Every year the quiet and sleepy St. Jones Reserve, and our neighbor the John Dickinson Plantation, get a shot of life and excitement when fourth grade students from across Delaware descend on our properties. No it’s not an attack; it’s our annual Make a Splash Water Festival. The festival, now in its sixteenth year, provides a fun and educational day for students to explore the importance of water resources in our past, present, and future. This year’s festival held on March 31st brought together almost 650 students from all three counties and close to 100 water resource and historical professionals!
The festival is set up so that students spend half of their day at the St. Jones Reserve and the other half at the John Dickinson Plantation. At the Reserve students are introduced to the “how” and “what” of water through activities like the “Incredible Journey”, an interactive game about the water cycle. Each student is given a colored bead that represents where they are in the water cycle, if they were a droplet of water. Then using number cubes the students play a game where they are sent through the cycle, and along the way collect different colored beads to represent where they have been. In the end each student has a colorful bracelet that acts as a visual representation of a water droplet’s journey through the water cycle. This is just one of thirteen options the students had to learn about water at the St. Jones Reserve. Once the students thoroughly explore the “how” and “what” of water they travel to the John Dickinson Plantation to learn the “why”.
To understand the “why” the John Dickinson Plantation is used as a case study to show how the plantation relied on water and the St. Jones River in the 1700’s. Some presentations include how traditional colonial beverages were made and the types of food that were harvested from the St. Jones River. In addition to learning about water use in colonial food making, they also learn about the role it played in the settling and growth of the colonies. At one station students participate in the “Starting a Colony” game, presented by the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation, where they explore the decision making that went into planning a trip from Europe to Delaware in the 1600’s. From what supplies to bring, to where to start a new colony in Delaware students learn how factors like water shaped these decisions. (To learn more about the “Starting a Colony” lesson plan visit the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation’s webpage.) Once students have visited both sides of the festival they head out for the day leaving space for the next round of students to arrive and learn about Delaware’s water resources.
By the end of the trip the students have a better understanding of why water is such an important resource here in Delaware. This understanding will lead to next generation of water resources stewards.
And a special thank you is in order for all the hard work and donations that are given every year to ensure this great event can continue!
Sponsors: Tidewater Utilities; Terra Systems, Inc.; Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Division of Watershed Stewardship; Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, John Dickinson Plantation; The Friends of the John Dickinson Plantation; The Delaware Association of Conservation Districts; The Project WET Foundation; The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Make a Splash Planning Committee: The Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve; Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, John Dickinson Plantation; The Delaware Association of Conservation Districts; DNREC Division of Watershed Stewardship, DNREC Division of Water; DNERC Division of Parks and Recreation; and Tidewater Utilities.
Volunteers and Presenters: Delaware Department of Agriculture; Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control; Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve; Delaware Nature Society; Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs; The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary; Kent Conservation District; New Castle Conservation District; Sussex Conservation District; Tidewater Utilities; Envirotech Inc.; the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation; and Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, Office of Drinking Water
To learn more about the event or to support it in the future please contact our Education Coordinator Maggie Pletta at Margaret.Pletta@state.de.us.
To view more photos from the day visit our Facebook (DNERR) and view our Make a Splash 2015 album!
To add variety to the blog and to offer a fresh perspective from our visitors, we are inviting guest bloggers to write posts describing their visits and thoughts while at the reserve. The guest blog and photo today are brought to you by M.L. Christmas and her thoughts on “forest-bathing”. Enjoy! (Maggie Pletta, DNERR Education Coordinator & Blog Editor)
Take A Bath in the Woods!
Face it: Hauling a claw-foot tub into a wooded clearing, at any time of the year, is just not practical. However, a therapeutic walk along the forest paths at DNERR can be its own spa-like experience, and it comes with a Japanese name: shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing.” Pick your “flavor” of soaking environment: the woodland sensations of the Blackbird Creek Reserve or the estuarine delights of the St. Jones Reserve. Whether “bathing” by yourself or as part of a group, the relaxation is free of charge!
Shinrin-yoku is the practice of taking a leisurely stroll through the woods while steeping oneself in its sights, sounds, and smells. At DNERR, one can become immersed in the wildness of nature regardless of the season: whether admiring autumn’s red, orange, brown, and gold confettied carpet or gazing into winter’s leaf-lined puddles of refrozen snowmelt alongside the meandering trails. The occasional chirrup, squeak, or quack, from the woods or the waterway, denotes the presence of a new friend.
One does not “dry” oneself after these walks. The experience continues to cling to each participant once he or she resumes life’s daily routines. A prolonged shinrin-yoku will not saturate your skin and make you look wrinkly like a prune, but it will saturate your being and perhaps add some wrinkles of knowledge to your noggin while at the same time smoothing away your worries.
Who needs a rubber ducky when a glimpse of a real, live Ruddy Duck might await!
M.L. Christmas, MSM, is a freelance writer/editor living in the Dover area. She has written dozens of articles for newsletters, newspapers, magazines, and websites. Her work has appeared in local, regional, national and international publications and other venues, and she has written in tones ranging from scholarly to humorous, depending on the audience. She is a longtime member of Delaware Press Association and the National Federation of Press Women. Her approach to nature writing, she says, is part Henry David Thoreau and part Dave Barry.
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For more information about shinrin-yoku, see <www.shinrin-yoku.org>.