October 13, 2009

The Big Muddy Teaches Tons!

The Missouri River Watershed Festival
Kaw Point Park, Kansas City, KS
Oct. 2, 2009

text and photos by Vicki Richmond

Middle school students have uncanny ways of grasping a concept. We’ve found over years of trial and error, that students learn with their minds- and noses, and eyes and ears and hands and feet! At the Missouri River Watershed Festival, 32 exhibits worked hard to engage all of a student’s learning centers with hands-on exhibits. Nearly 600 students at Kaw Point left buses and immediately were engaged in the history and ecological significance of the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers.

Students are provided with a passport listing each exhibitor’s contact information and posing a question that can be answered by participation in each exhibit’s activity. We hope that we’ve been successful in making watershed awareness a part of the student’s school experience.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is conducting a collaborative long-term study and planning process called the Missouri River Ecosystem Restoration Plan (MRERP) (www.mrerp.org). Last week the MRERP committee traveled to a local middle school and was amazed at how much the kids knew about their watershed. When asked how they were so well educated, the kids responded that they’d been to the Festival on Friday.

When I look at the diversity of experiences offered at the Festival: a trash boat, ready to host a clean up the next day, a 50 lb catfish found just upstream of Kaw Point, a stream trailer showing how water effects landscapes, water quality demonstrations, a recycle relay, gooey garbage, beakers and computers and puppet shows, I understand how well we’ve done our jobs.

We’ve offered urban, suburban, and rural kids the opportunity to learn something in their own unique way. We’ve immersed the whole person in learning about how important water is to our lives, and how our actions affect an entire watershed.

And when an outside committee goes into a classroom and the students are aware and engaged because of the Missouri River Watershed festival, we know that education effort is working!

The Missouri River Watershed Festival is organized by a partnership of local non-profits and agencies including: Little Blue River Watershed Coalition, Platte Land Trust, Wyandotte County Conservation District and US Geological Survey and Missouri River Relief. Many more smart folks join up the day of the event to share their knowledge with the students. Thanks to all!

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