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SIOUX CITY | Earth Day is synonymous with the phrase, “reduce, reuse, recycle,” but Sioux City Schools elementary students learned that there’s much more to conservation.

The district and Western Iowa Tech Community College on Thursday teamed up to bring the Earth Day KidWind Festival to fourth- and fifth-graders.

The event allowed more than 700 students over a two-day span the opportunity to see how wind turbines work, tour WIT’s “green” facility at the Dr. Robert E. Dunker Student Center, study fuel efficiency and even record commercials about the importance of Earth Day.

Half of the students participated Thursday, and the rest will attend the event Friday.

Students said they knew the concept of Earth Day, but never really understood the impact poor environmental practices have on the planet.

“We learned that a lot of people throw garbage in the water and use way too much water,” said Clark Elementary fifth-grader Lauren Clark. “I didn’t know we used that much.”

April Tidwell, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) coordinator for the district, said the event was designed to incorporate the importance of Earth Day with 21st Century Learning standards.

“This offers an opportunity to get a hands-on experience and teach them to save the Earth for themselves as they grow up ... and to be responsible for the Earth that they live on,” Tidwell said.

One of the main attractions at the festival was the KidWind competition, which challenged students to work in groups and create an efficient wind turbine model out of cardboard. The students worked on their models in class, and were able to test their final project in a controlled wind tunnel Thursday.

Winners from the contest could then become eligible to compete at the KidWind competition at the Mid American Museum of Aviation and Transportation in May.

Clark fourth-grader Ethan Dallen said while the contest was fun, it showed him that the large white turbines in rural Iowa do more than take up space.

“It showed me how energy works and how it’s created from the wind,” he said. “It pulls the wind, comes through the tubes and makes electricity. That was pretty new to me.”

Jayda Johnson, a fifth-grade student from Clark, said she too learned the importance of wind energy to Iowans.

“I didn’t know they produced electricity to people’s houses,” she said.

Tidwell said building awareness to Iowa’s prowess as a wind energy harvester is key for young students, as they – or their younger generations – may very well grow up in a world with limited non-renewable energy sources.

“Iowa is one of the best places in the nation to harvest wind energy and we want to make sure we are raising educated students about the benefits of renewable energy versus the non-renewables that may not be here for their children and grandchildren,” she said.

After Thursday’s lessons, some students said they would take more conscious steps to help preserve resources and save energy.

“I’ll stop trying to use a lot of water,” said Clark fifth-grader Grace Emory. “I’ll turn the faucet off and if I’m doing the dishes, I’ll try to go as fast as I can.”

But some also plan to take what they’ve learned and educate family and friends.

“I’ll tell my brother not to take an hour shower,” chimed Lauren Clark. 

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