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Summer youth activities winding down, to end with community water festival

The three groups that provided activities for area youth this summer will sponsor a community water festival starting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, August 12, at the Fire Hall Park in Philip.

A festival centered around water was chosen because the Haakon County Public Library, Haakon County Extension Service and the South Dakota Discovery Center teamed up to fill the void left by the closed swimming pool and provide healthy, educational summer activities.

The water festival will be a party to celebrate all the successful children's summer programming provided by the South Dakota Discovery Center, the Haakon County Public Library, and the Haakon/Jackson Extension Service. For participants and their families, there will be hot dogs, chips and baked beans. The Extension Service is providing ice cream floats, and the Friends of the Library are providing the hot dogs and buns.

An open invitation goes out to the entire community for the Discovery Center's hands-on participation stations and the Philip Volunteer Fire Department's water games. Kids, and hopefully adults, need to come prepared to get wet. Adults are asked to bring lawn chairs.

The current Haakon County Public Library's summer reading program had three age groups: pre-school to 11-years-old, 12- to 18-year-olds, and a new adult summer reading program. Around 30 children attended the weekly Make a Splash book reading and activity hour, seven teens registered for the teen program, and 17 adults took part in the adult summer program.

According to library director Annie Brunskill, the youngest group read more than 16,000 pages on their own or with help from their parents, and as a class we read stories each Wednesday morning before we started our activities. Frezil Westerlund, Jesse Manke, Ashton Reedy, Dawson Reedy and Carol Heltzel, along with several parents and day care providers, helped each week with the reading and the activities.

"We made a paper aquarium in the community room that's very cool. The kids had a lot of fun creating handprint fish, coral, and algae to decorate the aquarium. We also held a scavenger hunt, a rock painting party and a final awards day with dancing just for the fun of it. What the attendance at the summer reading program tells me is that we have many young, dedicated readers who enjoy everything from fantasy to animal stories. We also have great parents who are very involved in their children's learning and reading for enjoyment. As a librarian, I couldn't be more pleased with how the summer program turned out," said Brunskill.

Kristie Maher, director of the South Dakota Discovery Center, coordinated its program in Philip. Investigating bugs, growing plants, launching rockets, building solar cars, erupting volcanoes, testing toothpaste and exploring water through books ... the kids in Philip have been pretty busy this summer.

National Mutual Benefit and their volunteers will help serve and the PVFD will have water games on East Oak Street. Children and their families will make there way through a series of hands-on activities from the SD Discovery Center that inform about all sorts of water science and water ecology. A favorite is making edible aquifers with ice cream, chocolate chips and lots more.

Scotchman Industries, National Mutual Benefit, First National Bank, the Philip Chamber of Commerce, Grossenberg Implement, Golden West Company and the SD Arts Council, with encouragement from Annie Brunskill and Kathy Arthur, funded over 250 hours of hands-on science programming for the children of Philip this summer. An average of 15 students participated in each class with more than thirty people participating in each field trip. Sarah Foland, a graduate of Philip High School and junior education major at SDSU, lead most of the Discovery Center programming.

"Your kids have been thinking and moving this summer, that's for sure. We all tried to provide activities that got the kids outside, using their brains and away from the TV and the couch," said Maher. "I'm hoping that teachers will see less of the normal 'summer brain drain' when the kids get back to school." Maher noted that many parents have inquired about continuing summer science next year. Though the pool will be open next summer, she recommends that the community consider scheduling a summer science day once a week with a few field trips and programs for fifth through eighth graders.

Maher reminds families that programming continues through August 12. A final field trip is scheduled for August 11. The bus leaves from the elementary school at 9:00 a.m. and returns at 5:00 p.m. The trip includes nature activities on LaFromboise Island, a visit to the SD Discovery Center and swimming at the Ft. Pierre pool. As of Monday, August 2, the new Discover Center sponsored hands-on exhibit Go Figure is on display at the Haakon County Public Library.

The SumMEr Program, which put ME in summer, ran on Wednesday afternoons. Each week had a different science-based topic, some of which were ladybugs, liquids, solar energy, bubbles, robotics, GPS, crafts, milk and food science. Youth were able to take part in hands-on science experiments for the three hour sessions and were also provided a nutritious snack. Weekly attendance varied from about 15 to 60 participants from kindergarten through sixth grade.

The SumMEr Program was coordinated by Jessica Eikmeier, Extension educator and 4-H/youth development for Jackson and Haakon Counties. Eikmeier said, "The best part for me was to see the 'light bulbs' come on as the youth discovered the different facets to what they were actually learning. They weren't always given all the information for success and they had to use their heads and ingenuity to make different aspects of the experiments work effectively. Getting to know the youth and see the impact I made on their summer learning (because summer is made for fun!) was extremely worthwhile. I appreciate the youth who participated and the parents who lent me their kids for a few hours every week. The program was funded through gifts from West Central Electic, Goldenwest Telecommunications, the 4-H Junior Leaders, a grant from the SD Dairy Association, and Haakon/Jackson Extension.