November 17, 2017

Words of Wisdom to The Next Education Assistant

In the summer of 2017, Missouri River Relief was blessed to have Leif Nordstrom join the ranks as full-time seasonal education assistant intern.  At the end of his positions, we asked Leif to share a few “words of wisdom” to the next education assistant.  

The Missouri River Academy, one of MRR's major events of the year
To the Next Education Assistant Intern,
SPLASH! Wake up! You’ve fallen into the Missouri River with no life jacket, no boat, no help, and it’s up to you to make it back to shore. This scenario might be analogous to the feelings you experience during your first day as the Missouri River Relief (MRR; get used to that acronym, it’s going to come up ALOT over the course of the next few months). This is completely normal, so take a breath, and remember where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going.
For me, working as the MRR education assistant was the first ‘office job’ I had ever had, as I spent my years as an undergraduate working in the food industry. Admittedly, I was very nervous on my first day. What helped me the most was reflecting on these thoughts: where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going. As I’ve discovered in life, self-awareness is critical to success, so acknowledging my past experiences as well as my ambitions for the future helped me by bringing my unique collection of skill-sets and experiences to the forefront. Then I took a breath, settled into my new office job, and put those skills to work.
I would like to present the next education assistant with a challenge: over the next few months, you will spend each day working on something different. Now, you can view this challenge in two ways: an inconsistent annoyance, or a unique opportunity for growth. While you won’t be doing something entirely different each day, this challenge represents an ideology that will be helpful to ascribe to, both at MRR and in life. View each day as a new opportunity. As you’ll find in the Words of Wisdom bullet points below, I ask you to always be moving, both mentally and physically. This is a method that I picked up while in the food business, but can easily be translated to work in an office, and resonates with this ‘new day’ ideology.
To begin each day, look over your projects list and identify what you think is the most pressing. This will change regularly, as your work is going to be built around upcoming events, with a few long-term projects peppered in-between. For example, if there is a multiple-day education event happening within the next two weeks, you will likely be working on preparing paperwork, gathering materials, or writing a press release. After you’ve picked a project, dive right into it. The reason the Education Coordinator chose you as the intern is because of your talents, and one of the greatest benefits of the job is the freedom you are afforded to utilize your unique skills to create, so don’t neglect your intuition when working on projects. That being said, you should keep an open mind, as a more complete work will be found through collaboration with the Education Coordinator and other MRR staff, which means incorporating outside ideas and editing.
While the goal of the projects list is to establish your independence – in other words, so that you don’t have to bother the Education Coordinator every second asking for things to do – I like to check in with the Education Coordinator a few times a week, and at least ask them what they are working on for the day. This is an informal way to get familiar with the type of work the Education Coordinator does, but also an opportunity to get to know them better. I recommend you see this job in two ways: an opportunity to learn professional skills in a unique setting, but also the chance to meet some really friendly people. Take time to get to know both the Education Coordinator and the other MRR staff; they want to get to know you.
The Educator Workshop, another one of MRR's major events of the year. 
As the Education Assistant, your primary focus is MRR education. This includes two major events: the Educator Workshop and the behemoth, also known as the Missouri River Academy. Both events will require a great amount of preparation, and you will help the Education Coordinator to carry out these events, assisting in various ways, such as taking pictures, setting up for meals, serving as a deck-hand, and more. Much, much more. The greatest advice I can give regarding these events is to stay calm, and always be present. You won’t always be in the forefront and in fact, you will spend most of the time in the background. But always be doing something, and keep an eye out for any way that you can make Kristen’s job easier.
In addition, keep notes on what can be improved and what you think has gone especially well. This internship is a two-way street: you are helping MRR, but they are also helping you. The Education Coordinator sees this internship as a great opportunity to teach and help you grow as a professional so the Education Coordinator will be challenging you, and asking for your thoughts and recommendations.
Now let’s get down to the brass tacks, there are a few things that I learned along the way as well. 
  •  The meaning of ‘Schlepping’. – The physical action of moving items up, down, and around from one place to another. Usually involves stairs, sweat, and multiple trips. When schlepping, keep in mind that after you have schlepped items to one place, you will eventually have to schlepp them back.
  • When traveling to an MRR event where you will be camping, ensure that you are adequately prepared. This includes - but is not limited to - a raincoat, boots, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, extra shoes/socks, and a tent.
  • Take 15 minutes to talk with MRR Staff about tying knots. Practice these… they will prove VERY useful as a deckhand.
  • Be prepared to serve as the MRR ‘head of culinary operations’. Duties include chopping watermelon, slicing Hawaiian Sweet Rolls, and schlepping coolers of food.  As head of culinary operations, it is imperative that when picking up a HyVee online order, always remember to check that ALL ITEMS are included.
  • At times, you will be required to drive an MRR vehicle and tow an MRR boat. When doing so, remember that your turns should always be wide.
  • When ordering food for 123 people, do not hesitate to greatly exaggerate the serving size presented on the container.
  • When posting on the River Notes blog, make sure that you have ‘filtered’ your text through a simple processor (notepad) and always upload photos using the Blogger website. NEVER copy and paste pictures into Blogger.
  • When possible, use resources you can already find in the office. The office bookshelf or the Education Coordinators book collection can provide some great information.
  • When using files from MRR file sharing service, make sure that others are not currently making changes to that document. This will create a duplicate file and can be very confusing.
  • When packing shirts for the Academy, check that the sizes are not youth sizes (unless you want them to be).
  • Before, during, and after an event, always make sure that the MRR camera is loaded with batteries, including at least one set of back-ups.
As with all things in life, there’s only so much I can tell you, and you’re going to learn best through experience. Take whatever aspects of this short narrative as you like, but I ask you to remember one thing: be excited! You’ve been given a great opportunity as the MRR intern, and if you view the next few months through that lens, you’re going to walk away with a tremendous experience.

