding planting invasive species will also help pollinators, birds and local natural areas. Invasive plants are non-native plants that can move from your yard to take over native plant communities; like prairies, savannas or woodlands. They replace the diversity of plant life that our birds, pollinators and other wildlife depend on for food and shelter. A variety of plants are important to keep them healthy.

Japanese Knotweed blooms late, but should not be planted for pollinators.
Photo Credit: Carole Gernes, RCCWMA

Even though pollinators will visit a specific invasive flower, a diet from only one kind of nectar or pollen is not healthy. Bird nests are susceptible to predators and they find fewer insects to eat in invasive shrubs.
Three invasive plants to avoid: Dame's Rocket - Queen Ann's Lace - Greater Celandine
Photo Credits: Peter Dziuk (Minnesota Wildflowers) - Carole Gernes (RCCWMA) - Kristin Willette (Volunteer)


Not all invasive plants are illegal; many are still sold in nurseries and online. Do an online search of your prospective plant along with the word “invasive”. One advantage of living in the Midwest is that species move here after being “tested” first on the east and west coasts. Species that are causing problems there may be a preview into our future. 


Avoid planting “wildflowers in a can” seed mixes. If you are interested in planting native wildflowers, buy from a native plant nursery within 200 miles of your planting site. More invasive yard plant information may be found HERE, or at the Cooperative Weed Management Facebook Page HERE. Dig a little deeper to help nature. It’s worth the extra effort!

Check HERE for plants you should avoid planting your yard.

Stormwater Myths and Facts

By Joey Handtmann

Rain gardens can be a wonderful way to spruce up your yard and fight stormwater pollution.


 
 
Stormwater runoff is a serious source of pollution for rivers, streams, lakes and ponds. During every rainfall or snow melt, water picks up pollution on its way to the nearest storm sewer grate. Due to the serious damage caused to water bodies from stormwater pollution, it is important to dispel these common myths: 

Myth: Stormwater drains to treatment plants.
 
The vast majority of stormwater (and the pollutants it carries­) discharges directly into lakes, rivers, streams, creeks and ponds.
 
 
Myth: The pollutants in stormwater are not typically harmful.
 
As stormwater flows down roads and lawns, it picks up sediment loaded with nutrients, spilled oil and paint, herbicides and pesticides, grass clippings and leaves. All these end up directly deposited into a body of water.
 
Extra nutrients from plant debris and soil overload streams and lakes, feeding algae which in turn depletes the dissolved oxygen in the water when it decomposes. Due to low oxygen levels fish die, the surface water is covered with green algal goop and the smell of dead fish hits you fifty feet before seeing the water.
 
  
Construction runoff can be a major contributor to stormwater pollution.


Myth: Stormwater flows only to local streams.
  
Stormwater can make its way to any water body by traveling to the ocean via the Mississippi River starting here in Minnesota.


Sediment and pollution laden water is deposited from the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico.
Photo Credit: NASA



 
Myth: Stormwater is mainly an urban problem and industries are the greatest source of water pollution.

Agricultural fields and pastures are a huge contributor to stormwater pollution due to herbicide, fertilizer, nutrient and sediment runoff.
Pollution can be classified into two categories: point source and nonpoint source. Point source pollution can be tracked to a single identifiable source, like a pipe leading directly from a manufacturing plant into a stream. Nonpoint source pollution comes from a diffuse source, like stormwater runoff over a large area.
 
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (PCA), agricultural nonpoint source pollution is the leading source of water quality impacts on rivers and streams, the third largest source for lakes and the second largest source to wetlands.
 
Strict restrictions have been put in place to regulate point source pollution since passing the 1977 Clean Water Act, but creating and enacting policy for nonpoint source pollution has been more difficult.
 


The confluence of the St. Croix River (left) and Mississippi River (right) south of the Twin Cities, after the Minnesota River flows into the Mississippi.
Photo Credit: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency


Myth: The state should take care of all stormwater pollution.
 
The state only manages a portion of land. While the state often sets guidelines and policies to improve stormwater quality, it is up to individuals, home-owners, businesses, farmers and commercial operations to step up and become local leaders in water quality.

 
Myth: Stormwater pollution will eventually go away.

Pollutants carried in stormwater may wash away, but the sources still remain a problem. You wouldn’t throw your trash over your neighbor’s fence and declare that pollution is over. Everyone has a responsibility to ensure that pollutants are properly disposed of and not picked up by stormwater. Make sure that your car is not leaking oil, and properly clean up any chemical spills.  Dilution is not the solution to pollution. 
 
 
Myth: No real solutions exist to solve our stormwater problem.

