Kids learn about the environment |

Kids learn about the environment

Tom Meyer
Emma Garrard / North Lake Tahoe Bonanza / Environmental geologist David Willard demonstrates how easy it is to contaminate ground water with an aquifer model at the Lake Tahoe School Environmental Science day at Sand Harbor Monday afternoon.

Though high winds and choppy waters canceled scheduled boat rides at the seventh annual Lake Tahoe Children’s Environmental Science Day, everyone involved in the event hailed this year’s program at Sand Harbor as a resounding success.

Even without being able to use the two vessels to measure Lake Tahoe’s famous clarity with Secchi dishes, the free event still boasted educational booths and presentations by 14 local research agencies.

The event, hosted by the Lake Tahoe School in Incline Village, aims to teach kids ages 8 and up about environmental issues and good stewardship by allowing them to explore informational booths, hands-on displays and presentations by local researchers at their own pace. This year, about 75 children attended, many of them returning.

Lake Tahoe School science teacher D.C. Larrabee, who facilitated the day’s events, said that organizers encourage parents to simply drop-off their children and let them wander from exhibit to exhibit on their own. According to Larrabee, this technique gives kids a stronger sense of “intellectual ownership” of the information they encounter, which hopefully increases their interest in learning more. Larrabee said that the program is clearly engaging kids, many of whom have attended the program in years past.

“It’s really cool to see (so many) returning customers … and to see the intellectual development of some of these kids,” he said. “Some of (them) could run their own booths.”

Larrabee also remarked on the growing number of girls in attendance, and estimated the male/female ratio was approximately 60/40 this year. He noted that there has been a increasing push by parents, especially mothers, to educate their daughters about math and science.

Sophie Breider, an 11-year-old from Incline Village, said that this year’s program was better than the one she attended two years ago, even without the boat rides. Both Breider and her friend, Lauren Fike, said their favorite display was the aquifer model run by the Nevada Rural Water Association. The aquifer was also popular with out-of-towners, such as Kathleen Davis, 11, who came to Environment Science Day from Woodland, Calif., with her sister and their two friends.

“(I learned) how we can help the environment by not polluting and not adding oil to the water or (by) making the wells deeper,” Davis said.

The model, which looked something like a submerged ant farm, demonstrated how small chemical leaks can adversely affect millions of gallons of drinking water by seeping through porous layers of sediment.

The event also attracted new organizations this year, including the Desert Research Institute, whose display featured a large photoelectric cell and a trading card game that teaches kids about renewable energy sources.

Jake Sunderland, who designed the trading cards, estimated that at least 60 children had taken the trading cards home with them. Also new this year was the California Tahoe Conservancy, which geared its display about the effects of erosion caused by human development towards some of the younger kids, according to a land steward with the conservancy.

Returning organizations included Space Science for Schools, the Tahoe Region Planning Agency and the U.S. Geological Survey.

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