A series of raucous, wet, and wild role-playing games involving children from Ontario and Michigan has brought home an important message about algae in the Great Lakes.
The controlled chaos was an educational game --- Stop Feeding the Algae Monster! --- created by the IJC`s Great Lakes Regional Office and played at local water festivals throughout the Detroit/Windsor region. It’s part of IJC’s educational outreach for our work on reducing algal blooms that in recent years have plagued Lake Erie and other Great Lakes waters.
The IJC released a Lake Erie Ecosystem Priority report in February, which detailed runaway nutrient loading that has accelerated algae growth, and provided recommendations to the U.S. and Canadian governments on curbing the problem.
IJC’s Nick Iannetta at the Detroit River Water Festival.
This year, the “Stop Feeding the Algae Monster!” game was played by hundreds of kids at three different events: the Detroit River Water Festival and Clinton River Water Festival, both in Michigan, and the Essex Region Children’s Water Festival in Ontario.
How the game is played
To play the game, participants receive lanyards with tags identifying them as either an Algae Eater or Algae Feeder. Feeders are fertilizer, detergent, algal blooms, trash, or farming practices. Eaters can be yellow perch, turtles, beavers, trees, or crayfish.
The feeders and eaters race to either add or remove “algae” from “Lake Erie” --- which are represented by green balls and a water-filled kiddie pool, respectively.
Other kiddie pools represent farms, which are filled with “fertilizer” (Styrofoam balls).
Algae Feeders sprint from the farms to Lake Erie, taking one algae ball at a time from the farm and adding it to the lake, thus polluting it. The Algae Eaters take the algae balls out of Lake Erie and run them over to an empty bucket (Nutrient pollution comes from more than just farms --- you can add urban stormwater, too --- but the source is simplified for purposes of the game).
Adding to the challenge, the Eaters are not allowed to use their hands. They tuck the algae balls under their chin, between their elbows or legs, and use other creative variations. After roughly one minute, the kids stop and gather around Lake Erie ---now clogged with the green “algae” balls.
An IJC-led discussion helps the students realize that it is easy for nutrients from human activity to create harmful algal blooms in the lake, but it is significantly harder to eliminate them once they’ve taken root. They learn that by reducing their cumulative impact and being vigilant about pollution, they can help keep the Great Lakes clean and safe and send the Algae Monster packing.
"Stop Feeding the Algae Monster!" also is used with IJC's Twitter account for LEEP (@ErieIJC).