Water and 4-H make for a good team. Together, they’re making a splash this week as children are educated and entertained about water’s role in everyday life at the sixth annual 4-H2O camp.
Approximately 100 students from Georgia 4-H programs in Lowndes, Grady, Dougherty, Decatur, Colquitt, Mitchell and Terrell Counties were at Stripling Irrigation Research Park in Camilla on Tuesday to learn about water conservation, the role it plays in farming and how daily activities affect the quality of water.
“We’re trying to help the kids get a better understanding and appreciation of the importance of water — why it’s important to farmers, why it’s important to homeowners, why it’s important to the environment, why it’s worth protecting and preserving,” said Calvin Perry, superintendent of the research park.
“Our goal is to help them get a better understanding of water and its importance.”
The camp is coordinated by Stripling Irrigation Park, Mitchell County 4-H and the Flint RiverQuarium in Albany.
The trip to the park also provided many of the children a first-hand look at agriculture. The park is a University of Georgia research farm and home to crops like cotton, peanuts, corn, sweet corn and tomatoes. Perry estimated that less than half of the 4-Hers in attendance live on farms. For most, they saw crops growing they hadn’t seen before.
For those crops to grow, they need water, which is why Perry presented a lesson on irrigation. The 4-Hers learned how irrigation pivots work. Those who wanted to, stood under the sprinklers to cool off in the summer heat.
“We’ve got some good fun activities. It’s not all sitting in a classroom,” Perry said. “It’s all hands-on, very personal. The instructors are very hands-on. They try to make it fun.”
While entertaining the children was important, educating them about water conservation was top priority for Perry and his fellow instructors.
“I think that’s true for most kids and most adults, that we don’t appreciate where water comes from. Does it have a limitation? Those of us that work in environmental issues sometimes don’t fully appreciate where that water comes from and what it takes to get that water to your tap or to your center pivot,” Perry said. “We open a lot of eyes with the importance of water and its limitations.”
On Wednesday, the camp moved to Albany where the 4-Hers visited Flint Riverquarium. On Thursday, they will visit Andrews Lock and Dam on the Chattahoochee River, where Seminole County extension agent Rome Etheridge will present a brief overview of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system. The camp will conclude at a water park in Dothan.
(Clint Thompson is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences based in Tifton.)