Friday, June 23, 2017

Rain Week: Day 5

One of the campers planting Joe Pye Weed

Photo courtesy of Jaraide Dossavi

The final day of Rain Week took place in the Sarita Wetland once again, however, this time the campers had a mission to plant native Minnesota plants. There were a variety of plants: Great Blue Lobelia, Joe Pye Weed, Swamp Milkweed, Showy Goldenrod, and Bottlebrush Sage. While planting, a few animals were spotted: geese, ducks, turtles, dragonflies, and a ladybug.
Also, there were some hardy roots to break through, which was a challenge, but it’s great to know that the campers played a role in making the wetland a better place.
Sidewalk chalk aimed at informing the public

Photo courtesy of Andreas Fenner

After the planting, the campers went to the storm drain that started their water journey and drew the Mississippi River, fish, and other wildlife with chalk. A few curious pedestrians stopped by and the campers zealously informed them about the importance of water protection. In the closing moments of Rain Week the campers received their Water Journey necklaces. We hope to see everyone next year!

The AM campers!

Photo courtesy of Jaraide Dossavi

The PM campers!

Photo courtesy of Nishtha Singla
Written by Andreas Fenner

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Rain Week: Day 4

photo courtesy of Jaraide Dossavi

A dreary and stormy morning delayed the campers from planting native plants in the Sarita Wetland, so instead they headed inside for water testing. A few different things were tested: dissolved oxygen levels, pH, as well as turbidity. The campers saw different results depending on where they got their water from, the most notable difference being before and after traveling through the wetland. When the water leaves Sarita, it has a slightly lowered turbidity and a more neutral pH than when it came in. This testing taught campers that water quality can change throughout its journey, especially after the positive filtering effects of a wetland.

Photo courtesy of Jaraide Dossavi

Additionally, the campers participated in a map art activity. Using watercolors, they painted the pipes that led to the Sarita wetland also including animal and plant life on top, which are crucial elements in helping the Sarita do its job.
As a memento to the journeys of water, as well as the experiences of camp, the campers crafted necklaces with a vial containing water from the beginning (the downspout) of its journey to the end (Crosby State Park), all tied together with their beaded initials.
Two necklace mementos that contain a piece of the Mississippi for campers to carry with them wherever they go

Photo courtesy of Kit Mercer-Taylor

Written by Andreas Fenner

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Rain Week: Day 3

A few campers standing in front of the outfall
— where the storm drains meet the Mississippi

Day three of Rain Week started on the Mississippi River, where the campers were able to see the outfall, also known as the point where storm drains meet the river. Each camper took turns ceremonially using the watering can to pour rain water into outfall. Karen Katz, from the National Parks Service, educated us on the Mississippi watershed. Afterwards, Karen met the rest of us at Crosby Farm Park, which has its shores on the Mississippi, for lunch. The campers learned about the flood plains that surrounded us and the effects rising water has on the ecosystem, such as otters making dens out of Cottonwood tree roots.

Campers taking a relaxing break down by the shore

We took a short hike through the woods to the river, not only to look for otters, but to also enjoy the sunshine on the beach! The campers were very excited to see how many skips they could get from throwing smooth rocks, as well as pointing out the falcons, eagles, and herons (with the assistance of Karen) that flew above the trees. Before we boarded the bus back to home-base, Karen led the campers through an oath, which signaled their transition from ordinary campers to junior rangers, complete with a shiny badge!

Written by Andreas Fenner

A very old tree found on our walk to the water.
Equal to five kids worth!!!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Rain Week: Day 2

Map of locations used for campers scavenger hunt .

Oyster Mushroom
Photo courtesy of Jonee Brigham
Today campers were sent on a scavenger hunt to answer a variety of questions pertaining to different sites on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus. Splitting up into groups, campers visited the Mycology Club Site to find the three edible type of mushrooms growing in the forest: Oysters, Shiitake, Lion’s Mane. Across the field to the Native American Medicine Garden, campers learned the importance of Akita Manni Yo (ah-kee-dah mahn-nee yo) which is a Lakota phrase that translates to “observe as you go”. Campers were urged to observe in the garden with their eyes, touch, and even taste buds (there was fresh lettuce growing)! Moving onto the Display and Trial Gardens, campers searched for edible plants and successfully found Stevia -a sweetener and sugar substitute extracted from the leaves of the plant.

