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River Institute hosts hundreds at Water Festival

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By Shawna O'Neill
River Institute hosts hundreds at Water Festival
Bailey Tait and Pierre-Luc Hurtubise, high school volunteers helping with the water displays. Shawna ONeill/Seaway News photo.

CORNWALL, Ontario – Celebrating 25 years of local environmental research, education and advocacy, the St. Lawrence River Institute attracted hundreds of students to their annual Water Festival event on Thursday, Oct. 3 and Friday, Oct. 4.

Although some students were unable to attend a field trip due to impacts of CUPE workers enacting a work-to-rule campaign, the event was still a hit among many young environmentalists as they participated in fun learning activities while educating themselves about the importance of our local water ecosystems. Even Environmental Minister Catherine McKenna was in attendance, attracting many supporting organizations and Board Members who spoke with and got to meet McKenna.

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Lexy Harquail, River Institute Biologist and Educator, explained that the event is intended to teach students about the importance of water through interactive activities, better explaining concepts like preservation and conservation.

“It’s nice to have the high school volunteers because they’re the ones who actually come out and deliver the stations to the kids and they also get a little bit of something out of it, learning and teaching others,” added Harquail.

Stations included information about fish, underwater plant life and much more. A toilet station demonstrated how much water is used when we flush. Another station challenged students to carry a stick with two buckets of water attached to it, demonstrating how accessibility to fresh water is essential and some children in less developed countries may have to travel great distances to attain buckets of clean drinking water. Another station educated students about water geology, and porosity and permeability, showing how water travels through different sediments and how this can impact where wells and systems involving water are built.

“Coordinated by the River Institute, the Eastern Ontario Children’s Water Festival is a science- based field trip that hosts hundreds of local students annually throughout eastern Ontario. Festival days provide unique hands-on education that explores the value and fragility of fresh water resources. Each of the 25+ Water Discovery Centres promotes a specific water resource and conservation message through fun, and interactive educational opportunities. Trained local high school volunteers host these Discovery Centres as well as guest presenters from water conservation organizations,” read a River Institute press release. 

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Jenni MacDonald, Dominion Lending, Cornwall, Ontario