William Nelson and Logan LValukas, two 13-year-old boys from Mitchell Middle School, pulled on hip waders and walked out into Lake Michigan carrying a long tube to collect a water sample.

The boys collected the water sample to run tests to see how clean the water is and understand the impact the coastal area has had on water quality over the years, especially since bacteria levels have shut down the beaches in past years. The two are among 900 4th and 7th-grade students who have participated in the WATERshed Experience on Wednesday.

A program that teaches about water quality issues the Root River and Lake Michigan have had, the WATERshed Experience is a collaboration between the Racine Unified School District, River Bend Nature Center, City of Racine, and the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

Nancy Carlson, project manager coordinator for the WATERshed Experience, said the program was started eight years ago when they brought 4th graders to the REC Center on 6th Street to learn about the Root River.

“They learn about run-off, where the Root River leads to and essentially where our drinking water is coming from,” Carlson said. “So they learn about what happens to the land effects our drinking water.

“But as the kids get bigger, the body of water they learn about gets bigger.”

Racine Unified uses the program to augment what they teach students about water in the 4th and 7th grades. William and Logan were both part of the program when they were in the 4th grade. The 7th graders learn about the city coastal management program, and how they filter the water coming out of the storm sewer through the various plantings to help filter the water. These wetlands projects have helped purify the water so that the beaches aren’t closed in the summer.

The SC Johnson Corp., Wisconsin Coastal Management Program and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management under the Coastal Zone Management Act, and Southeastern Wisconsin Watersheds Trust fund the program.

“The kids are learning that if you give the earth a chance, it actually cleans the water for us,” she said.

But being outside, helping to test the water quality, and learning about their community has helped solidify the relationship the children have with their community. Just putting on the waders brought back memories for William and Logan.

“It makes me feel happy, helpful and it brings back a lot of memories,” William said. “I go out hunting a lot and I’ll see trash around the water and I’ll pick it up.”

“It makes me sad that people trash this place,” Logan said.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t mind getting a bunch of people together on a Saturday to help pick up the trash along the beach,” William said with a smile.

 

 

 

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.

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