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Bugs in the water? It's a good thing

Finding bugs in the water is a good thing, Tony Roux told the dozen students gathered creekside Tuesday morning at the headwaters of Little Sugar Creek in north Charlotte.

“When I find bugs, the stream is healthy,” Roux told the visiting members of the Arts & Science Council’s Digital and Media Literacy Camp. “If there are no bugs, then we have a problem.”

About 50 youths, ranging from elementary to high school age, visited the Hidden Valley Ecological Gardens for the field trip portion of a two-week camp designed to make them better urban explorers.

“The idea is to make these young people realize that they count – that they have a role in our environment,” said Sharon Foote, of Charlotte Mecklenburg Storm Water Services.

The Arts & Science Council, Storm Water Services and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, with the help of several corporate sponsors, brought groups of students to the environmental preserve in Charlotte’s Hidden Valley community the past two weeks.

Environmental specialists visited the students initially at their Irwin Academic Center camp headquarters for a lesson in the importance of healthy urban streams.

Then came the follow-up: a trip to the Hidden Valley wetlands, the water source of Little Sugar Creek.

Students toured three stations, studied microscopic water creatures and built a floating wetland to provide aquatic life with food.

“These creatures look like little centipedes,” Jill Flanders, a 9-year-old student at Torrence Creek Elementary in Huntersville, said as she examined a water sample under a magnifying glass. “And I found a shell there, too. It surprised me, how much life was in this water.”

Her twin brother, Matthew, added, “We even found salamanders in the water.”

That’s exactly the idea, said Roux, senior environmental specialist with Storm Water Services.

“Bugs in a stream are very important to the health of the stream,” he said. “The bugs provide food for fish. And the fish are food for turtles and birds. It’s all related.”

Groups of Storm Water Services staff members showed the campers how the simple act of tossing an aluminum can or paper into a creek can damage the fragile ecosystem in an urban area.

On a walking tour, Storm Water Services’ Craig Miller explained how Mecklenburg County sometimes buys houses in flood plains, razes the structures, then replaces them with greenways and environmental preserves.

“Instead of flooded houses, we have a nice area like this,” he said.

He and Kyle Hall pointed out the different types of flowers, bushes and wildlife in the preserve.

While the focus was on the ecosystem and the impact of flash flooding on Charlotte’s streams, students in the camp actually are producing a film and book on what they have learned.

“Students will tell the stories of what they have learned,” the Arts & Science Council’s Barbara Ann Temple said. “They will talk about what it means to be involved in the community. And what better way to tell the story than this?”

Lyttle: 704-358-6107; Twitter: @slyttle
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