View this job as a challenge to show that you can swim, even with no life jacket, boat, or help; give it your all, and I assure you that you will make it to shore with a sense of great accomplishment and satisfaction.

So, with that, I wish you good luck, and I’ll see you on the river!


Leif Nordstrom
2017 Education Assistant Intern

To learn more about Missouri River Relief's internship program, visit 

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 See you on the river!

July 19, 2017

Missouri River Academy, July 9-13, 2017

By: Leif Nordstrom, Missouri River Relief

Both fun and educational, there's nothing like being on the river.
28 high school students from across the state joined us at scenic Camp Trinity for our second annual Missouri River Academy in New Haven, Missouri. During the camp, students would connect with the natural and cultural history of the Missouri River through adventure, exploration, and investigation. Students will discover the river ecosystems and the natural forces that shaped them, including ways that human activity have affected the river’s rhythm and flow.
Kristen pumps up the group with her trademark "Bring it!" activity.
Day 1 had us registering and settling in at our beautiful camp, with an introduction to the staff and the Missouri River. After introductions, students separated into teams to begin the much anticipated Missouri River Olympics. The first challenge required teams to face off in a heated “Rock, Paper, Scissors” tournament, with an added twist: whenever a participant lost a match, they had to hold the victor’s shoulders from behind, and chant their name until a champion was found, creating two large lines of students, all chanting in a hypnotic, unified rhythm as the final contestants faced-off. After the Olympic-excitement settled, students were introduced to their Missouri River Action project. Fellow MRR crew member and MEEA director, Jan Weaver, detailed the structure of the project, wherein students would identify an issue affecting the Missouri River, and develop a solution to address their chosen problem. We capped off an exciting first day with a campfire and s’mores, as local musicians Gloria and Michael came out to lead us in song. 
Rock, paper, scissors: a victor must be crowned!
Day 2 of the River Academy was spent on the river. We got out for a morning boat ride before it got too hot, explored, wondered and learned about the history of the Mighty Mo. While on the river, we observed a passing grain barge from Hermann Sand & Gravel, serving as an unexpected preface to the tour that we were to have on day 4. After a bit of mucking around in the mud, we found a spot back at the boat ramp to settle in for some water-color painting and lunch. After lunch, we hit the Katy Trail for a bike ride through the river country side, followed by a tour of the old Peers Store, ice cream, a prairie tour and ended with dinner in Treloar, Missouri. Dan and Connie Burkhardt from the Katy Land Trust funded all of these activities, displaying some great river hospitality. Once we were back at camp, students continued to work on their Missouri River Action Project. We then geared up for day 2 of Missouri River Olympics, competing in an activity called “birdy on the perch”, where contestants used hand/body motions as clues to distinguish between those that were ‘birdies’ and those that were ‘perch’. We concluded the day with a look at the stars through the eyes of the local Astronomy Club.
Enjoying the Katy Trail, one of Missouri's wonderful resources.
Day 3 of the Academy was spent both on and off the river. We began early, as our friends from Missouri River Bird Observatory came out to lead a presentation, where the students had a chance to locate birds using binoculars. Then we hit the river, where Mike Smith - a MRR crew member and retired teacher - guided the students through an exploration exercise, before we conducted a lightning-fast clean-up, which the students rocked. 
