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Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch Nathan Fleshman, right, talks with children while they get the opportunity to feel gar scales as students attend the Marshall University Water Festival on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, at Buskirk Field in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON - On the lawn of Buskirk Field at Marshall University on Tuesday morning, a group of elementary school students were presented with three jars of water, each representing the conditions of Four Pole Creek at different times.

One jar was muddy, another a mix of oil and water. The third appeared clear, and was the obvious choice when asked which the cleanest water was. However, just like Four Pole Creek in real life, it was contaminated with E. coli.

"People don't realize how dirty (Four Pole Creek's) water is, how unsafe," said Karen Mauro, an educator at Huntington High School. "It looks like the water in the jar with the E. coli, like it's the cleanest. All those kids thought it was safe. Many don't realize how much of that is coming right from our sewage water. It's great to get some of the little guys some exposure to that."

The presentation, made by Huntington High School environmental students, was just one of several activities at the Marshall University Water Festival, an annual event put on in conjunction with the College of Science and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection's Project Water Education for Teachers (Project WET).

Approximately 300 students from Cabell, Putnam and Lincoln counties took part in the festival designed to promote awareness, knowledge and stewardship of water resources.

Students saw presentations on stormwater, water conservation, quality and usage, the water cycle, acid rain and stream ecology, while also learning about how water affects different species such as reptiles, fish, crayfish and trout.

"It makes learning fun because they are having fun," said Tina Cartwright, festival organizer and associate professor in the College of Education. "Lots of the activities ... include movement and running around. We think that activates the brain in ways that classroom learning does not."

Cartwright said she hopes students come away with how important water is.

"Many of us remember when we were without water because of the Charleston chemical spill in the Kanawha Valley, so the role of water became super important and it still is continuing," she said.

The festival is also a learning opportunity for older students. Cartwright's education students, along with College of Science graduate students and the Huntington High kids, all got the opportunity to teach and make presentations - valuable skills whether they become teachers or not.

"It's a great opportunity for them to interact with kids outside the classroom," Cartwright said.

Other presenters included the WVDEP's Youth Environmental Program, Save Our Streams program, and Division of Air Quality, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Marshall University's College of Sciences and College of Education and Professional Development, the state Department of Forestry, West Virginia American Water and Huntington Storm Utility.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.

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