Campers posing with a wild onion stalk.
Photo courtesy of Jonee Brigham
Campers get a look at the overflow drain

Photo courtesy of Jonee Brigham
After a peaceful lunch in the shade at Cornercopia, the student organic farm, where we were able to taste some of the onions growing and met Farmer Alexa who explained what goes on at an organic farm as well as giving a tour of the fruit tree garden. Campers made their way to the Buford Avenue storm drain where they met Lauren Wimler, a civil engineer from the University of Minnesota. She talked about the many pipes underground that carry storm water, and led us down a path to a manhole that we were able to peer in, thanks to U of M plumbers Troy and Sean. Following the pipes above ground, we found ourselves at the Sarita Wetlands, where the water is let out. Even though the water did not look the cleanest, it was still fascinating to see the journey water takes from cloud to wetland. We can’t wait until tomorrow when we visit downstream!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Rain Week: Day 1

Photo Courtesy of Jonee Brigham
Rain week has begun! Over 20 campers started their week off preparing for the water journey ahead. Water Journals and cameras were assigned to each student, enabling them to properly document their observations along the way. Teacher Kit Mercer-Taylor guided campers through some water testing with week old rainwater captured in jars outside the Learning and Environmental Sciences Building on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.

Photo Courtesy of Jonee Brigham
To commence the week long water journey, campers gathered around a storm drain along Buford Avenue to pour water through the grates, not yet knowing where it will flow next. Campers later got creative by crafting a necklace with their initials that will hold a vial of rain water in which they can use to remember their journey.

Campers recited a poem written by Jonee Kulman Brigham that gave them an idea of what to expect in the coming week on their water journey:

Photo Courtesy of Jonee Brigham

Follow the Rain
When the rain falls from the sky
It waters plants and ponds nearby
But on roof and streets, the rain
Runs off and travels down the drain
What happens next? Where does it go?
We’ll follow rain to find it’s flow.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Water Journey Day 5: Water Testing and Sharing our Story

Campers gathered for a send-off at the drinking fountain.
Campers used part of their day to reflect on what they learned during their week at Water Journey camp. At a large touchscreen called the Geodesign, campers used GIS mapping technology to explore the story of water from the Mississippi, to their drinking fountain and back again. They each collected a few drops of Mississippi river water (from a sample we'd taken at River Park) into small vials attached to necklaces, to remember their experiences at the river. Finally, each camper selected two favorite photos from the many they had taken this week. Campers captioned their photos so that they could be displayed in the Water Journey camp exhibit at the Institute on the Environment.

Campers test the pH of a water sample.
Campers also challenged their science skills today. Working in small teams, campers conducted experiments on water samples from six different locations we visited. They found each sample's temperature, dissolved oxygen content, turbidity, and pH. When they talked through their findings as a group, several interesting similarities and differences between samples stuck out to the campers. For example, the pH and turbidity of their drinking fountain water exactly matched the pH and turbidity of finished water at the water treatment plant. The campers were also shocked to find that the water from the flocculation chamber inside the treatment plant had a pH and turbidity much higher than any other samples. All water testing results went on display at the Water Journey camp exhibit.
A camper shares the Water Journey exhibit with her family.

To cap off their week, campers enjoyed showing their parents around the Water Journey exhibit at the exhibit opening on Friday afternoon. University of Minnesota faculty, staff, students and visitors will also have the chance to learn about water's journey through campers' eyes at the exhibit, which is open through the end of June.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Water Journey Day 4: Planting in Sarita Wetland!

Camper Sophie ready to plant!
Photo Courtesy of Camper
Campers got their hands dirty today planting native species in the Sarita Wetland. These plants  will help the ground absorb water, clean the water, and provide habitat for wildlife. Before heading to the wetland, campers were taught all about native plants and their roots that help with infiltration. The plants were compared to superhero's which tied in with the superhero theme that is currently happening through Youth Programs.

Campers walking into Sarita Wetland
Photo Courtesy of Jonee Brigham
Map making was the next activity after the students came back from Sarita. A map of River Park, where the intake building can be seen, was decorated with pictures that campers took themselves. Just as a map was made for the start of the water journey, one was made for the end. This map showcased the water treatment plant alongside the Mississippi. Campers used watercolors to creatively interpret what they saw and felt along this week-long water journey.

Camper Anton painting his map.
Photo Courtesy of Jonee Brigham
Camper Sam taking a picture at Sarita Wetland
Photo Courtesy of Jonee Brigham

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Water Journey Day 3: A Mississippi River boat tour!

