Nearly 150 Carson City elementary school students spent Friday morning along the Carson River, learning about conservation in celebration of Earth Day today.
"They need to understand how important the river system is and how delicate it is," said Mark Kimbrough, a regional manager for state parks and organizer of the event. "I like working with school kids and I figured Earth Day's a perfect opportunity."
The students tested water samples from the river, planted trees, wrapped trees with chicken wire to deter beavers and hung nesting boxes for wood ducks.
"The keys to getting kids outdoors is having them touch, feel and smell," Kimbrough said. "There's no better way than this."
Dan Kaffer of the Natural Resources Conservation Services helped plan the event because, he said, it was more effective than learning about it in a classroom.
"People who learn about something become impassioned about it if they get their hands dirty and get involved in it," he said. "When they get involved they are less likely to pollute and less likely to litter."
This idea prompted the day's motto: "Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I will understand."
Fremont Elementary fourth-grader Stevi Tatham was upset to learn about beavers cutting down the trees.
"I think it's sad if we lose trees because then the wind can't blow through them."
As part of the project to wrap trees, students were shown a beaver's skull to show how a beaver can gnaw through a tree's trunk.
Tyler Simms, a third-grader at Seeliger Elementary, said he learned the importance of the environment.
"If you pollute the water and cut down all the trees, there's not enough oxygen," Simms said. "A lot of animals die because there's not enough oxygen."
Students tested the river in various disicplines, including pH levels, temperature and flow rate.
Kimbrough said it is important to involve scientific study to show outsiders that facts are being passed along and not environmental propaganda.
"A lot of people think Earth Day is just an 'environmentalism' thing," he said. "But what we're teaching here is science. It's perfect to get good science involved with our feelings about the environment."
Cathy Wendell and Lisa Grayshield brought their combined second- and third-grade class from Seeliger to the river.
"We wanted to make them better conservationists in the watershed," Wendell said. "They will be aware of the environment so they won't destroy it but preserve it."
Gary Juenger, a wildlife biologist for Western Nevada Conservation Districts, hung boxes with the students for wood ducks to nest in.
He said the ducks will nest in cavities of old trees, but that the trees around the river were too young. The boxes served as an imitation cavity.
He said it is important that children learn the value of nature.
"As I get older, I try to pay more attention to what young kids are learning because in future years, they are going to be the stewards of our resources," Juenger said.