Campers learned the impact pollution has on plants, clean water and the environment during this week's Oceans, Lakes, Rivers and Streams day camp.
The event is part of the Arts Council of Tahlequah 2019 Summer Arts & Leadership Day Camp program. The program teaches children important life lessons based on a different theme each of its eight weeks. Past themes include "Art is for All," "My Neighborhood," "History and Culture" and "Celebrating America." This was the program's fifth week.
On Thursday and Friday, campers participated in Journey to the Bottom of the Creek, a segment taught by Jahna Hill, Tahlequah city stormwater manager, at Tahlequah Creek in Sequoyah Park. She was assisted by stormwater intern Tommi Fouts.
"Here in Tahlequah, we have unique aquatic life, crystal-clear water and natural springs and ponds," said Hill. "The Ozark region is home to more than 70 fish species and several bug species. It's important to teach them about water quality issues to protect these unique species."
They learned about the environment through fun activities, including fish catching, building "fairy gardens," making fish prints with paint and playing with an EnviroScape.
"They love the EnviroScape the most out of everything here," said Hill. "It's basically a watershed model of a town, which is an area of land that drains to the creek."
Campers selected their own food coloring and poured it onto the model. The food coloring drained into the model's lake, simulating water pollution.
"Factories can pollute the water that leads to the ocean," said camper Landon Fields, 11. "This affects the environment in a bad way. It hurts animals and it poisons our drinking water."
Factories are not the only cause of pollution, according to camper Catherine Wooten, 10.
"Even though dirt is in water, too much of it can still pollute the water," said Catherine. "When water gets too muddy, it's bad for the fish and other animals."
The benefit of using the EnviroScape is that it creates both an educational and fun experience for campers.
"Polluting the mini model is my favorite part of camp," said camper Kai Brinkley, 9. "It's fun because I just really like playing with models. I like seeing how the pollution on the hills gets into the streams."
This week's camp had eight children ages 6-13. Teaching them the importance of the environment at a young age is beneficial, Hill said.
"What we do on land affects the water quality," said Hill. "They should know what problems exist and what they can do to raise awareness about them."
Although Oceans, Lakes, Rivers and Streams week has concluded, there are still three more weeks left in the program. Starting Monday, campers explore mountains, landscapes, waterfalls and stained-glass windows.
To enroll, fill out an application at the ACT Gallery or call 918-457-7345. Camps cost $150 per week, per camper. After the first camper has enrolled, each additional sibling costs $50 per week. Space is limited to 20 campers. Camps are 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday at the ACT Gallery.