Nathan and Emily MacDonald were among 20 Morgan County youth that took a canoe ride on Flint Creek as a part of a tour of the WaterWorks Center for Environmental Education on Thursday. | Clif Knight
Nathan and Emily MacDonald were among 20 Morgan County youth that took a canoe ride on Flint Creek as a part of a tour of the WaterWorks Center for Environmental Education on Thursday. | Clif Knight

WaterWorks gives students outdoor fun, learning

Published 2:20pm Friday, June 20, 2014

What’s going on at WaterWorks was a question that was answered for 22 Morgan County students Thursday as they were taken on a guided tour of the environmental education center and were then treated to two hours of paddling canoes on Flint Creek.

The tour was sponsored by Morgan Count Extension as a means of getting kids outdoors for a day and letting them explore some of the wonders of nature and have fun at the same time, according to 4-H Extension agent Sharon Fisher.

“These kids are our next generation,” Fisher said. “It’s important for them to see firsthand and understand what must be done to conserve our natural resources and have a safe and sustainable environment.”

Projects manager Jay Grantland conducted the tour and canoe trip with help from David Childers and Mike Roden, executive director of Alabama’s Mountians, Rivers and Valleys and the Resource Conservation and Development Council.

Grantland began the tour by explaining how a bricked courtyard and parking lot is capable of absorbing storm water and removing particulate matter and pathogens before it reaches the underground water table.

The students observed a covered compost bin at one end of the building where  paper and food waste are converted into rich soil with the help of several species of worms that live under the surface.  They next visited the Green Roof where plants, such as strawberries and squash, are grown in a layer of soil throughout the year.

Grantland explained that the soil and plants conserve energy by insulating the building as well as providing a food source.  He also explained that solar panels on the roof of the building as well as a parking lot shed produce more than enough energy to operate WaterWorks.

“Decatur Utilities provides us with two meters,” Grantland said. “One measures the electricity coming in, and the other one measures the electricity gong out. TVA pays us $12.5 cents per kilowatt that we produce, so we never have to pay a light bill.”

The students also visited the Green Lab where an indoor man-made wetland removes waste from a 500 gallon aquarium and gives aquatic creatures an ideal habitat.  He also demonstrated how pollutants in streams could make it impossible for certain species of macro-invertebrates to live.

Grantland also explained how a large outdoor wetland is used to remove particulate matter and pathogens from creek water and make it safe for human consumption.

After a sack lunch, the students were divided into groups of two or three and assigned canoes for a two-hour ride down Flint. Creek.

“Canoeing on the creek is always the highlight of a tour when children are involved,” said Grantland. “Some of them are a little hesitant at first because they’ve never been in a canoe, but you can see a light come in their eyes when they gain control. It’s an experience they’ll remember for a lifetime.”

Jay Grantland, Waterworks projects manager, give students a tour of the Green Roof where soil helps conserve energy and grows fruit and vegetables at the same time. | Clif Knight
Jay Grantland, Waterworks projects manager, give students a tour of the Green Roof where soil helps conserve energy and grows fruit and vegetables at the same time. | Clif Knight
Hanken Foote, left, and Trey Hoffman carry a canoe to the water in preparation for a two-hour ride on Flint Creek. | Clif Knight
Hanken Foote, left, and Trey Hoffman carry a canoe to the water in preparation for a two-hour ride on Flint Creek. | Clif Knight
WaterWorks projects manager Jay Grantland, left, and David Childers set up canoes for a youth tour canoe ride on Flint Creek. | Clif Knight
WaterWorks projects manager Jay Grantland, left, and David Childers set up canoes for a youth tour canoe ride on Flint Creek. | Clif Knight
Trey Hoffman, left, and Hanken Foote take a lunch break during a tour of the WaterWorks Center for Environmental Education on Thursday. | Clif Knight
Trey Hoffman, left, and Hanken Foote take a lunch break during a tour of the WaterWorks Center for Environmental Education on Thursday. | Clif Knight
Waterworks projects manager Jay Grantland uses a clear glass of clear water to demonstrate how man-made wetlands are used to remove pollutants from creek water. | Clif Knight
Waterworks projects manager Jay Grantland uses a clear glass of clear water to demonstrate how man-made wetlands are used to remove pollutants from creek water. | Clif Knight
A lotus plant bloom creates a splash of color in a man-made wetland at Waterworks. | Clif Knight
A lotus plant bloom creates a splash of color in a man-made wetland at Waterworks. | Clif Knight
WaterWorks projects manager Jay Grantland uses a microscope and monitor to show students the movement of microorganisms in a sample of creek water. | Clif Knight
WaterWorks projects manager Jay Grantland uses a microscope and monitor to show students the movement of microorganisms in a sample of creek water. | Clif Knight

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