There are a number of things you can count on every spring, like clockwork. The temperature rises quickly as summer fast approaches (this year, maybe even faster than usual). You hear the sound of the crack of the bat as baseball and little league games begin. And the Blue Thumb team will be extremely busy for two whirlwind months of educational events across the state.
This year was no different as we crisscrossed the state and reached more than 7,000 people during April and May combined. With Earth Day towards its end, April is always busy with opportunities to bring environmental education to community events, including Earth Day events and nature festivals. Many conservation districts also plan their yearly natural resource day or outdoor classroom during this month.
We had 14 of these events scheduled this April, in 12 counties, including Oklahoma, Caddo, Pontotoc, Pawnee, Cleveland, Tulsa, Kingfisher, Johnston, Kay, Murray, Stephens and Noble. Four of these events were related to Earth Day, while the others were mostly natural resource days or outdoor classrooms. One exciting aspect of this year is that we reached people in counties where we had little or no presence last year. Kay and Noble are two such counties, with natural resource days that did not feature Blue Thumb in 2017. In Caddo County last year, we held a groundwater screening but no educational event, so it was great to be at their outdoor classroom this year.
Our calendars did not slow down in May, they actually sped up a bit, with 16 scheduled events. This included eight new counties, plus some counties that were visited twice, in both May and April. May’s new counties included Harper, Washington, Pittsburg, Cotton, Ottawa, Haskell, Bryan and Beaver. In Harper County last year, we had a groundwater screening and were excited to be able to also have a Blue Thumb volunteer educating at their outdoor classroom this year. Similarly, in Beaver County last year, we had monitoring activities but no educational event, which we changed this year with a presence at a youth conservation day. Bryan and Pittsburg are two counties where were had no monitoring or education in 2017. This year, we made it to an educational event in Pittsburg County and a Green Schools Summit in Bryan, two invaluable opportunities to educate students and the public about stream protection and nonpoint source pollution while introducing them to the Blue Thumb program.
These are all exciting developments as the program grows and expands into even more areas of the state. Another exciting occurrence this year has been the involvement of Blue Thumb volunteers at many of these events. Thirteen different volunteers worked these events for us, spanning a range from long-time veteran volunteers to some who just joined Blue Thumb this past January. They worked at Earth Day events, water festivals, natural resource days, outdoor classrooms and large community events such as OutdoorFest here in Oklahoma City. To Vanessa McKinzey, Susan Smith, Bill Hickman, Shelly Gaines, Rachel Giles, Theron Blunck, Phil Morris, Beth Landon, Karen Chapman, Don Hayes, Kurtis Koll, Ashleigh Barnett, and Susan Henning, we say a very sincere and heartfelt thank you!
This volunteer involvement also helped us achieve one of Blue Thumb’s important objectives, the support of local conservation districts and their educational programs. Last year, we did this with 11 different districts during April and May. This year, we were able to expand on that, working alongside 14 districts, some repeats from last year and some that were new. Thank you to all of the districts who invited us to be a part of their event and gave us the chance to educate your local youth about water quality. We hope to see you again next year!