Today the campers visited a water tower on campus to get an inside look at how one works. Cathy Abene, a Senior Engineer at the University of Minnesota and Lauren Wimler a Civil Engineer at the University of Minnesota opened the door (which many campers thought would lead to a rush of water) and led students inside to showcase the ladder that climbs all the way up to where the water is stored. Water towers rely on hydrostatic pressure produced by elevation of water (due to gravity) to push the water into the homes of local residents. Near the water tower was a pump station where campers saw the water meter that gages how much water is used on the St. Paul campus as well as pressure pumps.

Water pressure site. Photo courtesy of camper
Ladder going up the water tower.
Photo courtesy of camper.

Afterwards, the campers got to peer down a sewer manhole to see the stream of sewage that leaves the Institute on the Environment. Cathy and Co-Worker Dan Doyle lifted the over 250 pound lid closing the sewer with a strong magnet. Campers exclaimed how they saw toilet paper at the bottom while Cathy explained the importance of sewers and their role of keeping rivers and lakes clean.

Students surrounding the manhole. Photo courtesy of Jonee Brigham.

The journey continued to Harriet Island for a river boat ride along the Mississippi River. After students explored the different levels of the Padelford river boat, Brian Goodspeed, a Park Ranger with the U.S. National Park Service, answered a flurry of questions about our rivers and how to keep them clean. Some included “what happens downstream?” and “do you see any beavers?”. As a group, we poured out the water that we collected at the beginning of our journey (at the River Park intake) back into where it once came! What a day!

Brian Goodspeed and campers on the upper level of the river boat.
Photo courtesy of Jonee Brigham.

Campers were also encouraged to document what they were seeing along the Mississippi river in their journals. Here is a look at some of their amazing art:

Camper Sophie

Camper Tandece 
Camper Haley

Camper Allie

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Water Journey Day 2: From the river to our tap!

Day two of drink week merged the AM and PM groups together for a field trip adventure! The first stop of the journey was River Park. Here campers had the chance to collect their own samples of river water right out of the Mississippi! Jodi Wallin, the Public Information Officer at Saint Paul Regional Water Services, and Alex Rossow, Water Quality Specialist, provided history regarding the Water Treatment Plant (across the river), as well as explaining the journey water takes from intake to tap.
Initial water intake plant on the Mississippi River - Photo Courtesy of camper

Additionally, the campers walked through the rain garden adjacent to the parking lot. Sarah and Dan, Environmental Scientists at Wenck,  showcased how runoff works by pouring water on pavement, grass, and prairie. They answered the many questions campers had about runoff and explained the effects bacteria and fertilizer can have on the river and its ecosystem.

Afterwards, a lunch stop was made at Sucker Lake, where Nick Voss, an educator for the Vadnais Lakes Area Watershed Management Organization and Tyler Thompson, a GIS Watershed Technician, displayed various aquatic life (dragonfly larvae, crayfish, and other small fish) and emphasized the importance of water quality on ecosystems. The campers also filled their vials with water from Sucker Lake to test turbidity, pH, and dissolved oxygen levels.

Aquatic species found in Sucker Lake -Photo courtesy of camper

The final stop was at the Water Treatment Plant, where staff gave us tours about the process of purifying water for drinking. We were allowed to enter the clarifier room that hold 2.6 million gallons of water. In this clarifier water is slowed down to allow gravity to settle the particles found in water until paddles at the bottom push the solids towards the center which are then pumped to the dewatering building. This water treatment plant serves 40 million gallons of water for 500,000 people in the metro area.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Drink Week Begins!

The first day of Drink Week was a success! Both groups started their journey with name games to get the ball rolling. Shortly after, a few items were given to them, which included: a water bottle for testing water, a Water Journey journal, and a camera assigned to each of the campers. Campers were then lead to the IonE water fountain where they were asked where their water came and where did it go after flowing down the drain? These questions intrigued many campers and got them eager to find an answer. Luckily, they are in store for a week of water exploration that will give them the tools and knowledge to become water experts!

Students surrounding the water fountain. Picture courtesy of Andreas Fenner

Friday, June 9, 2017

2017 Water Journey Camps!

Water Journey Camps are happening again summer 2017!

Drink Camp is June 12-16 and Rain Camp is June 19-23.

Check back here for updates through out the camps.