“If you build it, they will come.”

The famous line from "Field of Dreams," that really borders on cliché at this point, flawlessly summarizes our intentions in partnering with the Cloquet Public Library. In offering workshops and programs at a community center, we seek to better connect with residents and shine a spotlight on conservation. Ultimately, building up an understanding of all the possibilities ahead and growing community knowledge.

Now, this is mostly a new avenue for us. We do host events through the year, like watershed tours or "Walk in the Woods," but they vary and typically are specific to grants or a project. These are great, don’t get us wrong, but they have limited scope, whether that be content-wise or community interest.

Besides that, conservation is far broader and encompassing. It’s something available to everyone through many different actions no matter how big or how small and can’t easily be featured in a handful of non-sequential events.

In turn, we saw a need on our part to become more involved and engaged at a wider level. Our services and projects aside, if we can help support a greater awareness to the value of our natural resources, that’s a job well done in our eyes.

With that in mind, let me share a recap of how our inaugural event went on Dec. 9 with the after-school Tinker Club program.

Being a focus on youth, who likely feel drained after a day in classes, we wanted to provide something that would be fun and interactive. A no better cue than for an activity from the Teacher Resource Center at the Great Lakes Aquarium. Given our topic focus on water impairment from winter maintenance, the “Journey of a Water Drop” immediately beckoned our interest.

We showed what makes water dirty in our homes and in our neighborhoods while pointing out how the former is treated and the later is not (distinguishing sewer water from stormwater). This activity served as a perfect means to explain neighborhood pollutants like salt and sand while relating water treatment in nature (through wetlands, vegetation and soil) to the four-step process at Western Lake Superior Sanitary District of screening, settling, microbial activity and filtering.

Where WLSSD has a centralized system of chambers, nature works through a decentralized blanket where tall thick vegetation acts as a screen for the passing water; wetlands slow things down for settling and host ample microbe life; and soil finely filters passing water of the invisible molecular stuff.

To boot, we were able to refer to these concepts in an activity with the kids asking them to remedy a pollution-troubled neighborhood using nature's water cleaning infrastructure.

All this information paired into a script through 16 colorful and posters and some on-the-spot acting proved a fun time for us at the SWCD. We hope the same was thought by the bright kids that got to join us.

Keep an eye out on our future workshops ahead and give a visit to the library to see our materials and more. Might as well find a good book while your there.

Chris Gass is is the education and outreach coordinator at the Carlton Soil and Water Conservation District. Reach him at 218-384-3891 ext. 5. Information on the SWCD can be found on Facebook and at carltonswcd.org.