An attack by vicious snails!
After that, we hit the river, as the Missouri Department of Conservation brought out four boats to teach us different ways of catching fish. Finally, we ended with a sunset cruise, an "insects of the night" activity, and of course, another round of Missouri River Olympics! During the third Olympics challenge, students combined brain-power to solve difficult riddles. 
This student poses after catching the biggest fish of the day!
Day 4 of the Missouri River Academy was all about Missouri River towns. First, we met up with David Menke, a New Haven historian, who talked about how the Missouri River played a role in its founding, including a riveting story about a Lewis and Clark companion. Then we walked a few blocks to Astral Glass, where we heard from Lance and Gary about their paddling trek of the upper Missouri River. Besides getting to see all the unique gear that they used during their trip, students were able to ask questions and hear tons of fun stories. Then we packed CSA (Community-Sourced Agriculture) boxes at Avant Garden in New Haven. Students had a blast sorting through blueberries and beets, while learning about locally sourced food. 
Blueberries, beets and honey abound!
Avant Garden provided a delectable lunch for us – BLT’s and potato salad – all consisting of locally sourced ingredients. After lunch, we took a tour of the Deutschheim State Historical Society in Hermann, Missouri. Students gained perspective of why people in history would choose to live on/near the river, and how their lifestyle was influenced by it. Next, we visited with Hermann Sand and Gravel, as we were afforded a tour of their expansive facility. Finally, we made our way back to New Haven to tour the New Haven office of Public Works, where we explored a waste-water treatment facility. Once we had returned to camp, students worked on their action projects, played “Zombie tag”, and capped off the night with an ice cream social.
Jan Weaver assists students with their Action project.

Day 5 was an exciting end to our Missouri River Academy. Students spent the morning putting the finishing touches on their action projects. We had a picnic lunch next a small lake located in the camp, and shared our favorite moments of the camp during “Pass the Feather”, a MRR tradition. After lunch, students created posters to represent their action project, which they then displayed on the walls around our lodge. In the afternoon, parents began to arrive and students presented about their action projects to parents, staff, and other students. We could not have been more proud to witness the culmination of our campers’ hard work, expressed through passion, creativity, and maybe just a little bit of fun. As is life, all good things must come to an end; after the presentations we said our good-byes, and the campers began to depart. This year’s Academy ranks among the best, but we could not have done it without all of our wonderful presenters, staff, and volunteers, to whom we would like to extend a humongous Big Muddy thank you. 
Group photo outside of the Peers Store - Thanks, KLT!

See you on the river!

June 27, 2017

Trash Tally Totals, 2016

Hello, River Reliefers

2016 was a great year for trash (how often do you hear that one?)
So we have compiled a detailed list of all the materials we picked up over the year, both big and small. 

But first, we would like to extend a tremendous thank you to everyone that has joined us for a clean-up, including volunteers, crew, and partner organizations. From St. Louis to Kansas City, 2016 was another remarkable year for Missouri River Relief, and we could not have done it without you!! 

With that, please take some time to bask in the itemized glory of garbage that can no longer call the Big Muddy home.
For fun, we separated trash into general categories...


