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Tidy earth keeps water clean

Left to right, McKensie Birch, 5, smiles as Michael Krick, a work study student with the city’s Environmental Services Division, passes out coloring sheets on the water cycle and Rex the dog looks on at the Superior Public Library on Friday. Rex and a pair of bird puppets chatted with children about the importance of keeping the environment clean during an afternoon program. (Maria Lockwood)

Friday’s message on water quality came with its own menagerie. The program in the children’s room of the Superior Public Library included Rex the dog, Red the chicken and Francis the ostrich.

While Rex, a human-sized dog, has been featured at other events put on by the city’s Environmental Services Division, the two avian puppets were new. They were provided by Michael Krick, a work study student with the division, to give kids a new view of the environment.

“The puppets were a tool to reach them and spread messages on how to keep the environment clean,” said Wendy Grethen, research assistant with the Environmental Services Division. “And by keeping the land clean then we help keep the water clean. We all need clean water — the animals and the people.”

Red the chicken, voiced by Grethen, talked with Krick and the children about the need for clean water to drink and bathe in. The bird invited kids to help pick up some garbage strewn about the stage. Some was sent to the trash can, but other items, like a pop can, were earmarked for recycling.

When she asked what could be done with leftover orange peels, 5-year-old McKensie Birch suggested making them into a boat. Or, Red said, they could turn it into soil by composting.

When he finished cleaning up the trash, Shay Pomrenky of Superior gave the chicken puppet a hug.

After meeting Francis the ostrich, and encouraging her to pull her head out of the sand, the kids took part in a coloring activity. Free items like spray bottles, bags to scoop poop and gel ice packs were available to families as part of the event.

The city hosts events each season to encourage kids to care for the environment. Past programs at the library have included microscopes and water wheels.

Each spring, fifth graders tour the city’s wastewater treatment plant and get to take part in hands-on learning stations as part of their curriculum.

“We all do make a difference for water quality,” Grethen said. In the winter people can limit the use of road salt; in the summer folks can clear storm drains and cut grass regularly.

“Every season we can all make a difference,” she said.