STAR ECO Station home to exotic animals, new storm drain exhibit

By: Lauren Weber, The Placer Herald
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Who knew storm drains could be so exciting?
STAR ECO Station in Rocklin did.
That’s why they’re unveiling their newest exhibit of a walk-through, interactive storm drain to show kids the impact everyday items have going into a storm drain.
The exhibit, a wide, walk-through circular room, has a mock mountain range that flows into a stream of water that goes directly to the ocean, on the opposite side of the mountains.
Within the ceiling of the drain are three pull-down mini exhibits showing three-dimensional examples of some of the contaminating items that go into storm drains on a regular basis. The first pull down exhibit shows residential items such as a garden hose, leaves, cleaning supplies — all items that can pollute the water. The second is full of automotive pollutants such as coolant, oil, gas cans and windshield wiper fluid. The last shows off the agricultural items that can cause damage to water and wildlife including pesticides and fertilizer.
The drain itself is filled with “graffiti” walls showing drawings of parasites and bacteria. A backlight illuminates the drawings, showing things that are not seen by the naked eye, while sounds of water dripping can be heard in the background, all to give students an interactive glance into what can hurt the environment.
“Kids are smart,” Ryan Donahue, STAR ECO Station director said. “If you communicate it in the right way, they’re going to remember.”
On Monday, a group of Rocklin Elementary School first graders were able to get a tour of the station, but not yet the storm-drain exhibit – that will be unveiled Saturday. One of the things that made the field trip more exciting for the kids was the interaction and relate-ability the tour guides have.
“It’s important to be dramatic so it’s fun,” Donahue said.
The exhibit’s unveiling will coincide with World Ocean Day, a world-wide day joining forces with more than 800 aquariums, museums, zoos and conservation organizations. The day will include festivities such as games and prizes, music, an art show and silent auction, water science experiments and more.
The storm drain exhibit, sized at 60 inches in diameter and 20 feet long, will send children the message that things that go into storm drains are not filtered – they go directly into the waterways and oceans where shoreline habitats can be dramatically affected.
Kim Borum of the STAR ECO Station said the exhibit, combined with the others, shows the role humans play in the water cycle.
From the storm drain exhibit, tour-goers can enter the marine rooms filled with animals that rely on water, both fresh and salt. Within the past two years, there has been a 100 percent increase in dead zones in the water across the world, Borum said, showing a map filled with red dots representing the dead zones. Most of the damage is from storm drain runoff, she said, mostly from fertilizer, and is 100 percent recoverable.
Many of the materials throughout the center are designed using recycled material such as Styrofoam and donated materials, Borum said.
But from touring the station, Borum said kids go away with more than a memorable hands-on lesson on animals. Instead, they leave wanting to “train” their families on ways to help the environment.
“We get these kids at a young, impressionable age,” Borum said. “The kids totally take responsibility and account for their futures.”

STAR ECO Station presents
What: World Ocean Day and unveiling of storm drain exhibit at STAR ECO Station
When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.,
June 6
Where: 4465 Granite Drive, Rocklin
Cost: Tickets are $5 per
Contact: 632-8347

Fun facts about STAR ECO Station in Rocklin:
• Since the station’s opening in 2006, more than 80,000 guests from Placer and surrounding counties have visited.

• Star Eco Station is home to about 100 different exotic animals that have been rescued.

• Tour-goers, especially children, are forewarned: “All animals we have here are bad pets,” Ryan Donahue, ECO Station director said.

• The station is a nonprofit and relies mostly on funding from grants and donations of items such as bird toys, hand sanitizer, plastic tubs and more.

• The station also keeps kids busy with weekly-themed summer camps such as bugs, rainforest exploration, birds and more.

For more photos: STAR ECO Station gives kids glimpse at wildlife

Placer Herald’s Lauren Weber can be reached at