Written by Breanne Penkala, AmeriCorps member placed at the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension
“Can I flush you?”
This is one question I frequently get asked by students at the start of each WetFest event.
WetFest is a daylong education festival to teach 4-6th graders about water and how to protect the Cape’s aquifer. Twenty-five AmeriCorps members facilitate activities about the physical properties of water, show how humans interact with water and suggest ways we can reduce our use of water. These activities range in difficulty and thrill, but the favorites always remain the same:
- Sea Turtle Rescue – A race to the finish to see which team can rescue sea creatures from oil spills the fastest and learn how to rehabilitate animals after an environmental disaster occurs
- Flush the Kids – A glance at the inside a “septic system” to understand the nitrogen levels in groundwater
- Edible Aquifer – A tasty treat comprised of ice, ice cream, soda, and sprinkles to demonstrate the different levels in our aquifer and what happens when it is polluted
- Bubble Booth – A look from inside a life-size bubble to learn about adhesion, cohesion, and surface tension of water
The day starts and ends with a skit that involves a large toilet, a rude dude that tries to dump oil on the ground, and a wizard who comes to the rescue to make sure we all learn how to protect our precious water supply. As the WetFest coordinator, I make sure the day goes smoothly by guiding students to open activities, making sure members have the materials they need to teach each activity, and answering any questions the teachers may have. I wear a toilet costume for good measure, hence, all of the weird questions I get from students about “flushing” me. I am by no means required to wear a huge toilet, but it definitely entertains the kids and the members get a kick out of it as well.
As the coordinator of this event, I do not get to facilitate an activity, but I thoroughly enjoy watching the other 25 members interact with the children and experience the enthusiasm and laughter from the students at each activity. At the end of each event, we know that our hard work pays off when the students commit to being “Groundwater Guardians” by promising to protect our water in any way they can. It is also encouraging to hear students say “my brother always leaves the faucet on when he brushes his teeth, but now I will make sure he shuts it off so he wastes less water”. Since September of 2015, we have already reached over 700 students through these interactive activities at WetFest, and we are excited to teach even more in the second half of our service year!