September 27, 2017

Common Trees of the Missouri River Bottom: A Guide for Students


Ready to Download Now! 

The "Common Trees of the Missouri River Bottom: A Guide for Students" was created by Missouri River Relief and was designed to be used by elementary and high school students. The goal of this guide is to provide an engaging, hands-on experience for students beginning to learn about Missouri River floodplain trees. To download directly visit: MOSpace Institutional Repository

Tree Fun Facts

Comparing and contrasting the different types of leaves
How do trees access the internet for our new educator resource “Common Trees of the Missouri River Bottoms: A Guide for Students”? They log on! To learn other fun facts about trees of the Missouri River Bottom see facts below or download the guide. 
 
Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides)
  • Their cotton-like seeds are dispersed by the wind, and can be found along the waterline on sandbars and river banks.
  • A fast-growing tree, which can grow to over 100 feet high.
  • Require flooding or other disturbance to regenerate.
  • Eagles build their nest in these trees year after year, because the large branch size can withstand heavy weights.
  • The Missouria Indians, whose name means “People with Big Canoes”, used these trees for their dugout canoes.
American Sycamore (Platanus accidentalis)
  • The bark flakes off of this waterloving tree.
  • One of the largest eastern hardwood trees.
  • Small mammals, like raccoons and possums, live in the cavities of the trunk.
  • Holds its round “pom-pom” seed clusters throughout most of the winter.
Common Hackberry (Celtis accidentalis)
  • Grows really tall on floodplains. 
  • Pioneers used its tough, flexible wood for cabin floors.
  • Attracts winter birds, such as the robin and mockingbird that eat its fruit.
Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)
  • Named for the silvery underside of their leaves.
  • Wood Ducks and other birds like to make nests in the limbs.
Box Elder (Acer negundo)
  • The name Box Elder comes from its former usage in the manufacture of wooden crates, pallets, and boxes.
  • These trees, related to maples, help to shelter wildlife and stabilize stream banks.
  • Often confused with poison ivy because the leaves can grow in sets of three.
Red Mulberry (Morus rubra)
  • Another common tree you may encounter along the Missouri River is the White Mulberry tree, a native of Asia.
  • Fishermen often set their lines under fruiting mulberry trees because catfish feed on these berries.
  • If you squeeze the leaf stem, you may see some white sap.
  • The fruits ripen in spring, and can be eaten raw or used for cooking.
Black Willow (Salix nigra)
  • Honey tree--beneficial to bees.
  • Provides food to ‘browser’ animals, such as deer, beaver, and rabbit.
  • During the American Revolution, the wood of black willow (and of other willows) was made into fine charcoal, which was then used to make gunpowder.
  • This is one of many species of willow found in the Missouri River floodplain
  • Willows are one of the first trees to colonize new sandbars after a flood.
River Birch (Betula nigra)
  • Tend to grow in clumps of multiple trunks, often in groups of three
  • Seeds are food for small mammals and birds
Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
  • Bur Oaks have the largest acorns of any oak tree in North America.
  • The slightly toxic acorns were boiled several times before being used as food by many Native American tribes

How to Use this Guide

4th graders exploring the Missouri River bottom. 

While the trees included in this guide can be found in many Missouri River floodplain forests, the list is not exhaustive for all locations. Many Missouri River floodplain trees can be very tall with leaves out of reach; as such, we formatted this guide to focus on bark providing the most direct identifier for the students. Tree bark is at student level! Because many guides focus on leaves and stems to identify trees, we understand that this is a unique approach to learning tree species. 


Thank You for Your Support

Using all our senses to explore the Missouri River bottom. 

Big thank you to Kevin Tosie, Student – University of Missouri, Columbia Leif Nordstrom, Student – University of Missouri, Columbia and Ann Koenig, Urban Forester – Missouri Department of Conservation and Felicity Dykas, Head of Digital Service Department- the University of Missouri who made this guide possible. 

To learn more about our educational resources visit our web page

September 20, 2017

St. Charles Educator Workshop; September 14th-15th, 2017

By: Kristen Schulte & Leif Nordstrom, Missouri River Relief

Missouri River Relief (MRR) was in St. Charles, Missouri to host an Educator Workshop. This event brought teachers from around the Midwest, including formal and informal educators. There were eleven lucky participants, each one as excited as the next to be learning more about the Big Muddy and ways to spread that knowledge to others. The two-day workshop focused on both connecting participants to the Missouri River as well as detailing ways to integrate this knowledge into their classrooms and/or programs.

