Splish, splash … it’s time for outdoor learning and fun

Next week, about 4,000 Halton students from grades two to five will be embarking upon a great adventure to participate in the 11th annual Halton Children’s Water Festival at Kelso Conservation Area. What better way to learn – about water science and technology, water conservation and protection, water health and safety, and water and society – than through hands-on activities that run every 15 to 30 minutes. And, did I mention that the festival takes place outdoors with the natural backdrop of the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve?

 

Halton Children's Water Festival
Outdoor learning and exercising at the Halton Children’s Water Festival. Photo courtesy of Conservation Halton.      

As someone who has helped out with the festival in a variety of capacities for most years, I know how much time and effort goes into organizing this well run event. There are scripts to write and review ensuring they are not only fun and captivate children’s attention, but also meet the provincial curriculum.

Students participating in one of the many activities at the Halton Children's Water Festival.
Students participating in the “Sink or Float” activity at the Halton Children’s Water Festival. Photo courtesy of Conservation Halton.

Then there is the task of volunteer recruitment as over 120 volunteers are needed each day. Some volunteers are adult professionals from the public or private sector that fortunately help out year after year. However, many are high school volunteers in grades 11 and 12 and training sessions need to be held with the students at their schools ahead of time.

A few of the many volunteers required to run the Halton Children's Water Festival.
A few of the many volunteers required to run the Halton Children’s Water Festival. Photo courtesy of Conservation Halton.

There are companies to contact for the buses, tents, portable washrooms and all terrain wheelchairs to ensure all activities are accessible to all students. Volunteers need to be fed and identifying t-shirts and hats have to be ordered for them as well. There are schedules to coordinate for every single class. And then there’s the set up and tear down with the ever important inventory that needs to be taken and the post event debrief meeting. If all goes well, the weather cooperates. Regardless, rain or shine, students always have a good time.

A few of the school buses lined up.
Some of the many school buses that will be lined up at Kelso Conservation Area every day of the Halton Children’s Water Festival. Photo courtesy of Conservation Halton.

Continuous improvement is something that event organizers are always trying to achieve. For example, a very successful French Immersion Day was introduced in 2012 in the grade five area and has been offered ever since. In 2013, online registration was introduced. Last year, to celebrate the 10th anniversary, a contest was held for a new logo which appears on the updated website.

Students having fun.
A student participating in one of the activities at the Halton Children’s Water Festival. Photo courtesy of Conservation Halton.

I will be there next week as one of the ‘area leads’ who helps to oversee a grade area. Each day, I will welcome a new group of high school volunteers, some of whom attended the festival when they were in grades two to five! While we encourage innovation at the high school training sessions, the students continue to surprise me with their imagination. I have had the pleasure of watching and learning from the high school students as they created new and successful games that we then incorporated into the scripts the following year. One year, a high school student showed up with his guitar. At first, I must admit, I was a bit skeptical as to what this person was doing with his guitar at the water festival. However, I realized that he wrote original lyrics and sang them to Green Day’s Good Riddance (Time of your Life) to help teach students about the beneficial bugs activity (microorganisms that help to break down human waste).

A couple of the high school student presenters having fun with activity props.
A couple of the high school student presenters having fun with activity props. Photo courtesy of Conservation Halton.

I know, if you’re a teacher, parent or student in grades two to five (Catholic, public, private or homeschooled within Halton Region), you are probably wondering how to register for this year’s festival. Unfortunately, if you haven’t already registered, it is too late for 2016. Do keep an eye out though for registration for 2017’s festival as spots fill up very quickly. Registration is usually posted in late spring.

Students getting ready to participate in one of the activities. Photo courtesy of Conservation Halton.
Students getting ready to participate in one of the activities. Photo courtesy of Conservation Halton.

Last but not least, this event could not take place without supporters including Conservation Halton, Halton Region, the Halton Catholic District School Board, the Halton District School Board, the City of Burlington, the Town of Oakville and Town of Halton Hills. With their support, students only have to pay $5 to cover the cost of bussing them to and from the event.

Fun times at Halton Children's Water Festival.
Fun times at the Halton Children’s Water Festival. Photo courtesy of Conservation Halton.

Rain or shine, I am looking forward to seeing happy faces and hearing squeals of glee next week while knowing that students will leave the event knowing a little more about one of our most valuable and underappreciated resources.

This post is the last in a series of four about water. Please view the other posts to learn about properly emptying your pool, spa or hot tub; the Yellow Fish Road program; and how we can all help to keep our creeks and lakes clean.

Take Action Burlington. Collectively we can make a difference!

Halton Children's Water Festival
A button making activity at the Halton Children’s Water Festival. Photo courtesy of Conservation Halton.
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