Festival & Events

Nebraska Children’s Groundwater Festival

Upcoming Festival: Tuesday, May 14, 2024
Would you like to register your 5th-grade class to attend the 2024 Festival? Fill out the Registration Form & send it by December 1st.
For additional information call Marcia or Brody at (308) 385-6282.


2023 Festival: 17 Schools Across Nebraska Attended the Nebraska Children’s Groundwater Festival
Central Platte Natural Resources District hosted 36 school groups from across the state for the Nebraska Children’s Groundwater Festival on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, at the Central Community College and College Park campuses in Grand Island.  780 fifth-grade students from 17 schools learned about all aspects of groundwater and its importance to Nebraska by attending six in-depth activities in a classroom-style setting and a stage show. The event is possible with 100 water/natural resources presenters and 120 volunteers.  Alyssa Bair brought members of Barr Middle School’s National Junior Honor Society to assist as classroom guides and Dr. Lauren Schumacher, Academy/Pathway Teacher, brought 30 Grand Island Senior High students to assist presenters.


Bryan Elementary (3 classes)- Lexington
Central Valley Public Schools- Greeley
Dodge Elementary (2 classes)- Grand Island
Engleman Elementary (4 classes)- Grand Island
Hitchcock County Elementary- Hitchcock
Humphrey St. Francis- Humphrey
New Hope Christian School- Cairo
Pershing Elementary (9 classes)- Lexington
Red Cloud Community Schools- Red Cloud
Seedling Mile Elementary- Grand Island
St. Paul Elementary- St. Paul
St. Joseph Catholic Elementary- Atkinson
St. Anthony School- Columbus
Shell Creek Elementary (2 classes)- Columbus
Superior Elementary (2 classes)- Superior
Sandy Creek Elementary- Cairo
Shoemaker Elementary (3 classes)- Grand Island

Largest school  Pershing Elementary - 160 students  |   Smallest School  Seedling Mile - 15 students

*2 stage shows are entertaining and interactive, with a high level of energy. Up to 300 students/session.
*30 interactive activities. These 25-minute classroom-style presentations are held at both campuses with up to 32 students per session.

Since 1988, the Nebraska Children’s Groundwater Festival has supplemented groundwater education that students receive through their school curriculum by providing an event where professionals teach hundreds of students in one day. Over 31,000 students have been educated at the Festival.  This event was the first groundwater festival to be formed nationally.  The Nebraska Children‘s Groundwater Festival has been replicated in 42 states in the U.S.A., Mexico, Canada, India, and the United Kingdom.

The 2023 Nebraska Children’s Groundwater Festival is supported by the following businesses and individuals.
Central Community College and College Park provide their facilities at no cost.
Main Sponsor ($10,000)
Central Platte Natural Resources District

Awesome Aquifer Adventurer ($4,000 - $1,000)
City of Grand Island
Fred Otradovsky
Hornady Manufacturing Company
JEO Consulting Group Inc
Southern Public Power District

Legendary Lake League ($999 - $500)
Lower Loup Natural Resources District

Babbling Brook Benefactor ($499 - $250)
Copycat Printing and Signs
Coca-Cola of Grand Island
Grand Island/Hall County Convention & Visitors Bureau
Pepsi Beverages Company – Grand Island

Supreme Springwater Supporter ($249 - $100)
Agricultural Services Inc
CHI Health St. Francis
Donna Wanitschke
Equitable Bank
NEDELCO INC/ DBA Hamilton Telecommunications
Upper Loup Natural Resources District
Walmart North- Grand Island
Wenzl Construction

Festival Friend ($99 - $35)
Roger and Julie Frandsen
Lee’s Family Restaurant
Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District
Super Saver – Grand Island Second Street


Twenty schools including 37 school groups participated in 2022.
See schools that attended, presenters, activities and sponsors here.


The success of the Nebraska Children’s Groundwater Festival is possible only with the support of dedicated educators! Knowledge and time incorporating these activities for students is appreciated. It’s our aspiration that students will carry the groundwater concepts back to their families, friends, and communities—further expanding our groundwater education efforts.

To learn more call (308) 385-6282 or email: Marcia Lee  lee@cpnrd.org   |   Brody Vorderstrasse brody@cpnrd.org

Flagship Event

Held in Grand Island, Nebraska since 1988, the Nebraska Children’s Groundwater Festival was the first to be formed nationally and has been replicated in 42 states in the U.S. and in Mexico, Canada, India, and the United Kingdom.

The Festival is held each May at the Central Community College and College Park in Grand Island. The festival reinforces groundwater quality, groundwater quantity and natural resources education that students receive by bringing 50 water and natural resources professionals together to teach up to 1,000 5th-grade students in one day. Approximately 125 volunteers from surrounding communities and businesses volunteer for the event.

Based on pre/post-test results, evaluations and a behavioral impact study, the festival has demonstrated its positive impact on children’s awareness, knowledge, and ultimately their behavior in groundwater protection. In 2019, the Festival received the local and national Izaak Walton League of America Roll Call awards for educating over 30,000 youth in 30 years.


