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Festival teaches students from throughout the state the importance of clean drinking water

Fourth grade students from Lyme, Plymouth and New Hampton elementary school took home this year's top honors in a state wide Water Poetry Competition. (Photo by Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
May 16, 2018
PLYMOUTH – Fourth grade students from all across New Hampshire were invited to take part in the 26th Annual New Hampshire Drinking Water Festival and Fourth Grade State Water Science Fair, which was hosted this year by the Town of Plymouth.

As part of the event, presented by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, students were challenged to present projects related to water, compose poetry about water, and take part in many fun and educational activities at River Front Park.

While projects by the students were on display in the upper level of the Plymouth Senior Center on May 9, dozens of information booths and activity centers were also available along both the entrance to the center and adjacent amphitheater as well, where clear water from the Pemigewasset River appropriately flowed by.

Several divisions of DES took part in the all day event that also celebrated National Clean Water Week; each presenting information and activities that relate to water impacted topics in the state.

Making their way from booth to booth, students learned, in a fun fashion, about water tension, heard about animals who rely on clean water, and even got to experiment a bit when they were challenged to see how many drops of water a penny could hold.

"Water drops love to hang out and hold onto each other," one DES representative informed them as they dabbed water onto the coins.

The Dam Bureau also had some fun with the boys and girls, letting them know that "dam" is not a bad word- it's a structure meant to block water. Students were invited to make paper cups out of water to see how structures can stop water from flowing from one place to another and learned the positive side of that as well.

"Dams have many benefits. They help with flood control, create recreational activities, promote wildlife and fish populations, and can even produce electricity," they were told.

A bit of chemistry came into play when students learned about arsenic, a naturally occurring substance in bedrock that can be found in well water and a rain barrel helped show ways water can be "recycled" when it falls from the sky.

The Designated Rivers Program also invited children to learn about the good and bad things that can happen along a river and how human actions can affect wildlife who depend on clean water. Amoskeag Fishways also added a bit of a creepy, crawly element to the day.

"We brought some actual live macro-invertebrates so the kids could learn what they (the insects) can tell us about the health of a waterway," staff members said.

And perhaps most fun of all was the booth where the fourth graders got to taste water samples from four New Hampshire municipalities then vote for which tasted the best.

At lunch time the students all moved to the Flying Monkey Performance Center for a bite to eat, then enjoyed a mini-concert by a musician from Earth Jam who the students really enjoyed.

"That was awesome! I loved the concert. It was so good," said one Plymouth Elementary School student.

Following the concert awards for the day were presented for not only the science fair projects but a special Water Poetry competition as well, which encompassed more than 50 entries from schools around the state. On hand to present the awards was WMUR Channel 9 Meteorologist Hayley LaPoint.

As LaPoint called out the names of the top four winners, the students joined her on the stage to not only accept their awards but to read their winning poetry. While Reese Kenney of Lyme took First Place, the Plymouth and Newfound area schools finished strong in the competition, too. Collaborating in their efforts, Joshua York, Keegan Ingram of New Hampton Community School won Honorable Mention. Aidan Freitas, Blaine Hiltz and Logan Libby from Plymouth Elementary School took home Third Place honors, and PES classmates Amanda Ahern, Avery Tuttle-Wilcox, and Addy Allain, came in Second Place.

In the Water Science Fair, the southern part of the state dominated the competition this time around with Alaria Clauss of Keene awarded First Place honors, Jack Quarry of Keene came in Second Place, and Ashton Foreman of Harrisville finished in Third Place. Honorable Mentions this year went to Emma Petrovich of Keene and Rylee Donovan from Manchester.

Results of the blind water sampling challenge were also revealed during the ceremonies. This year Keene topped the list with the fourth grade judges, but Plymouth fared well, too, beating out Concord and Manchester in what turned out to be an otherwise tightly contested competition.

Plymouth Elementary School Principal Julie Flynn was excited about the day's events and grateful that this year's traveling Water Science Fair was held right in their community.

"We love this. It's right up our alley, learning about the environment in an authentic way. It's been so engaging for our kids," Flynn said.

Flynn also expressed her gratitude to the Plymouth Water Commission, which worked hard to bring the event to Plymouth this year.

PES fourth graders agreed on the success of the day, but each for different reasons. Some liked learning about water erosion, some liked the many activities they could take part in, the insects were "cool" a few said, but all agreed that they learned why it is not a good practice to throw trash in rivers, streams and ponds.

One student summed it all up though by saying, "Pretty much, it was a great day."

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