Water Scientists Work With YMCA Day Camp Kids to Sample Water for Didymo

Under a hazy sun with a cool breeze off the lake the morning of June 21, kids from the Grand Marais YMCA Day Camp came to the Letterecy Deck to learn more about Didymo, commonly known as rock snot. Minnesota Children’s Press coordinated the learning sessions.

The kids worked with scientists from the Science Museum of Minnesota to take samples of water from different places in the harbor and study them under a microscope. Seeing first hand what some kids said was “weird stuff” they learned about Didymosphenia geminata, or Didymo.

Didymo is an invasive species that has been found moving into the streams and rivers that feed the big lake. Known by the nose wrinkling name of  "rock snot", this type of algae attaches to plants and rocks in rivers and streams. It can produce thick mats that cover stream beds, making swimming, fishing, and other water activities undesirable.

Waiting for their turns at the high powered microscopes, the children colored worksheets that point out that a stream with Didymo has thick mats of the stuff on the bottom and probably has less habitat for fish and the insects they need for food.

Minnesota Children's Press Chief Curiosity Officer, Anne Brataas, announced three projects to engage the Day Camp children in active, outdoor, environmental learning. Letteracy Deck, Love Letters to Lake Superior, and Jolly Ologies

“Letteracy Deck’s sole purpose is to provide people of all ages a free seat for the best view of Lake Superior (the south end of Lake Superior Trading Post) to reflect and connect through handwritten letters or drawings,” Brataas said. “We call it Kindness Commons.”

The campers will be writing expository advocacy letters, “Love Letters to Lake Superior,” that will be addressed to media editorial pages, elected officials, environmental groups as well as friends, family members, and worship groups. All to give these young people a means of civic participation and environmental education.

Library Friends of Cook County, a local non-profit, has underwritten the Jolly Ologies project for the YMCA kids. The Friends goal is to see active outdoors and environmental education that encourages reading and writing. The deliverable from Jolly Ologie is a public education book on Didymo written, composed, edited, illustrated, and produced by the children with support of Minnesota Children’s Press.

Minnesota Children’s Press is a Grand Marais based 501(c)(3) charity that mentors rural children in researching, writing, illustrating, publishing, and selling books through its Story Scouts publishing club. More information can be found at www.minnchildpress.org and www.storyscouts.org.