The focus of the festival is to provide students with hands-on, active learning experiences to gain knowledge about the sources of groundwater, permeation of the soil, the scarcity of groundwater and its vulnerability to pollution. The festival uses stage show presentations, classroom activities and educational games to create student interest and awareness of groundwater issues.

2021 Nebraska Children’s Groundwater Festival was held virtually from April 1 - June 1.
44 teachers from 30 schools participated with approximately 1,250 students.

1. A Crumpled Watershed  presented by Nebraska Extension
Students will learn how to make a watershed model to understand what a watershed is and how water runs off properties into streams, rivers, lakes, and the ocean.

2. Awesome Aquifers  presented by Natural Resources Conservation Service
Students will learn how to construct an aquifer model to learn about the location, size and function of the High Plains Aquifer, how it is recharged, potential effects of aquifer contaminants, and how important the aquifer is to our lives.

3. Bottle Bee Hotels  presented by Central Community College
Students will create nesting habitat for solitary pollinating insects using an upcycled plastic bottle, cardboard straws, twine, and paint for decorating.  Native pollinating insects and bees are beneficial to overall healthy ecosystems, and in particular native plant growth.  Also, native insects including bees are beneficial to the overall diverse insect health, reducing the need to spray harmful insecticides that pollutes our groundwater.

4.  Critter Cube Count  presented by Izaak Walton League
Students (4 per group) will use art skills to cut/glue macroinvertebrates onto toy blocks and then roll blocks to identify macroinvertebrates that turn up. They’ll use math to determine the health of a stream and how it affects groundwater.

5. Groundwater: It’s In What You Drink  presented by Ensign Beverage
Ever wonder how tea and kombucha are made? We’ll tour the brewing facility located in Hastings, NE. Students will see how groundwater is in everything we drink.  Tour includes: brewing tanks, ingredients, brewing process and students will see finished products closeup.

6. H2O and the 3 Rs  presented by Keep Loup Basin Beautiful
Students will learn about trash/debris and discover how proper recycling practices affect the groundwater system. They will also learn about the Ogallala Aquifer and how much trash each household produces daily.

7. How Wetlands Work  presented by Ducks Unlimited
Students will participate in a demonstration of how wetlands positively impact peoples’ lives every day by preventing flooding, filtering pollutants, protecting clean drinking water, recharging groundwater and rivers; as well as the importance of wetlands as habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife.

8. Rain Stick Rattles  presented by Noyes Art Gallery
Students will learn groundwater facts, learn a song, make a rainstick rattle, think about recycling items to make art, how to brush their teeth using very little water.

9. Seed Bombs for Meadow Pollinators  presented by The Crane Trust
Pollinator populations, like Monarch butterflies & bumblebees, are declining in North America. Humans rely on pollinators to initiate fruit production in many of the foods that we eat.  One way to help save pollinators is to plant native plants to create habitat for them, even in your own backyard. We’ll use wetted clay, potting soil & native seeds to create seed bombs that can be distributed to create more flowering resources for our pollinators.

10. The Raptor Connection  presented by Raptor Conservation Alliance
Students will learn how surface water and groundwater are interconnected. While surface water (ponds, lakes, streams, rivers, etc.) are obviously important for all wildlife; groundwater feeds the plants and habitats that all life depends on for sustenance and cover.

11. Water Cycle Bingo  presented by Hall County 4-H
W-A-T-E-R: Students will learn the pieces that make up the water cycle from evaporation to precipitation.

Target Audience

All Nebraska 5th-grade teachers are invited to attend. Approximately 1,000 children from 45 schools participate in the festival each year. The remaining schools that request attendance are invited the following year.


Experts in the fields of water and natural resources are invited to present at the festival, as well as school groups studying groundwater as part of their curriculum. Following are some of the organizations that present:

Natural Resources Conservation Service
Nebraska’s Natural Resources Districts
U.S. Geological Survey
University of Nebraska
Central Community College- Grand Island, Columbus
Nebraska Extension Offices
Cargill Team Blair
City of Grand Island
Stuhr Museum
Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy
Nebraska Health & Human Services
Nebraska Water Environment Association
Nebraska Section American Water Works Association
Nebraska Game & Parks Commission
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Nebraska Public Power District
Nebraska Well Drillers Association
Audubon’s Rowe Sanctuary
The Groundwater Foundation
The Crane Trust
Raptor Conservation Alliance
Hall County 4-H
Nebraska Corn Board
Nebraska Weed Control Association
Meridian Enrichment Program
Ducks Unlimited
Grand Island Groundwater Guardian Team
Grand Island Area Clean Community System
Central District Health Department
Noyes Art Gallery
National Weather Service
Olsson Engineering
Izaak Walton League
Ensign Beverage
Keep Loup Basin Beautiful
Local high schools: Grand Island Senior High, GI Central Catholic, Doniphan-Trumbull, Hastings


The Nebraska Children’s Groundwater Festival Committee is comprised of the Central Platte NRD, the Grand Island Groundwater Guardian Team, Central Community College and College Park in Grand Island, Grand Island Utility Department, Bureau of Reclamation, other organizations and citizens who believe in educating youth about groundwater conservation and protection.


