Kids lead water education in Ellsworth County contest
More than 200 school children are spreading an important message that conservation officials here think everyone needs to know.
"When kids learn about water quality and water safety, they bring it to their future," said Pamela Hays, the district manager for the Ellsworth County Conservation District, "and they tell their parents, too."
Hays' office spearheaded the county's annual conservation contest, which drew entries from kids who created posters, and wrote limericks or essays.
"Clean water is the lure...Keep our watershed pure," proclaimed a third place poster entry by second grader Trista Shelton.
Stacie Minson, a watershed specialist with K-State Research and Extension, said this year's contest theme was "Where Does Your Water Shed?" She noted that it was a complicated concept for kids, who often don't look at the land around them as a watershed, or the fact that waste from that land ultimately ends up in waterways.
"Those are not things that kids think about," said Minson, noting that Hays and a co-worker, Brad Kratzer, spent numerous hours in Ellsworth-area schools giving demonstrations and talking to students about watersheds.
"Getting kids to engage in this topic now will carry through as they become adults, and perhaps make them more active in protecting water in their communities."
In 2012, water conservation was a major issue throughout Kansas as most of the state's counties suffered through drought. Some counties--Ellsworth County is one example--enacted local restrictions or bans on outside watering.
"When you look at our (Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy, or WRAPS) in the Smoky Hill River area, one of the components is education and information," Minson said. "Fortunately for us in our watershed, we have a really great working relationship with teachers and local officials where we support and complement each other."
Minson added that the messages that kids in Ellsworth and other Kansas counties are communicating were initially developed by the National Association of Conservation Districts, which represents more than 3,000 districts and more than 17,000 state-level employees and board members in the United States.
Hays said that county winners from across Kansas will compete in November during the Kansas Association of Conservation District's annual meeting in Wichita. The state winners by age and category will then be eligible to compete in the national contest.
The following limerick written by 9-year-old Logan Hall of Ellsworth won first place in the 2013 Ellsworth County Conservation District contest:
Where does your water go or shed?
Does it go to a stream or lake bed?
Does it go to a river,
Or pond, does it slither?
Or does your stream look like a thread?