It's the water: Fort Lupton festival highlights how much it matters

Belen Ward
Posted 5/6/22

Amphibians are nature's indicators and are disappearing faster than any species on the face of the earth. The students learned this at the Children's Water Festivals on May 4th at the Fort Lupton …

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It's the water: Fort Lupton festival highlights how much it matters


Amphibians are nature's health indicators but they are disappearing faster than any species on the face of the earth, the Denver Zoo's James Garcia told students in Fort Lupton May 4.

Garcia was one of the featured speakers at the Children's Water Festival on May 4 at the Fort Lupton South Platte Valley Historical Park. The student met with more than 14 water professionals from around the state to learn about the importance of water to plants, humans, and animals while meeting the science academic standards and Common Core State Standards.

"We are excited to be here! During COVID we have not been on a field trip for two years, and now we have been on two field trips," said Jennifer Engles, a teacher at Knowledge Quest Academy Charter School in Millikin.

Central Colorado Water Conservancy District (CCWCD) and the South Platte Valley Historical Society joined forces to host its first annual Fort Lupton Children's Festival. It's modeled after the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District's Children's Water Festival, which started in 1991, making it the second oldest water festival in the country, according to officials.

More than 700 5th- and 6th-grade students in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs from Fort Lupton, Brighton, Johnstown/Milliken, Denver, Keenesburg, Hudson, and Fort Morgan attended the festival.

Denver Zoo's Laura Cooper, an educator joined outreach specialist Garcia discussed the concerns about amphibians disappearing. One area of study now is a particularly deadly fungus.

“Biologists and scientists are scrambling trying to find out what the problem is and it's the Chytrid fungus that affects animals around the world. That should be a danger for us too because amphibians need fresh clean water and for their skin,” Garcia said.

Noxious weeds
Fourth graders from La Salle's Pete Mirch Elementary visited with the Weld County Weed division.

Tina Booton, a supervisor, and Kathy Grifee, natural resources spray technician, educated the students about noxious weeds. These are usually non-native to Colorado and possibly the United States. They can spread without human assistance and can be deadly to native vegetation. It could also be toxic to livestock and human if eaten. They can include Purple Loosestrife, knotweeds and Cypress and Myrtle Spurges.

“The noxious weeds steal our water,” Booton said. “There is a state law they need to be controlled or suppressed.”

Ground down
Hudson Elementary 4th graders visited Colorado's Mary Ellen Cannon soil scientist with the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Services.

Cannon played a game with an inflatable globe by throwing it up in the air proving the student's thumb always ends up on water.

“The idea of this game is to show the students there is a lot more water than land. On our land the polar ice caps are not growing our food, including the high mountains and the Sahara Desert,” Cannon said.

“We end up with a small slice of our world growing our food on it,” Cannon said. “It's important to hang on to your farmland and be careful how you use land. You want to compact soil for a building but you also want to keep it uncompacted. You don't want to drive all over it where you want to grow.”

Nathan Bolton Ranger Barr Lake State Park Ranger taught the 4th grade Columbine students from Fort Morgan about how algae develop.

“All sorts of fertilizer and rainwater runoff end up in the lake, so when it gets hotter in the summertime, the heat reacts that phosphorus and creates the algae blues,” Bolton said.

Natures Educator McKinsey Welch is a program specialist educating 4th-grade students from Milliken's Knowledge Quest Academy about animals needing water.

Natures educator take in non-releasable birds of prey and use the animals to educate the public. They brought in a Swainson Hawk, two amphibians, a tiger salamander, and wooded houses toads.

“Amphibians need water because they start their life in water. The hawk is at the top of the food chain and are not born in water, but if the water disappears (those problems go) up the food chain web,” McKinsey said.

Natures Educators is licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA, Fish and Wildlife, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The students had numerous learning booths to visit to gain knowledge about the water footprint, how pumps and turbines operate, trees, recycling, all the water in the world, etc.

“It's so awesome, and it's a great learning experience,” said Brighton fourth-grade teacher Beth Dershem. “It's outdoors and hands-on. We are grateful for the experience and the work to set this up for our kids. They were excited on the way in.”

Dersham teaches at North East Elementary.


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