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Festival engages students

Claire Eidenschink dipped a pot into a trashcan filled with water, then raced to a bucket about 10 feet away. Her classmates cheered as she dumped the contents before a competitor from another school. The third-grader from Horace, N.D., was one o...

Claire Eidenschink dipped a pot into a trashcan filled with water, then raced to a bucket about 10 feet away.

Her classmates cheered as she dumped the contents before a competitor from another school.

The third-grader from Horace, N.D., was one of 1,400 area elementary students who participated in the fifth annual Red River Water Festival in Moorhead.

The festival, which began Tuesday and ends today, teaches students about water using hands-on activities.

Eidenschink and her Horace Elementary classmates were learning Wednesday how difficult a basic task like collecting water would have been before plumbing.

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The bucket students raced to fill only held 5 gallons of water, exhibit volunteer Jessica Martin told the third and fourth grade students. The average family today uses 200 gallons of water a day, she said.

"We learned how water was used and cleaned," Eidenschink said. "We learned they used to use windmills to pump the water."

Experts told students where water comes from and where it goes.

Bruce Albright, administrator of the Buffalo Red River Watershed District, used a model of a city and dye to show students how an innocuous task like fertilizing the lawn can cause pollution.

Laura Bonneau of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service used yarn to demonstrate to students how the ecosystem is interconnected.

Students wore tags naming a specific plant or animal. They were then told to pass the ball of yarn to a species their tag depended on. Soon a web was formed.

Students then saw no plant or animal could be taken out of the web without impacting all the other species.

"We learned about the wetlands," said Malena Mastel, a fourth-grader at Longfellow Elementary in Fargo. "We learned what lives there and why they need each other."

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The festival, which is free to students and schools, is the result of weeks of planning by River Keepers, a local nonprofit group focused on promoting the Red River.

All experts are asked to keep the presentations interactive.

"A lot of times the kids are having fun and not even realizing they're learning," said Christine Holland, project coordinator.

This was the first time Dilworth Elementary teacher Nancy Cole took her fourth-grade students to the festival. She plans on returning.

"This is excellent," she said. "It is important they learn about conservation. Their future and their children's future depends on it."

Eidenschink left more informed about the environment and how her actions impact it.

"I might pickup stuff around the river so garbage doesn't get into the river," she said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Baird at (701) 241-5535

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