Fact: Plenty of solutions exist to combat stormwater pollution.
  • Local governments may implement various stormwater management policies and rules.
  • Rain gardens and infiltration basins can be installed in yards and next to parking lots.
  • Rain barrels can be placed under gutters.
  • Driveways can be converted to permeable pavers.
  • Lawns can be converted to native plantings to soak up more rainwater.

Fact: Residents can make virtually no-cost changes in their daily routines to help.
  • Sweep up or "mow-in" grass clipping to keep them out of streets.
  • Clean up dog poop in your yard, even if its not near a lake.
  • Avoid dumping any substance besides rainwater down a storm drain.
  • Use less salt in the winter.

These practices, big and small, all help manage stormwater where it lands, which is far more effective and less expensive than cleaning up polluted water bodies. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

On the Trail of Gene and Imogene

By Sage Passi

The enthusiasm of young people can be very contagious!




























Gene Whipple and Imogene Silver are two special young people whose creativity and passion for the environment inspired me when I first met them.

It is very gratifying to witness the enthusiasm young people express in addressing water and habitat issues and to see what emerging generations are able to accomplish. I often wish I had more opportunities to discover and follow up with students as they move into adulthood to discover how these experiences influence their own directions, post high school plans and career paths. Every so often I am lucky when someone I have worked with in the past reemerges in a new context. Magically and with some kind of serendipity, I cross paths with them and discover that they are engaging in environmental activism that builds on what we have worked on together in the past or heads off in a new direction.

It’s been encouraging to learn how Gene and Imogene's involvement has continued to grow and diversify since I met both of them in the midst of their work in watershed service learning projects in St. Paul a number of years ago.

Gene Whipple

You may remember Gene if you followed the Ripple Effect stories about our 2015 LEAP Award winners. Gene and his family were awarded a LEAP award for a rain garden project that Gene got involved with at his home in response to a request by nearby Battle Creek Middle School students who sent out a letter to residents near their school looking for a yard where they could install a project together. Gene also persuaded his neighbor to participate in this project, having witnessed a rain garden being built at his own school some years before when he was a student at Crosswinds School in Woodbury.

 
Gene Whipple and his father Alan Whipple install erosion blankets in their rain garden in St. Paul.



Gene Whipple's rain garden in the summer of 2013.


The route that Gene has taken since we first crossed paths has continued to build on this theme of environmental action. This winter I was happy to learn that the LEAP team had arranged a special award ceremony for his family, since they were not able to attend the ceremony in November. Gene was coming home from college to accept the award so I took the opportunity to reconnect with him and catch up on what he’s been doing since he left for college.



Gene picks out a hand-crafted bird bath as a gift
for winning a LEAP Award for his family's rain
garden project he built with Battle Creek Middle
School students and his dad in 2010.

Gene graduated this spring from Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, with a degree in Sustainable Community Development. This major is one of the first of its kind in the nation. Through an interdisciplinary approach, students study the three elements of sustainability —  environmental, social and economic — in a comprehensive and holistic manner, blending the concepts of community organizing, urban/rural/regional planning, local and international economic development, and ecological restoration.

Several summers ago Gene worked with the National Forest Service to create and maintain a native seed nursery that is used for harvesting seeds for restoration projects. Gene said that he has always had a love for and interest in plants. In recalling the experience of talking his neighbor into participating in the rain garden project that he and the Battle Creek students installed between their two yards, Gene recounted a conversation that he had with Clarence, his neighbor, while he convinced him to collaborate.

Clarence posed the question,

“Is this going to be a problem with my grandchildren?”
Gene’s response was,
“This is going to be great for your grandchildren! They will be able to watch the butterflies!”
 

A monarch is drawn to a meadow blazing
star in Gene's rain garden.

 
Gene has sought out other opportunities to continue his environmental activism. While still in high school, Gene visited the Will Steger Wilderness Center during a service learning week. He said he found it fascinating to learn how a wilderness community functions every day. He had the good fortune of being able to return there to spend a summer during college taking care of the gardens at this center in the boreal forests in Northern Minnesota near Ely. The center is designed to be “a living example of viable carbon solutions and ecological stewardship, a demonstration center for devising new solutions to the seemingly intractable issues we collectively face.


 Will Steger Wilderness Center
Photo credit: John Ratzloff


Gene has been working for the past couple years at the Chequamegon Food Co-Op in Ashland. I asked him what he likes about the community of Ashland. Gene responded, “I like living in a small community where you know everyone but there’s also a mindset of a larger community. People here have an artistic sense and are full of ideas and at the same time we are so close to the wilderness. There is a culture of both activism and volunteerism in the community that responds to any sort of threat to the lake or environmental crisis.” He cited a recent rallying of action in response to the floods of the past weeks when the Bad River Reservation flooded and people stepped up to help when the roads to the reservation were cut off. 


