All of our fourth-graders recently learned about the workings of a watershed using a 3-D “Enviroscape” model to demonstrate runoff and engage students on the health of our waterways. These photos are from Kara-Lynne Frees-Spoganetz’s class at School No. 5, but the same program was delivered to fourth-graders throughout the district.

During visits to each elementary school, Jennifer Helminski of the AmeriCorps NJ Watershed Ambassadors Program used the model to demonstrate how rainwater runs off and is collected in streams and rivers and carried out to the ocean. She also talked specifically about our watershed and its main waterways: the Rahway River, the Elizabeth River and the Arthur Kill.

Helminski told students about the different types of pollution that can be washed into our waterways by rain, including litter, animal waste, automobile fluids, road salt, pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals.

She gave the students washable markers to draw on the model where they thought different types of pollution would be found – motor oil on a roadway or pesticides on a farm, for example. Each color marker represented a different kind of pollution.

When the students were done, Helminski used a spray bottle to simulate a rainstorm. As the “rain” trickled down the model, students were able to see it carry along the “pollution” that they had colored on the plastic.

The water was collected in a plastic container, and the students were able to see that it had turned black. Helminski explained that all the pollution that runs off into our waterways can be harmful to humans and wildlife.

The program is presented in partnership with the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.