Annual Hillsdale Watershed Festival

Ernie Miller Nature Center representatives discuss aquatic animals.

Students work to remove oil from water during an activity presented by the Miami Co. Environmental Health Department.

Doug Helmke, Kansas Rural Water Association, demonstrates the importance of protecting groundwater.

A student studies microinvertebrates during an activity by Benedictine College Professor, Terry Malloy.

Established 2003

General Information: 

Hillsdale Water Quality Projects festival is a school-based event, with an average number of eighth grade students at about 200. At a minimum, Miami and Johnson counties are served by the Projects festival.

Next Celebration Date: 
April 23, 2010
VIP tour available?: 

Jennie Fyock
Information Specialist

Hillsdale Water Quality Project
(913) 829-9414

Gale Salzman
Hillsdale Water Quality Project
(913) 829-9414

Festival Activities: 

*Aqua Animals *Cattle & Streams *Environmentally Friendly Farms *EnviroScape *Every Tree for Itself *Fred the Fish & Urban Stew *Groundwater in Action *Humpty Dumpty *Incredible Journey *Kansas Wildlife *The Long Haul *Macro/MicroInvertebrates *Mock Stream Assessment *MudScapes *Nature Recycling *Oil in the Lake *Storm Drain Vacuum Truck Demo *Stream Trailer *Sum of Parts *Tour of Jayhawk Marina *Water Crossings *Water Flow *Water Jeopardy *Water Quality Hopscotch *Wetlands *Wildlife & Habitat

Detailed Festival Information: 

Through the KACEE grant in 2003, the project began the Hillsdale Watershed Festival. The Project's Board of Directors and staff worked to complete a grant proposal and submitted it after staff attended the KACEE Water Festival Workshop and planning event. Staff worked previously with the two school districts that continue to be a part of the event.
Following the grants expenditures, the Project's Board decided to work through a grant proposal with the Johnson County Stormwater Management Program to include it for future secured funding. For the past five years it has been funded through this program.

Our event is unique due to the numerous partners from federal, state, local and nonprofit organizations who participate. We also work with partners on the Missouri side to provide educational items for the students. Continuous funding through the county is an additional unique aspect of the event. We have cities and municipal partners that are not within the drainage area that offer their employees, equipment and expertise to make the event successful.

Over the years, we faced funding challenges and working to get buy-in from the partners was originally a challenge. Once they participated in the first event, they found the day to be enjoyable and educational for themselves and especially for the students. Conveying to the presenters that the activities are hands-on is the most important aspect. Annually hosting the event in April, with all of the activities and events around Earth Day, makes it difficult to schedule everyone needed from the environmental field since everyone wants to offer events at that time. Our first year we also experienced a presenter dropping out at the last minute and trying to reschedule the students another presenter and recreate a different activity within a matter of about a week.

Second Year: The funding question came up after having the event funded through KACEEs grant to start off the event. Since the second year, the Johnson County Stormwater Management Program provided funds for the event.

Third Year: Changing of the guards. This was the first year the Projects Information Specialist, Jennie Fyock took over the event. She met the challenges of recruiting volunteers, activities and scheduling a clean up the same day at Hillsdale Lake.

Fourth Year: It can rain on your festival. Cold, miserable, wet weather does happen in Kansas in April. Up until the fourth year, we had beautiful, 80 degree, sunny weather. This event was re-scheduled in a matter of 24 hours to provide the event inside at the Spring Hill Civic Center gymnasium. Luckily our previous working relationship with the City of Spring Hill provided us the opportunity to re-schedule it, only lost one presenter due to the location and held the event indoors without incident. We learned having a plan B is always helpfulAbout 40 students from Spring Hill High Schools Volunteer Club held a clean up the same day at Hillsdale Lake. Hot chocolate was in great demand.

Fifth Year: Again, the weather did not cooperate with the Festival. We pre-planned and held it at the Spring Hill Civic Center. The youths and presenters were all wonderful. We invited numerous community leaders and local newspapers. Getting wide press and inviting dignitaries is always a must. The Project received additional funding through the KACEE Capacity Building Grant for Established Water Festivals through the Statewide Kansas Water Celebrations Project. Project staff was able to purchase three tables and two tents. Presenters used the tables for their displays and activities indoors and we were able to use the tents for two presenters who needed to be outdoors. This provided much needed shelter from the rains.

Sixth Year: The event was held indoors at the Spring Hill Civic Center due to the weather. We decided to change the date of next year's event to later in April, so hopefully the weather will cooperate and we will be able to once again, hold the event outdoors at Hillsdale Lake. The students had a wonderful time. The science teacher provides the students with a worksheet for them to take notes and to gather certain information. That information is then used in the classroom as an assignment. This ensures the students pay attention and hopefully learn something new about water quality.

Best Advice:
Prepare for the unexpected. Anything can go wrong and everyone will probably have something that is overlooked or forgotten no matter how many years you have been doing a festival. Dont let anything that goes wrong ruin it.

More festivals