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Area students attend Water Festival

You might think there can't be much to learn about something as seemingly simple as water, but area students learned plenty at the Water Festival on Monday in East Grand Forks Heritage Village.

You might think there can't be much to learn about something as seemingly simple as water, but area students learned plenty at the Water Festival on Monday in East Grand Forks Heritage Village.

The North Dakota State Water Commission sponsors the festival for fourth graders around the state each year. Students learn about the water cycle, how plants use water, how water molecules behave and how to conserve, among other topics.

The H2O Olympics, just one of many activities, gave kids a chance to learn firsthand about water molecules. They learned from Bill Sharff of the state water commission that water molecules act differently than other molecules, and conducted five different experiments to observe that behavior.

Kayla Frank, a student at Nathan F. Twining School on Grand Forks Air Force Base, got two paperclips to sit on top of the water in a full plastic cup, just as Sharff demonstrated. The paper clips don't float, but instead sit on the water because they don't break the surface tension, she learned.

"All the experiments demonstrate cohesion, adhesion and surface tension," Sharff said.

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Students also got to try an experiment that involved placing pennies in a cup filled to the brim with water. The pennies take up space in the cup, but don't cause an overflow right away. Instead, they form a water dome over the cup. The record is 120 pennies before an overflow, Sharff said.

The two-day festival, which continues today, grows each year. This year, a record 750 students attended, compared with last year's 600. Children this year came from schools in Grand Forks, Manvel, Lakota, Grafton and the Grand Forks Air Force Base, just to name a few.

Grand Forks organizer Laura Munski invites all fourth graders in local school districts to attend, she said, along with homeschooled students. Districts are responsible for busing the kids to the location, which has been the Heritage Village for the past two years because its large size allows more schools to participate.

"We're hoping through hands-on experience, the kids will retain the knowledge," Munski said of the festival's goal.

Students enjoyed a presentation by flannel-clad hillbilly Pete Bogg and his "Amazing Water Machine," an electric burner and glass apparatus that demonstrates the water cycle. Bogg, a character portrayed by educational entertainer Tom Gibson, Bottineau, N.D., had students laughing wildly at his jokes.

Evaporation, condensation, water conservation and water pollution were the main topics of the presentation.

"A feller don't need to look at water running down the drain when he's brushing his teeth," Bogg told the students in his southern hillbilly drawl. "If you need to look at something, look at your own self in the mirror looking back at your own self."

Alex Cleveland, a Twining student, said she will try Bogg's suggestions to conserve water, such as turning off the faucet while she brushes her teeth, and asking her parents to place a weighted half gallon jug in the toilet tank at home to reduce the amount of unused water flushed through.

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"I thought it was really cool," she said of Bogg's presentation. "I learned some new stuff."

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