Explore the World of Water Science at Children’s Water Festival

September 13, 2022

Do you ever wonder what happens to water after it rains? Or when water evaporates? 

These are just a couple of the questions sure to be answered at the annual Chatham-Kent & Lambton Children’s Water Festival. This volunteer-organized event began in 2007 when staff from several organizations were inspired by similar events held in other communities.

Students learn how water moves through different size rocks and pebbles, simulating how water moves through the environment.

A Fresh Idea

“We saw water festivals operating across Ontario and thought it was a good idea to try in this area. It’s an outdoor, hands-on festival about water, water conservation, protection, and technology. We thought this could be a good project for the Chatham-Kent and Lambton area, so we spent some time seeing what other people were doing and started to put ours together,” explains Festival Coordinator Don Hector.

Taking place for three days just outside Chatham at CM Wilson Conservation Area, the festival is only open to students.

“Grades 4 and 5 elementary school students are invited to come. This is a good age to start teaching students about water in a hands-on way through activities. Students who’ve attended in the past remember the things they learn at the festival and carry it through their life,” Don explains.

Dozens of volunteers help run the festival, including high school students who are trained to run the activities, allowing the festival to work as a learning experience for them as well.

“Since 2007, we’ve had 3,000 high school students and 2,400 parents and teachers as volunteers at the festival. We’ve seen over 16,000 elementary school students participate,” says Don.

Making a Splash

Each day, a new group of elementary and high school students attend the festival and participate in a variety of activities designed to teach about water and the imperative role it plays in our lives

Some of the activities include:

  • Water Cycle Madness – this simple game explores the water cycle of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation
  • Ponds and Pollywogs – students can examine the types of aquatic life by using nets to catch organisms, placing them in Petri dishes, and looking at them with a microscope
  • Bucket Brigade – students learn the role of water in safety, and this activity shows children how fires were put out by forming a line between a water source and a ‘fire’ by passing along buckets of water to extinguish it quickly
  • Porosity and Permeability – a demonstration showing what type of materials hold on to water and which materials allow water to pass over them

In this activity, students pour blue water through containers filled with sand, soil, clay, and rocks to see how fast water travels through them.

Each activity is held in a tent and two or three high school students guide elementary school students through a demonstration. Some involve pouring water through small-scale versions of farms, cities, and terrain to see how it moves. 

Others include testing water pH, learning how clothes were cleaned before washing machines were invented, and examining what types of fish can be found in Lake Erie.

“Teachers and volunteers have described the event as a giant outdoor classroom. There’s a large pond at the site that provides an aquatic setting to the experience,” Don says.

This activity explores how laundry was done before washing machines were invented.

A Big Return

“We’re getting ready to bring back the festival this fall. Our partners who are key in making the festival run are all on board, to make it happen again,” says Don.

While the festival was previously placed on hold for the past few years, this isn’t its first return. 

“There were a few years we couldn’t hold the festival for various reasons, and we’ve only held it three times over the past three years. This will be our 11th year over the past 15 years,” Don explains.

Organizers are excited to welcome students back to the festival, and there may be something new coming this year.

“We’re hoping to bring a new activity focused on fish and art. We plan to bring some artists on board, and we think that’ll be a great activity to show the connection between water and fish,” Don says.

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