‘Interact the children’: First Waves program returns for instructional recreation on Stonycreek River | Information

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JOHNSTOWN, Pennsylvania— SurfsUp program First Waves returned to Greenhouse Park and the Stonycreek River on Monday for the first of several educational events this summer.

“I like being out here. It’s fun,” said Ali Jennings.

The 13-year-old from Johnstown was one of more than a dozen children and young people who took part in the “Intro to SUP and the Art of Filmmaking Workshop”.

First, the group waded into the waterway with a net to pick up macroinvertebrates for study and to film each other looking at them.

That was one of Jennings’ favorite parts.

These tiny creatures, like the caddis fly, can be used by environmental researchers to determine the condition of a stream.

Studying and identifying species found in the Stonycreek River is part of the educational element of First Waves.

“It’s really great to get the kids involved,” said Monica Lee, the district educator for the Indiana County Conservation District. “They don’t usually realize that we have so many bugs in our streams.”

This is the third year the organization has supported the SurfsUp program.

Lee said that those from the district always had a good time helping out.

In this way, they can help the children and young people connect to recreation on the waterways and the environment, she said.

The Benscreek Canoe Club is one of the managers of the river and was well represented on Monday as a volunteer.

“It’s great that we can host this here in Johnstown,” said Group President Michael Cook.

He noted the quality of recreational opportunities at the park and that there is “an entire population of kids who can’t see it.”

Cook, like Lee, hoped the workshop would spark youth interest in getting involved in both outdoor activities and conservation.

After documenting the macroinvertebrates with the iPads, the group headed downstream to the standing wave to learn how to surf a river.

Jennings and his friends said their favorite thing to do was spend the day in the water, although Isaiah Burkett added that the filmmaking aspect was also very enjoyable.

Burkett said he and his cousin often performed skits and he enjoyed working with equipment provided by First Waves.

Providing updated equipment for attendees to experiment with is part of the way organizers keep the workshops updated each year, said First Waves founder and president Ian Smith.

He also noted that expanding into nearby areas is also helpful.

This year, First Waves will be held in Johnstown, near Cambria County, Indiana County and Pittsburgh.

Smith said he enjoys coming back to Stonycreek – the unofficial home of the program – every year.

“We love Johnstown,” he said.

The First Waves founder described Johnstown’s recreational opportunities as “some of the best in the state” and praised the volunteers and groups responsible for cleaning up the river.

Visit www.firstwaves.org for more information.

Joshua Byers is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5054. Follow him on Twitter @Journo_Josh.

Joshua Byers is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5054. Follow him on Twitter @Journo_Josh.