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By Carissa Sitki
Students from across Calhoun County were brought to McCully’s Heritage Project in Kampsville in celebration of Earth Day, Friday, April 22.
The event, put on by the Calhoun County Health Department (CCHD), was funded through a grant from National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO). The health department’s administrator Sandy Teichman said they are thrilled that Calhoun received the money. “We were one of only four to receive this grant,” she said. “When I was filling out the application, I had absolutely no idea we would get it.”
It was announced during the February Calhoun County Commissioners meeting that the county had been selected as a recipient for the NACCHO funds. The purpose of this highly competitive $30,000 grant is to raise climate change awareness.
“When we found out we were getting these funds, we decided we wanted to reach kids since they are the future stewards of the planet,” Teichman said.
The Earth Day Festival, held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., was used as a way to educate the youth of Calhoun about nature, climate, and preservation through a variety of activities. These activities included, learning about water cycles, up close encounters with native wildlife, learning about the local terrain, trash breakdown, arts and crafts, history, and more.
Stations were set up around McCully’s with presenters, including: Lewis and Clark Dental Students, Sierra Piasa Palisades, Treehouse Wildlife Center, National Great Rivers Research and Education Center, Blake Rubbish— Fish Biologist, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Lewis and Clark State Historic Site, The Nature Institute, Kampsville Archaeology Center, McCully Heritage Park, and Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge.
Attending students, ranged from toddlers to sixth grade, from the Calhoun Unit 40 district, Brussels Elementary School, St. Norbert’s, and St. Mary’s. The festival was very successful, according to Teichman, who said, “I didn’t know how this was going to go over, but we had a marvelous turnout.”
Another benefit the grant provided Calhoun was the ability to create a floodplain model, which according to Teichman, would have been very expensive to purchase. The CCHD’s Environmental Program Director Annie Rose developed the CCHD Flash Flood Model with assistance from her father, Fred Rose.
The model is based on Calhoun County and uses sponges to represent soil. As the sponges are removed, to represent soil removal that happens as an area is developed, the flooding gets worse since there is no longer anything to soak up the excess water. The model teaches students about the importance of preserving Calhoun and what to do in the event of a flash flood.
The model was set up as a station during the event, where Rose was able to demonstrate different flooding scenarios to the groups of students.
These kids have grown up around water, but not all of them are aware of the dangers of flash flooding, or why it happens,” said Rose. “I’ve never done anything like this before and to see all of my hard work pay off made it all worth it,” she said.
In the future, CCHD hopes to do more things like the Earth Day Festival. “This is what I’ve always wanted the health department to be, this is what we groove on,” said Teichman.
Rose said that CCHD would love to keep the energy of this festival going. “Hopefully this can be a yearly event,” said Rose.
Teichman extended her gratitude on behalf of the CCHD to McCully’s and echoed Rose’s sentiment about holding more Earth Day events in the future. “We are so grateful to McCully’s for letting us host here and we hope to be able to make this an annual thing,” she said.
In addition to the festival and the Flash Flood Model, the County used a portion of the funds to create Flood Preparedness Plan packets, which include a brief history of flooding in Calhoun and how climate change is directly affecting the area. The packet will also help Calhoun learn what to do before, during, and after a flood. The packets will automatically be distributed to restaurants and businesses and will be given to homeowners per request. According to Rose, they will be finalized in the coming weeks.