Day One:

After setting up registration at the boat ramp, participants began to arrive. Once everyone had signed in, Kristen, MRR education coordinator, organized us into a circle for introductions. The crew, including Jeff Barrow (MRR executive director), Jan Weaver (Missouri Environmental Education executive director) and myself (Kristen Schulte, the education coordinator), provided the participants with a brief background of ourselves, followed by the educators talking a little about themselves and their reason for coming. Although the individual reasons varied, they all shared an excitement to learn. After the introduction, we got everyone fitted for life jackets, and set off down-stream, with Jeff manning the wheel. Along the way, we made observations about the river, using “I notice, I wonder, It reminds me of…”

Educators make "I notice" observations on the river.
Next, we talked about the Missouri River watershed and the social, economic, and environmental factors that influence it. Captain Jeff also provided some background on boat navigation, describing the various signs along the riverbanks that are used by motorists to identify the depth and current direction.  We talked about the history of the river and how it has changed over time, both naturally and artificially. Specific focus was given to dams and channels, where I described both the benefits and detriments of each.

Educators watch as a dredge pulls sand up from the bottom of the river. 
We had lunch at back at the boat ramp from the Katy Bike Stop and then motored downstream, eventually finding an island to settle into. While we explored the island, I prompted the educators to guess what the bottom of the river might look like. We then moved to a shady spot on the side of the river where we talked about the Pallid Sturgeon and participated in activities which related important information about the endangered fish. Once we returned to the boat, I explained the various planning and management strategies for chutes, and how they are intended to assist the Pallid Sturgeon and other at-risk wildlife. Finally, we motored back to the boat ramp, where we briefly reflected on our first day on the Big Muddy before departing.

Educators learn about the Pallid Sturgeon through learning stations. 
Day Two:

This day, we spent our time on land at two locations: the Greater St. Charles Visitor Center and the Lewis & Clark Boat House & Museum.

Peer to peer discussions on how people learn. 
Day two was spent off the river and focused on student learning and understanding, as well as ways to integrate this information into the classroom. To begin, Kristen provided a template for what a Missouri River lesson plan might look like, igniting creativity throughout the educators for their own lesson plan construction to come. 

Demo of a Missouri River Lesson Plan 
Then, we discussed the ways in which people learn, as well as how to integrate this into your lesson plan. We engaged in peer to peer and group discussion with a demo of a Missouri River lesson plan in-between. Then, we meet with a tour guide from the St. Charles Historical Society. We explored the red brick roads of St. Charles and its connection to the Missouri River. We ended our tour with a delicious lunch at Magpie’s CafĂ©. 

Tour of early settlement on the Missouri River in St. Charles, Mo.
After lunch, participants began working on lesson plans of their own. Educators were asked to bring copies of one of their own lesson plans, either to edit or to add new content. Participants used the knowledge gained from day one of the workshop to craft a unique lesson plan of their own! Topics included settlement along the Missouri River, biodiversity on the Missouri River, and people’s impact on the Missouri River.

Next, participants used giant post-it notepaper as a canvas for their lesson plans, which they then placed on the wall around the room. Individually, educators went around the room in a 'gallery walk activity', observing their colleagues work, and providing comments for praise and potential improvement by placing a post-it note on the lesson plan.

Transfering our lesson plans to poster board for peer feedback. 
 To conclude our day, we gathered to discuss what we learned. As a whole, participants appeared to hold a deeper connection to the river when we ended than when we began. Some claimed that they would seek ways to incorporate more place-based learning into their classroom, while others reveled in the sheer complexity of the river and its many accompanying ecosystems. One permeating theme: the combination of joy and excitement that comes from being on the river. Using the Big Muddy as a vessel, we explored the complexities of student learning and understanding, while developing foundational knowledge of the river itself and its many influencing factors.

If you would like to learn more about MRR educator workshops, please contact Education Coordinator Kristen Schulte at kristen@riverrelief.org. See you on the river!

July 21, 2017

Missouri River Academy FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)


“What type of weather should I plan for? How is Missouri River Relief prepared for this?”


“The Missouri River Academy takes place right in the middle of summer, so we can say with certainty that you should be prepared for the heat. At MRR, we use preventative measures to keep both our participants and staff safe. These measures include frequent hydration, the use of cold towels, and access to shade/air conditioning, when possible. In preparation for the Academy, we ask that you are well-equipped with items such as sun screen, a shady hat, at least two water bottles, umbrella, rain coat/boots, and more. A complete list of items to bring will be available upon enrollment. “

“What is the Missouri River Action Project? Do I need to do any work ahead of time for this?”


