FARMINGTON -- What do a short-eared owl, a street-sweeper truck from Syracuse and ground-up plastic bottles have in common?
They all helped Davis County fourth-graders learn about water and how it affects their lives at the Davis County Water Fair on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Davis County Fairgrounds.
Nine-year-old Claire Whitney, who attends Oak Hills Elementary School in Bountiful, learned an important lesson on Tuesday about how humans can cause erosion.
"You don't cut down trees by the river, or else the homes could fall in," Claire said.
Representatives from the U.S. Forest Service demonstrated that exact scenario. They used ground-up plastic bottles to form a miniature mountain scene in the back of a trailer, with a small stream running down the middle of the hill.
On the land were small homes, toy cars and miniature animals depicting a typical civilization. After awhile, however, one of the instructors removed the plants from near the edge of the stream. Little by little, the land fell into the stream, just as it does in real life as a result of erosion. Eventually, the homes near the water fell into the stream.
"It's one of the best ways to teach the kids," said Brian Ferguson, who is retired from the U.S. Forest Service and now is a volunteer with Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. "When I first started, we had to draw it on paper."
The U.S. Forest Service was one of many organizations teaching the youngsters at the water fair.
Syracuse city parked a street sweeper in one of the buildings for kids to look at, while Layton city brought a camera truck that city workers use to inspect drains.
Weber Basin Water Conservancy District workers taught the kids how water gets from a watershed -- an area of land from which rainwater and snowmelt drain into a particular river, stream, or lake -- and comes out of the faucet at their home.
Representatives from Ogden Nature Center brought along Pueo, a short-eared owl, to help demonstrate their message.
"This owl is found in the wetlands, and we need to teach the kids that if they pollute the water here, it ends in the wetlands," said Bryce King, a wildlife specialist at the nature center.
Students who attended the fair also learned how to protect the storm water and keep it clean, as well as how water connects every living thing to form the web of life.
"We are trying to reinforce what they are learning in class and prepare them for the end-of-level tests," said Shawn Olsen, a Utah State University extension agent.
Olsen, who runs the fair along with Dave Williams of the Davis County Stormwater Coalition, said feedback in recent years has been positive. Teachers told Olsen their students have been better prepared for the end-of-level tests.
Unfortunately, there are too many fourth-grade classes in Davis County for all of them to attend the fair, so different schools come each year and learn about water with hands-on experiences.
"It's been a really good program," Olsen said. "The kids experience something here that they can't experience in the classroom."