For Youth in 4-H, a Deep Dive Into Science of Water

March 23, 2015
CINCINNATI, Ohio — Meera Nadathur, 15, wants to work in environmental sciences.
 
As a step toward that goal, the student at Cincinnati’s Sycamore High School last year completed Ohio 4-H’s Ways of Knowing Water project. It and some 200 other projects for Ohio 4-H members stress science and hands-on learning.
 
“One of my favorite experiences was visiting the Greater Cincinnati Water Works treatment plant to learn the entire drinking water purification process,” she said. “I was able to view every step of the process firsthand and gain knowledge about it from the very experts who ran the plant.”
 
A member of the Gorman Farm 4-H Club, Nadathur was one of the more than 200,000 youth ages 5-19 who participated in Ohio 4-H in 2014. Some 18,000 other Ohioans, including Nadathur’s club’s adviser, Cindy Capannari, helped as volunteers.
 
The organization, which is Ohio State University Extension’s youth development program, is celebrating Ohio 4-H Week this week. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.
 
 
(Video: CFAES Communications.)
 
Exploring water is especially timely given last year’s crisis in Toledo, said Joe Bonnell, OSU Extension’s program director for watershed management and one of the project’s developers. Last August, toxins from a Lake Erie algal bloom led that city to ban tap water use for three days.
 
Changes in climate, weather and land use, among other things, are more and more affecting Ohio’s rivers, lakes and streams, he said.
 
“I think the youth who complete this project will gain a greater appreciation for the value of water in their lives and communities, which hopefully will lead them to taking an active role in protecting their local water resources,” he said.
“In Ohio, we’re blessed with abundant water most of the time, so it’s easy for Ohioans to take our water for granted.”
 
Nadathur, for one, now knows not to do that.
 
As part of her project, she met with water experts from the city of Cincinnati, the Greenacres environmental education center in that town and the Polk Run Wastewater Treatment Plant in nearby Loveland. One of them, a chemist and professor, also helps run a water treatment plant for the less fortunate in Africa.
 
Together they helped Nadathur further explore her project, which she later spun off into a high school science fair experiment on slow sand filtration, a process that can purify water for nondrinking uses, such as washing floors and watering plants. Simple and inexpensive, it uses biological activity and no electricity. It’s especially helpful in developing countries.
 
“I want to study and pursue a career in environmental sciences in the future,” Nadathur said. “Working with water purification and solving water issues is definitely a branch of this that I’ll consider.
 
“I’m also interested in other aspects of the environment, such as preventing global warming and climate change and protecting ecosystems and endangered species.
 
“Overall I gained a lot of knowledge from this project that I plan to use later in life.”
 
 
 
The guide sheet for the project is available at go.osu.edu/KnowingWater. All of Ohio 4-H’s projects are described in its 2015 Family Guide at go.osu.edu/4HGuide.
 
Ohio 4-H also is developing a new water-related project called Field to Faucet, tied in to the college’s new broad initiative of the same name and slated to be ready for 2016.
 
Both the new project and the wider initiative will dive into water’s importance in Ohio. A special focus will be on reducing nutrient runoff into lakes and streams — a cause of harmful algal blooms like the one that hurt Toledo — while keeping farms productive, profitable and sustainable.
 
Water sources, uses, access and careers will be some of the 4-H project’s topics, said co-developer Jackie Krieger, an OSU Extension educator in Summit County.
 
“We’re blessed with a water supply of good quality and quantity in Ohio,” said Greg LaBarge, an OSU Extension agronomy field specialist and the project’s other co-developer. “We want to protect that resource for future generations.”
 
Details on joining 4-H are online at ohio4h.org/about-us/join-4-h and in a YouTube video at go.osu.edu/Join4H.
 
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WRITER(S): 
Kurt Knebusch
330-263-3776
 
SOURCE(S): 
Joe Bonnell
614-292-9383
 
Jackie Krieger
330-928-4769, ext. 2454
 
Greg LaBarge
740-223-4043