Imogene Silver


Imogene Silver is a student who I first met when she was in David Barrett’s sixth grade class at Farnsworth Aerospace School in St. Paul. At the time, the Watershed District was delving into the first phase of research about the role of carp in the Phalen Chain of Lakes. Education about carp was infused into much of what we did in the classroom and in the field during those years. In the midst of our service learning lessons at Farnsworth, we were preparing to witness the large scale seining of carp on Lake Gervais.




Farnsworth students watch the results of a large scale carp seining on Lake Gervais.
 
 
Imogene, an artist, took us all by surprise and initiated the design and sewing of a group of amazing hand puppets. She created an adult carp puppet and finger puppets representing young carp that fit inside the female carp, one for each finger. She also crafted a blue gill puppet and a prop that represented carp eggs made from small pompons hung from a wooden stick so that this native fish’s role in eating carp eggs and helping control their populations could be illustrated. Her puppet artwork was the exact ticket we needed to teach about carp in an imaginative way. I don’t know if she realized at the time how much of an impact her artistic contribution would make.

 

Farnsworth students uses Imogene's puppets to dramatize
the role of carp in degrading water quality.


A few years later, Imogene reemerged, this time at WaterFest. I heard there was a Johnson high school student who wanted to exhibit a science fair research project at our event. I said, “Great!” When the day arrived, there was Imogene displaying her science fair project. Her topic: 'The Effects of the Antibacterial, Triclosan on the Aquatic Organism, Water Daphnia'. Imogene learned about the dangers of triclosan when she attended a talk on the State of the Mississippi River presented by staff from the Friends of the Mississippi River and the National Park Service at a watershed district recognition dinner she attended with her mother. She presented her research at a regional fair and won a trip to Houston to compete at an international science fair and then brought her research to the public at WaterFest.

Triclosan is a common ingredient in a variety of household personal care products, including liquid antibacterial soaps, dish detergents and toothpastes. Unfortunately, most of the triclosan in these products is washed down the drain, where the wastewater disinfection process converts triclosan into a chemical that causes dioxins to rapidly accumulate in the Mississippi River.

Despite research that shows these products provide no benefit to consumers, their use is proving to present risks to animal and human health including interference with thyroid and reproductive systems in laboratory studies. For an update on triclosan click link: triclosan.

So where did Imogene reappear next?



Urban Roots volunteers took a break to warm up by the fire at Phalen Freeze Fest.
Imogene Silver (center) is in the green scarf.


This winter, as I headed to Lake Phalen to take part in a night event, Phalen Freeze Fest, I saw a group of young women gathered by one of the fire barrels warming their hands. They were helping set up and doing a lot of tasks out on the ice that would engage the pubic on the lake during this winter celebration. There, standing by the fire in the midst of this team of Urban Roots high school volunteers was Imogene. I also later discovered that she was the performer inside the costume of the giant merganser puppet, Shingebiss, who played the main character in the pageant that night.


Imogene played Shingebiss, the wily Merganser who takes on Winter Maker.


I called Imogene this summer to find out what she’s up to now. She said she's in her fourth year working for the Market Garden program for Urban Roots. In this paid internship, youth plant, maintain and harvest small-scale crops within urban gardens. The program promotes entrepreneurship by teaching youth interns to manage gardens and crops for distribution to community supported agriculture (CSA), Farmers Markets, Roots for the Home Team, food shelves, restaurants and small-batch food preservation for seasonal sales. Program participants are also involved in creating sales and marketing materials for the Farmer’s Market and other retail outlets.

Urban Roots also hosts another intern program focused on conservation. These interns support and improve green spaces around the East Side, and participate in the restoration of local parks through removal of invasive plant material, native seed collection and installation of native plants. They learn hands-on skills through the installation and maintenance of rain and pollinator gardens in public and private spaces. Youth also engage in citizen science projects, such as insect surveys, water sampling, and forest inventories

 


Imogene and some of her garden bounty.


Since Imogene will be completing her last year of high school this year, I decided to ask her if she had some thoughts on what she might like to study in college. Her answer - engineering as it relates to sustainable energy. Talk about that spark of energy she has! I hope I can keep up with what she does next!


It’s been a special treat to catch glimpses of Gene and Imogene as they mature. It’s inspiring to see what they're doing with their energy and enthusiasm as they find unique paths to grow, learn and instill their passion for the environment in new directions. 

Shut it Off

By Anna Barker

Photo credit: Anna Barker



























What motivates people to change?

