Girl Scouts Help Save the Bay
One year ago this month, I was frantically finishing up term papers, studying for finals, saying goodbyes, packing for a month-long adventure, and embarking on the first step to the rest of my life. In the midst of all of this, I barely had time to look back and reflect on things, because I was too busy looking forward. At the time, I felt stressed, hurried, and frightened.
Looking back now, all I see that the stress and fear was unwarranted. I passed all of my classes. I kept all of my friends. I got a job. I had an amazing time on my post-grad trip to Indonesia.
It’s all too easy to let the unknowns of the future scare us, but if the past is any indication, everything will be just fine.
That’s what I admire about 7-year-olds. Maybe you see their utter lack of fear as naïve, but I see it as admirable. And it’s not just fear they lack. They don’t see boundaries as we do. They haven’t been knocked down enough to know where their limitations are. They barrel headfirst into any task before them. And most times, they knock it out of the park.
Last month, I had the opportunity to teach a group of 7-year-old Girl Scouts about the Chesapeake Bay. I always enjoy working with the next generation of conservationists, but these kids were especially full of life, and they really made the session memorable!
Zach snapped some photos during the event, so here’s a recap! Feel free to borrow activities, in case anyone out there needs ideas for a lesson in water stewardship!
We started out by playing the classic game, train wreck, with a water twist. The game is a variation of musical chairs: one person stands in the middle and says something about themselves. In this case, they had to say something they use water for. Anyone else who also uses water for that task then has to find a new spot in the circle. Whoever doesn’t find a spot ends up back in the middle!
The object of the game is NOT to get stuck in the middle, but these gals couldn’t get enough! They shared all kinds of water-related tasks, but the crowd favorite was water ballon fights!
After getting out all the jitters, we sat down for some drawing time. Each girl was given a sheet of paper that represented “river-front property,” and they had to draw how they would develop the land.
The catch? Each piece of land was part of the same river! I played the role of the bad water steward, and built a polluting shoe factory on my property to illustrate how one person’s actions can affect all of us. They had some choice words for me!
This was also the perfect time to explain the concept of a watershed – essentially a shallow funnel that leads rainwater to a stream or river! To figure out how this water exists and changes in the natural world, we did a quick water cycle recap.
The girls had learned an adorable song to remember each stage, but they still loved reviewing how water molecules interact with one another by acting it out!
There were only three rules of the game: 1) Water molecules are attracted to each other. 2) Water molecules get excited by energy, causing them to move and spread out. 3) Water molecules are very QUIET.
They didn’t do a great job with the third rule, but what can ya do…
We also got to see the water cycle in action by boiling water for our tea party! Surprisingly enough, the tea was the most confusing part of the whole lesson! A few of the girls ripped their tea bags open to pour the tea into their cups, others were afraid to drink the tea because they were unsure of what it would taste like, and they were all amazed at the water changing color as the tea steeped! They absorbed the science, but unfortunately, no one liked the taste of the tea enough to actually drink it!
After a quick snack break…I broke out the main event. You can see the anticipation building!
This enviroscape model is one of my favorite watershed teaching tools. It’s the perfect way to illustrate how water moves through a community, while letting the learners interact with the props and get a little messy! (Contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District if you’d like to borrow a model for a lesson!)
Once the community is all set up, I let each girl (heaven forbid anyone miss out on this part!) drop some pollutants (read: sprinkles) around the model. We made sure to add everything you’d find in a typical urban or suburban area, including litter, toxic household chemicals, sediment, fertilizers, pesticides, industrial waste…and of course, POOP! Everyone was jealous of the girl who got to sprinkle poop.
Then it was time for the rainstorm!
We ended up polluting the floor as well as the model, but the girls absolutely LOVED spritzing water all over their pollutants and seeing the resulting sludge. How’s that for a concrete representation of what pollution can do to a body of water?
Finally, it was time to send them back to their parents to spread the word. We brainstormed “water promises” for them to uphold, and they were asked to collaborate with their families and report back on their progress at the next meeting.
Many of them were really ambitious, taking on three or four promises! Many of the promises involved hounding their parents to fix leaky faucets or stop running half-full loads in the dishwasher. Of course, the water balloon fight advocates promised to have fewer balloon fights in the future.
I was especially impressed with how easily these youngsters grasped the material and really took it to heart. They couldn’t wait to get out there and carry out their water stewardship!
Seeing this kind of enthusiasm for conservation makes me think that there’s hope for humanity after all. With the firestorm of bad news we hear every day, the future can look pretty bleak. But these girls believe that they can do better. They can make the world better. After seeing their smiling faces charge out of the clubhouse with determination, I know that to be true.
So whenever I’m unsure about something, I’ll channel my inner 7-year-old: Bold. Unapologetic. Fearless. Because without fear to hold us back, there’s nothing we can’t do.
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