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Sixth Graders Bare Their Soles!

Posted: July 25, 2011

For the fifth year running, Water Quality Specialist Dana Rizzo impressed the importance of water quality on sixth graders campers, including a session that requires them to peel their socks and shoes and tiptoe through a small wetland.

She admits that by the time all 181 Greensburg Salem students at the annual Camp Soles outing have explored the wet earth, "it's pretty much a mud puddle." Still, on their walkabout they may catch glimpses of wetland denizens such as tadpoles, crayfish or, yes, the occasional snake. Wetlands are just one facet of understanding how water cycles above, on and below

the earth's surface, she says.

Accompanied by Penn State summer intern Samantha Pedder, a Wildlife and Fisheries Science major, Dana conducted several Project WET (Water Education for Teachers) activities including the wetland exploration, and the Incredible Journey, where youngsters "pretend they're water drops passing through nine stations," she says. "Some start in the ocean, then 'evaporate' and go to a cloud, only to fall back in the ocean. Others bound in a glacier realize they may be there for a very long time."

The other session, called Just Passing Through, follows water's path from landfall and beyond through the soil, where it can pick up and disburse nutrients as well as pesticides, herbicides and other man-made chemicals. Not to mention sediment itself, whose erosion triggers "one of the biggest pollutants in Pennsylvania," Dana says. Coordinators of the program were teachers John Dini and Cheryl Ruggieri.