UU Receives Grant for City-wide Water Education

By LEE JONES
Staff Writer
Urbana Daily Citizen

Urbana University has been approved to receive a grant from the Ohio Environmental Education Fund (OEEF), the first Champaign County payout from the organization since its 1990 creation.

UU Assistant Professor and Sustainability Coordinator Tingting Cai said some paperwork still needed the university’s Interim President Kirk Peterson’s signature, but soon the grant accounts would be ready for use.

The plan is to use the $45,378 for hands-on education stations centered on the importance of water. These stations would be located not only on UU’s campus but eventually at various sites like the Champaign County Library and Cedar Bog, to name just two.

“We basically want to raise more environmental awareness in our local community,” Cai said. “We are so regionally blessed.”

These stations will also be accompanied by a mobile unit that could be loaned out and provide the same hands-on experience at locations without a permanent installation. Cai said there are plans for a rain garden, which grows plants by collecting rainwater runoff.

Cai said she and a large group of local contributors from UU, the Champaign Family YMCA, Cedar Bog, Girl Scouts, the Champaign County Library, and the county Soil and Water Conservation District have been working on attaining the grant since February. A few of them attended an OEEF meeting to explain their proposal and answer questions.

One of the short term goals is to have stations set up for use at the YMCA and the library by fall, Cai said, along with resources for Girl Scout use. Next summer, she hopes to have activities set up on campus for an event at the Johnny Appleseed Museum.

But the first step is a workshop for the participating collaborators, who are all volunteers. Cai said the group decided to not budget any of the grant for salaries. According to her, other groups receiving OEEF funding have budgeted as much as ten percent of the payout for salary.

“It’s very important for our younger generations and not-so-young generations to know the importance of water,” Cai said.

Cedar Bog Manager Tracy Bleim, a collaborator and programming coordinator, said the hands-on activities will be based on various state programs: Project WET, the Healthy Water Healthy People program and Project Learning Tree.

Bleim said the activities will serve children in kindergarten through high school and into adult ages too. Some activities will teach about the water cycle, while another planned program will get participants checking on the health of local streams by wading in them.

“When you go in a stream, you want there to be the good, the bad and the ugly,” she said of local aquatic ecosystems and their necessary diversity.

“It’s more about awareness and understanding our dependency on water,” Bleim said of the program. Some activities can be specific to their location, while others can be adapted to “be general so people can pick up something from it,” according to Bleim.

Lee Jones can be reached at ljones@civitasmedia.com

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