Last updated: February 16. 2013 5:24PM - 255 Views

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KINGSTON TWP. ‚?? Curiosity took hold of the children as they crowded around a plastic bin swimming with aquatic life.

‚??What‚??s that thing with the claw?‚?Ě

‚??Do catfish bite?‚?Ě

‚??I touched a crayfish; it feels so weird!‚?Ě

The children, campers at the Wonderful World of Water Camp at The Lands at Hillside Farms, had scooped the creatures from nearby Huntsville Creek, turning over stones and flushing them into waiting nets. They hoped to discover whether the creek‚??s waters were pristine or polluted based on the diversity and species of its inhabitants.

‚??My counselor held the net and then I lifted up a big rock then he came into the net,‚?Ě said 8-year-old Avery McNulty of Pittston, referring to the 4-inch juvenile catfish she caught. ‚??It was really cool how it was so big.‚?Ě

Packed with shiners, catfish, crayfish and all sorts of insects, the stream received a rousing thumbs up from the budding scientists.

‚??Anytime you find fish you‚??ve got good water quality,‚?Ě said Lisa Clementoni, an environmental scientist for Borton-Lawson and leader of the exercise. ‚??They‚??re surviving; there‚??s no pollution.‚?Ě

The stream-combing exercise capped off the free, weeklong day camp designed by the Pennsylvania American Water company to encourage children to ponder the effects of human activities like farming and their own behavior on water quality.

The 30 children attending the camp participated in a number of hands-on activities throughout the week. They dressed like molecules and darted about to simulate the water cycle, watched chocolate representing waste oil trickle through a model environment as they misted it with spray bottle ‚??rain‚?Ě and made tie-dye T-shirts with sulphurous acid-mine water.

Camp organizers said they hope the curiosity the children displayed in digging through their surroundings will blossom into a sense of responsibility.

‚??We want kids to realize, if they throw trash down, it‚??s not just going to stay there; it could wash into a creek,‚?Ě said Susan Turcmanovich, external affairs manager for the water company.

Chet Mozloom, executive director of The Lands at Hillside Farms, said the camp‚??s focus meshes well with the farm‚??s mission of teaching and practicing sustainability.

‚??They‚??re learning about water quality and how to be responsible citizens,‚?Ě he said. ‚??You hope that when they‚??re exposed to that, at least some of them if not all of them walk away caring about their impact on the environment.‚?Ě

One reason the creek passing through Hillside Farms is so clean has to do with the farm‚??s commitment to sustainable practices. It maintains a 35-foot buffer of vegetation between cattle pastures and the creek, which prevents manure and other nutrients produced by cows from entering the water, and rotates cattle among pastures to avoid tilling soil, which produces sediment. The farm also refrains from using herbicides and pesticides on crops and uses only natural fertilizers.

The message rubbed off on Rowan Ide, 10, of Scranton.

‚??I didn‚??t think so much about water,‚?Ě she said. ‚??I told my mom, like when she‚??s using the toothbrush, don‚??t turn the water on; turn it off.‚?Ě

Nine-year-old Austin Sowga of Shavertown said he learned more about why it‚??s important to protect his favorite creek, where he likes to fish with his younger brother Joseph and their father.

‚??Toby Creek is behind my house,‚?Ě he said. ‚??I get a view of it at night because my window‚??s right in front of it. I like the environment, and I like being out in nature and in the water.‚?Ě

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