KOKOMO, Ind. – A heavy downpour pounded the shoreline of the lake, quickly flooding the beach and raising the water level.
But because of a wetland barrier, the rain did not wash a devastating amount of soil into the lake during this simulation exercise.
“When we made it rain, the wetland kept our lake from flooding, and cleared up the pollution,” said Leda Casey, senior lecturer in geology at Indiana University Kokomo, as children gather around the aluminum baking dish that holds the “lake” and “beach”. One child tipped up the watering can that was creating the monsoon, and all watched as the wetland — represented by a blue kitchen sponge — kept the modeling clay that makes up the shore from washing into their lake.
The wetland simulation was one of many hands-on sustainability activities offered through Indiana University Kokomo’s Persimmon Camp, June 24 to June 28.
“I hope that as we emphasize the importance of caring for our planet, that students learn they can make small changes in their lives that will impact its future,” said Casey, who led the program.
Thirty-six children attended the program, who are part of the KokomoMentum, a science, technology, engineering, and math after school and summer program offered by Kokomo Schools.
In addition to building their own wetlands, the children planted native coneflower plants with the Wildcat Guardians, created water filtration systems with coffee filters, toured the Elwood Haynes organic farm, created recycled art, and learned about how daily choices about buying food grown locally or far away impacts their carbon footprint, among other activities. They also built bat boxes, visited IU Kokomo’s ecological restoration area, and enjoyed a live raptor presentation.
Rajdeep Maity, 9, said while he enjoyed the whole week, the wetlands simulation was his favorite.
“I’m sure we can do some things at home that I learned at camp,” he said.
Ayanna Quinn, 9, also was impressed by the water activity.
“We learned that water can be dirty, but there are ways we can make it clean again,” she said.
Amirah Marciniak plans to recycle more because of attending Persimmon Camp.
“I liked seeing the animals, and learning about the environment," she said.
Casey said these were the kinds of impacts planners wanted as a result of the camp.
“Our hope is that these kids feel empowered when they see how they can make a difference, and will carry that over into their lives.”
In addition to Casey, other faculty members involved included Marcia Gillette, adjunct lecturer in chemistry, Kim Mossburg, lecturer in nutritional science, and Lina Rifai, associate professor of vertebrate biology.
Persimmon Camp was funded with a $5,000 grant NIPSCO Environmental Action Grant, given to fund restoration and education projects. IU Kokomo was one of 15 winners of $50,000 for projects in northern Indiana.
“The projects funded through our Environmental Action Grant embody the vision of our conservation framework,” said Brian Kortum, NIPSCO manager of natural resources permitting. “Together with our neighboring communities and conservation groups, we are striving to be a leader in the preservation, protection, and restoration of critical habitats.”
Indiana University Kokomo celebrates 75 years as north central Indiana’s choice for higher education.