Marcia Lee, Brody Vorderstrasse, Kelly Cole - Central Platte NRD


Roger Andrews- GI Groundwater Guardian Team
Rob Briseno- Central Community College
Karen Cox- Central Community College
Julie Frandsen-  GI Groundwater Guardian Team
Liz Gerberding- Volunteer
Jan Tell- Retired Teacher



The Festival is supported by the following businesses and individuals. The Central Community College and College Park of Grand Island provide their facilities at no charge.

Main Sponsor ($10,000)
Central Platte Natural Resources District-2021 Virtual Event Sponsor

Awesome Aquifer Adventurer ($4,000 - $1,000)
City of Grand Island Utilities Department-2021 Virtual Event Sponsor
Fred Otradovsky -2021 Virtual Event Sponsor
Kaufmann-Cummings Foundation- 2021 Virtual Event Sponsor

Legendary Lake League ($999 - $500)
Lower Loup Natural Resources District

Babbling Brook Benefactor ($499 - $250)
Copycat Printing and Signs
Hiland Dairy Foods
CommonSpirit CHI Health-2021 Virtual Event Sponsor
Lee‘s Family Restaurant
Grand Island Rotary Club
Pepsi Bottling Group of G.I.

Supreme Springwater Supporter ($249 - $100)
CNH Industrial Foundation
Donna Wanitschke-2021 Virtual Event Sponsor
Grand Island Abstract Escrow & Title Company-2021 Virtual Event Sponsor
Kiwanis Club of Grand Island-2021 Virtual Event Sponsor
Seim Irrigation & Well Drilling-2021 Virtual Event Sponsor
Upper Loup Natural Resources District-2021 Virtual Event Sponsor
Wenzl Construction Inc-2021 Virtual Event Sponsor

Festival Friend ($99 - $35)
Roger and June Andrews-2021 Virtual Event Sponsor
Coca-Cola of Grand Island
Virginia Good
Roger and Julie Frandsen-2021 Virtual Event Sponsor
Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District-2021 Virtual Event Sponsor

Free Arbor Day/Earth Day Seedlings

Central Platte NRD offers free tree seedlings from late April through May to classrooms/youth groups to help celebrate Arbor Day and Earth Day.
The Ponderosa Pine and Colorado Blue Spruce seedlings are 6”-12” tall and are ordered from Halsey National Forest. Planting instructions are provided.
CPNRD staff deliver the seedlings to your school and provide an activity if requested. Call or email to reserve seedlings and/or schedule an activity.
Your CPNRD Contact: Brody Vorderstrasse (308) 385-6282 | brody@cpnrd.org

Include the following information:

  • Teacher Name(s)
  • Number of seedlings per classroom
  • Phone
  • Email
  • School address

Adventure Camp About the Environment (ACE)

This camp is hosted by Nebraska's Natural Resources Districts for middle school youth who have completed 6-8 grades. It includes four days of exploring, learning, and outdoor fun including tubing, zip line, water rockets, and more!

Dates & Location:
The camp will not be held in 2023. NRD staff are currently visiting sites to host the ACE camp. In the past, it was held at the State 4-H Camp in Halsey, Nebraska; which was destroyed by a fire in 2022. Updates will be provided here and sent to the media statewide.

Camp Cost: $235. The fee & registration form need to be sent to the Upper Loup NRD.
Central Platte NRD provides $100 scholarships towards the registration fee if you reside within the District.
Contact Marcia Lee at (308) 385-6282 or lee@cpnrd.org.    CPNRD ACE SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATION

Arrival & Departure:  Sunday - Wednesday. Once the registration form is received, additional information is sent to campers.  Transportation to and from camp is the parent’s responsibility. Please arrive promptly with your campers.  Check in will begin no earlier than 4 PM CT.

Camp Core Sessions
Forestry  Get the chance to learn about forestry in North America’s largest man-made forest.
Water  Jump in the Middle Loup River to discover macroinvertebrates and what goes on in our water systems.
Range  What better place to learn about our range ecosystems than in Nebraska’s National Grassland.
Soils  Sand, clay, silt, loam..Nebraska is full of different soils to explore!
Wildlife Campers will be able to learn about our state’s wildlife in a hands on atmosphere.

Education Partners
Nebraska’s Natural Resources Districts
Nebraska Association of Resources Districts
Nebraska National Forest/Bessey Nursery
Nebraska Game & Parks Commission
Nebraska Forest Service
Nebraska State 4-H Camp
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Find us on Facebook:  Adventure Camp about the   Environment

Your CPNRD Contact: Marcia Lee at lee@cpnrd.org308-385-6282