Friday, May 16, 2008

Stay at Home Dad--Field Trip to the Sewage Treatment Plant

As a part-time stay-at-home dad, I am always looking for interesting, educational and fun activities that my three-year-old son and I can enjoy together. Earlier this week he came to me and said that he needed to get out for a while, so I took him on an impromptu field trip to a water treatment facility.

This may sound a little strange for a three-year-old (or most anyone else, for that matter), but I thought that it would be interesting, give him a chance to get out and blow off some steam, and also give me a chance to engage in a few teachable moments. Besides, given the state of affairs with water in our area, I thought that this might give me one more opportunity to talk with him about that issue. Plus, his mom is an environmental and water resources engineer. This would give him another chance to see what mom does for a living.

We went to a local facility that is very hands-on and very kids friendly. In fact, they allow the kids to jump right into the wastewater treatment process (there are, of course, facilities close by to wash hands after playtime). My son loves it, running back and fourth through the coarse debris screen, then hiding from me within the solids and sludge containment area. Of course he would like playing somewhere with a concentration of sludge--he’s all boy. He just squeals when I surprise him by sticking my head through the screen that catches the raw sewage and yell “Ha! Gotcha!” This is what parenting is all about—the moments you’ll always cherish.

He isn’t much interested in the part of the facility where disinfection takes place (again, he’s all boy), though he does like to hang out in the aeration section and watch the bubbles. The only thing that really bothers him is the “rotten egg” smell. There is also a toilet on site that he is allowed to flush over and over and over again. And he does, too.

His older sister, who is in preschool, would be furious with me if she knew that, while she was busy with the serious business of reading, writing, and Spanish, I was letting her brother have a field day in sewage. I can hear it now. “That’s not FAIR!!”

The facility, the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center (about thirty-five miles east of downtown Atlanta), also has many opportunities to get wet, pet a horseshoe crab, visit with a turtle named Bubba, and watch a movie about water conservation that is projected onto a screen that is essentially a waterfall. There are also acres of woods and trails.

Interestingly enough, the facility and its grounds are surrounded by some of the most densely populated and developed land in the state of Georgia. Just as interesting, the facility was paid for in large part by Gwinnett County, Georgia taxpayers. I say “interesting” because, politically, Gwinnett County, Georgia (a suburb of Atlanta) is known as perhaps one of the “Reddest” counties in perhaps the “Reddest” state in the country. I guess it goes to show that you cannot always peg people, or the place from which they come. It’s an interesting place to be at an interesting time, without a doubt.

On the matter of my local tax dollars--and how they are being spent--the new stadium for the Atlanta Braves farm team is going up about three miles from my house. I confess that I like that idea, though we’ll see how I feel about the traffic and etc. when the time comes. I would like to thank Georgia Governor Sonny Purdue for finally giving the thumbs up to beer sales at the new stadium. If my children insist on my playing John Fogerty’s song, ‘Centerfield’ even one more time, I will certainly need one, if not several.

Recommended reads:

The Crackers: Early Days of Atlanta Baseball by Tim Darnell

Taking Lottie Home by Terry Kay

Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi

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