I've spent my whole life exploring nature. Most of my earliest and fondest memories take place outside collecting ants in jars, flipping rocks in the creek, catching toads and salamanders. I learned a lot from growing up in nature. Most importantly, though, I learned to care about it.
Unfortunately, I've encountered kids who've never seen a live frog and teenagers who think deer eat birds. It saddens me to know there are many kids who don't spend time outside and, consequently, don't understand how their actions can affect the natural world. But it's also gratifying to be able to have an influence on them by showing them just a few of the wonders of nature.
The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a land trust and watershed education organization. We educate people on the role they play in nature and how some of their actions can have far-reaching effects on the natural world. In the pursuit of this educational goal, I believe the best place to start is with kids. When kids spend time outside, they learn much more about nature than they ever would from a textbook, and they are likely to continue their outdoor habits into adulthood. We want to teach kids to appreciate nature and to understand that the decisions they make every day can affect it, for better or worse.
CWC’s Watershed Defender teaches kids to appreciate nature and understand that the decisions they make every day can affect it.
Photo by Tricia Bergstue
To that end, we've created the Watershed Defender, CWC's very own superhero. The Watershed Defender has starred in our kid-friendly summer mini-series, "Whitney for Whitney Bay," which can be found at youtube.com/chautauquawatershed. We also have an educational coloring book featuring the Watershed Defender, and he's even made some live appearances at CWC events. The Watershed Defender combats problems that affect our waterways and encourages kids to become watershed defenders, too, by being conscientious about their day-to-day activities.
Here are some simple ways kids (and grownups) can be watershed defenders:
*Never put anything into a storm drain.
*Don't be a litter bug, and pick up trash when you see it.
*Pick up your pet's waste throw it in the trash, flush it or bury it in the yard.
*Don't waste water.
CWC is also launching a Watershed Defender coloring contest for kids ages 2 to 10. To enter, download the coloring page from our website at chautauquawatershed.org., fill out the information sheet, have your child color the picture, and then mail it all back to us.
Entries are due Oct. 31 and will be posted on our Facebook page at Facebook.com/chautauquawatershed. There will be some great prizes you won't want to miss.
Keep an eye out for more CWC activities for kids, and look for our Watershed Defender at local events!
The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a private, nonprofit organization with a mission to preserve and enhance the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. To sign up for e-news updates, find more information on watershed care or support CWC's conservation activities, visit chautauquawatershed.org or call 664-2166.