That was my take-away question after participating alongside my fellow Master Water Steward from Woodbury and summer staff who put on the Puppet Wagon shows about smart water usage in our city parks during the week of July 11, 2016.   

How DO you change people’s behavior?

The answer is CBSM…
“The cornerstone of both sustainability and health is behavior change. If we are to move toward a sustainable and healthy future, we must encourage the adoption of a multitude of actions (e.g., waste reduction, water and energy efficiency, active lifestyles, hand washing, vaccinations, etc.). To date, most programs to encourage such activities have relied upon disseminating information. Research demonstrates, however, that simply providing information has little or no effect on what people do. But if not ads, brochures or booklets, then what?" (www.cbsm.com)

Over the last decade a new approach ... community-based social marketing ... (CBSM) has emerged as an effective alternative for delivering programs to foster sustainable behavior. Dr. Doug McKenzie-Mohr is the founder of community-based social marketing. Recommended by Time magazine, his book "Fostering Sustainable Behavior” has become requisite reading for those working to deliver environmental program to promote water efficiency, waste reduction, energy efficiency, conservation, modal transportation changes, watershed protection and other sustainable behavior changes.

Community-based social marketing is a unique approach to fostering both environment and health related behavioral changes and is now being utilized in thousands of programs across the globe. It has become the foundation for the trainings and programs of the Freshwater Society and Master Water Stewards in the effort to develop Community Leadership for Clean Water.

Master Water Stewards Stephanie Wang (left), Anna Barker (rear), David Rittenhouse and Idelle Peterson (right) work on a rain garden design at a spring rainscaping workshop.






























Since January, my fellow Master Water Stewards-in-Training and I have been attending classes, participating in online instructional modules and doing the “brain work” to develop a set of skills that will enable us to use CBSM (see www.cbsm.com for more resource access) for both education and outreach and to facilitate and implement infiltration projects with the goal to “Stop it Where it Drops!” and keep rain where it belongs: nurturing and nourishing all the plants in our ecosystem and keeping stormwater runoff, with its accompanying possible pollutants out of our amazing freshwater streams, ponds, wetlands, lakes and rivers in Minnesota. 


Master Water Stewards Anna Barker and Brian Bohman visit a test site to compare how different types of engineered soil clean stormwater run-off from Mississippi Watershed Management Organization’s parking lot.

For the past seven months, we learned about the Big Picture issues facing our fresh water resources; about the Problem as it affects our daily lives; that there are no “silver bullet” answers but that a Treatment Train of Solutions exists that can be customized for effective local projects with community involvement and partnerships. We learned that we CAN contribute to behavior change that has positive impacts on water conservation and water quality. Then Stephanie and I aligned our needs here in Woodbury with the Mission and Vision of the Master Water Stewards and put a plan of action into place for our educational capstone project. 

Please go to the Woodbury’s city website and check out their June 16 newsletter to access their latest water quality report and the City Council Strategic Initiatives update. We used the new parks and trails map and navigated a route that aligned with the Woodbury Puppet Wagon during the week of July 11th, which was designated as Water Week, with the puppets engaging the audience in reasons why they wanted humans to become more “Water Wise”. Then the audiences were directed to where Stephanie and I had set up an interactive display borrowed from the Washington Conservation District and had bubbles floating in the air to draw the attention of our young audience and their caregivers! 


Anna Barker and Stephanie Wang incorporated Washington Conservation District’s new interactive water conservation displays during the Puppet Wagon week.
Photo credit: Elizabeth Owens, City of Woodbury






B
By our count, we had 467 in attendance during the eight shows that we were involved with and had teaching props set up like toothbrushes (up to one gallon of water a minute can go down the drain if left running while you brush your teeth!) and empty tuna cans that CAN be set out under sprinklers for children to play in and then SHUT IT OFF when the cans are full up to their one-inch level, (one inch is the weekly limit that Woodbury wants residents and businesses to comply with for irrigation water efficiency). We also passed out native flower bouquets and free wildflower seed packets from the Washington County Master Gardeners to encourage pollinator/butterfly-friendly low-irrigation lawns and rain gardens.

 

Woodbury children explore ways to cut down use of water in their homes and yards with hands on activities in the kit.
  
Please see the fun water conservation music video with a parody of Taylor Swift’s song “Shake it off” to hear the catchy tune that the children and I had ringing in our heads as we left our lovely parks, happy and ready to make our water use footprints child-sized!


Here’s to a Water Wise August!

You can become a Master Water Steward and work in your community to address water issues. Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District is seeking eight new volunteers to join the next round of training session which start in October. For an application and more information go HERE or contact Sage Passi at Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District by email or phone at 651-792-7958.

 Baby Josephine, Anna Barker's first grandchild
Photo credit: Kate Barker