The Missouri River Action project is a research assignment that we require each student to complete by the end of the Academy. Jan weaver, MRR crew member and MEEA director, will lead instruction on the action project. For the action project, each student will identify an issue that in some way affects the Missouri River, and will conduct research - using MRR resources - to develop a solution that addresses their given problem. Now, I know conducting research doesn’t sound like a typical camp activity, but at MRR, we believe in finding the right balance between fun and learning, creating an extraordinary overall experience. In addition, research will facilitate a deeper connection that students feel to the Missouri River, thus empowering the next generation of river stewards. Conducting research prior to the Academy is not a requirement, but we highly recommend that students at least identify a few topics that might be of interest before coming to the Academy. Resources for researchable topics can be found on our MRR education page. 

“Are there any physical requirements for the Missouri River Academy?”


During the Academy, we will be doing some form of physical activity every day. Some days will be more strenuous than others; for example, one day will be spent riding bikes on the Katy Trail. The bike ride will be more physically demanding than, say, the fourth day, which includes several presentations. Be that as it may, the Academy is not an exercise camp, and we try to be as inclusive of all fitness levels as possible. All we ask is that students be honest about their skill level, particularly concerning bike riding or swimming, and that they keep an open mind. More information will be provided in the registration packets for the Academy. 

“What makes this summer camp different from the rest? What kind of activities will the camp offer?”


The Missouri River Academy offers students the unique opportunity to learn about something that they can literally float on during camp! The Academy combines a traditional summer camp structure with a River Relief twist. During camp, students will be able to jump in the pool for a swim, play basketball or volleyball, make s’mores around the bonfire, but also get the chance to learn about the Missouri River. Students get to take a ride on our 24-foot aluminum plated MRR boats, and will explore several areas of interest related to the river, including the history and economics of a river town, ecology and river organisms, as well as human activity. But wait, there’s more! Students will also be required to complete a Missouri River Action Project. For this project, students will choose an issue related to the Missouri River, and conduct research throughout the Academy to develop a solution that addresses the issue. For more information on the action project, see our related FAQ question. To be clear, there will not be a dull moment during the Academy, and at MRR, we make sure to pack all of our events with tons of fun. For more information on activities, check out our MRR education page. 

“I’ve never heard of Missouri River Relief. What makes you qualified to run a 5-day summer camp?”


Missouri River Relief has been hosting the Missouri River Academy for the last five years. While each Academy is different, we attribute this long-standing tradition to the hard work and determination of our staff, volunteers, and presenters. Besides the Academy, MRR has been working since 2001 to connect people to the Missouri River, by coordinating various different events, collectively gathering over 22,000 volunteers. In addition to our experience carrying out programs, MRR Education Coordinator, Kristen Schulte, has over 10 years of experience working in outdoor education, and has personally coordinated the last two Missouri River Academy events. Our staff are well trained, prepared, and motivated, making us an ideal organization to run a complex summer-camp program. To learn more about MRR and its staff, check out our about page. 

“Isn't the Missouri River dangerous? What kind of boats will the students be in?”


Just like with all bodies of water, the Missouri River can be dangerous, if correct safety precautions are not followed. At MRR, we pride ourselves on the standard of safety that we uphold for each and every one of our events. Beginning with a detailed safety talk before anyone steps on a boat, participants are instructed as to the proper behavior required both inside and outside the boat, and then are fitted for a life jacket by one of our friendly, trained staff members. The boats themselves are 24-feet long, and sided with aluminum plating. All MRR boat operators must complete a mandatory training session before they can drive a boat, and our pilots have years of experience under their belt. Rest assured, MRR takes every precaution necessary to ensure the safety of our staff, volunteers, and participants. For more information about our equipment, visit the MRR Our Fleet page. 

“I notice that Camp Trinity is a religious camp, will students be required to pray at meals?”



In short, no, students will not be required to pray at meals, but they are more than welcome to do so if they like. MRR is inclusive of all walks of life, including beliefs and non-beliefs, and maintains a culture of acceptance. MRR is a not a religious organization, and its programs do not operate under any particular religious’ faith. We understand that Camp Trinity is a Lutheran facility, and while we respect their beliefs, we do not promote these ideals within our program structure. Nonetheless, we expect that all staff, volunteers, presenters, and participants treat both the staff and property of Camp Trinity with respect. If you have any further questions regarding this manner, feel free to contact MRR Education Coordinator Kristen Schulte at kristen@riverrelief.org.