Alcosan camps puts focus on the necessity for clean water
June 27, 2016 12:00 AM
Aryan Bonigala and Rithwik Nagavelli, day campers at Alcosan's Summer Science camp for fourth and fifth graders, marvel over a frog during a presentation by April Claus, a naturalist from the Fern Hollow Nature Center.
Day campers at the Alcosan Summer Science camp for fourth and fifth graders, reach out to touch a turtle during a presentation by April Claus, a naturalist from the Fern Hollow Nature Center.
Etienne Srandberg-Houze, a day camper at Alcosan Summer Science camp for fourth and fifth graders, gets a close up look at a garter snake during a presentation by April Claus, a naturalist from the Fern Hollow Nature Center.
By Anthony Mendicino / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A group of 31 fourth- and fifth-grade students gathered recently around an assortment of reptiles, toads and frogs as a part of the first week of Alcosan’s Summer Science camp program.
April Claus, a naturalist from the Fern Hollow Nature Center in Sewickley, is a regular at the camp at Alcosan’s Woods Run facility. She brought the animals, all caught from watersheds in the Western Pennsylvania region, to demonstrate the importance of clean water to the natural environment.
“These animals are bioindicators. Their presence is a sign that a river is healthy,” Ms. Claus said as she pulled a snake from its tank.
One of the students immediately asked, “Will it bite me?”
“Do you smell like a mouse? Then you have nothing to worry about,” Ms. Claus said.
Close encounters with watershed animals is just one aspect of Alcosan’s three weeklong summer camps. Last week’s first session aimed at teaching the importance of having clean waterways throughout the region.
Another week of camp for fourth- and fifth-graders is scheduled for this week. For students in grades 6-8, a similar camp will be held held July 11-15. This year, Alcosan has added a program for high school-age students, which is scheduled for the week of July 18.
The camps are open to students from the 83 municipalities that the sanitary authority covers.
“We need them to understand what we’re doing and why,” camp counselor Amy Gross said. “Our goal is to provide awareness of the local environment.”
On the first day of camp, students toured the Alcosan facility and learned the process of cleaning wastewater and returning it to the environment.
“When water comes out of this plant, it is cleaner than the water that is already in the river,” said Jeanne Clark, a public information officer.
The rest of the camp covers every aspect of Alcosan’s process and, mainly, its importance to the environment around it.
Ms. Claus’ presentation, “What Lives in Your Watershed,” spoke mainly to the environmental side of the camp.
She presented slides to students and taught them about every species of animal that relies on watersheds for an environment.
Her own snake, named Allen, is also a regular at the camp. She held Allen as students felt his skin and she even put him on the floor to demonstrate how snakes move around.
Students gasped as she fed a garter snake, “Can you guys handle seeing a night crawler being eaten?” she said.
Of course, the students yelled yes, and the night crawler became snake food. She explained that while nature can be brutal, it deserves our respect and protection.
“Things aren’t going well with our environment. You guys, your generation, needs to figure it out and fix it,” Ms. Claus said.
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