1 flimsy gray brassiere
1 leopard print G-string
5 flip-flop
1 pair pink plastic sparkle sunglasses (lenses gone)
1 sneaker
1 pair of wet shoes
1 hard hat
1 tie
1 hat
3 gloves

Furniture and house fixtures:

15 chair
1 couch
1 mattress
3 rusted bed springs
1 dresser drawer (wooden)
1 mirror
1 chaise lounge (aqua)
1 door


11 refrigerators
5 fridge door
7 refrigerator racks
1 refrigerator compressor with coils
4 TVs
2 chest freezer
1 garage door opener motor
1 oven grate

Toys and recreational items:

1 Frisbee
3 fishing pole
1 Snow Board
23 assorted balls (football, soccer, etc.)
1 toy chicken
1 toy sheep (contest winner)
1 red cardboard octopus (should have won the contest)
1 child’s 4-wheeler in pieces (steering wheel, axle, seat)
1 plastic toddler slide
3 plastic sleds
1 Tuggy the Tugboat
1 bicycle
1 blue plastic basketball hoop stand
1 piece of a swing set
1 Etch-a-Sketch
1 baby bottle
1 glow stick 
1 Dinosaur toy
1 Mr. Potato Head 
1 Space Panda
1 Anatomically Correct Baby Doll (It’s a Boy!)
1 Scooby Doo
1 Bowling Pin
1 bottle of blue glitter
1 green bottle of playdough 
1 Big Wheels

In fact, we almost found enough trash to construct a Missouri River Relief vehicle!!

443 tires 
4 car seat
1 car under-tray (commonly known as “bellypan”)
1 trailer hitch
3 car bumper
5 car body pieces
1 gas can
2 plastic mud flap
1 gas tank cover
1 car headlight
1 crank shaft
1 truck bed liner
1 car engine cover
1 gas pipe (6’ long)

Here is a shortened list of the complete 2016 trash tally...

956 Bags Trash
126 Bags Recyclables
443 tires 
34 55-gallon plastic barrels
11 refrigerators
49 large Styrofoam hunks
16 55-gallon metal barrel
39 5-gallon bucket
22 coolers
31 large tubs 
19 propane tank (small)
15 chair
2 chest freezer
1 500-gal metal tank (rusted)
1 oil drain pan
4 truck tire w/out rim
3 metal cable
2 fuel tank drum
3 wooden pallets
3 car wheels (steel)
1 5-gallon plastic oil container
1 large rubber circular trough
1 boat bumper
4 car seat
7 camper parts (Designer Series camper)
1 car undertray (commonly known as “bellypan”)
1 trailer hitch 
3 car bumper
5 car body pieces
4 large propane tanks
2 swimming pool parts
4.5 buoy
3 corrugated plastic pipe 
1 boat seat
4 PVC pipe 
1 yellow raft
2 country mailboxes (one with red flag up)
1 “Pittsburgh” US Geological Survey life vest
1 couch
3 rusted bed springs
3.5 full jugs of oil
1 oxygen tank
2 fence post
1 American Flag
1 section rusted iron gate
1 water jug
1 gas can
1 heavy aluminum pan
1 oven grate
1 sleeping bag (frog green)
3 fishing pole
2 television back
4 TVs
1 Christmas tree
1 valet sign
3 gloves
1 flimsy gray brassiere
1 Snow Board
1 sheet piling
1 leopard print g-string
3 metal drum
3 dirty diapers
2 plastic mud flap
1 door
1 gas tank cover
3 culvert
1 tent
1 cattle panel
12 hunks plastic
4 trash can lid
1 bed-liner
1 message in a bottle
1 car headlight
1 pump sprayer
2 garden hose
1 oil drain pan
1 gas tank cover
3 plastic milk crates
1 Freon tank
1 5-gallon stainless-steel milk can (very shiny)
1 2-cup glass measuring cup
3 paint cans 
9 large pieces scrap metal
1 20-foot steel cable
1 metal spring
1 bunch fake grapes
1 12-foot iron pipe
1 6-foot roll acrylic sheeting (very heavy)
3 seed starter flats
1 radio vacuum tube
1 picnic table base (tubular steel)
2 rubber hose
1 garage door opener motor
6 wooden plank
1 bin dog feeder
4 duck decoy
1 Frisbee
1 sand bucket
5 flip-flop
1 jet ski tread
2 ball bat
23 assorted balls (football, soccer, etc.)
1 toy chicken
1 toy sheep (contest winner)
1 red cardboard octopus (should have won the contest)
1 child’s 4-wheeler in pieces (steering wheel, axle, seat)
1 plastic toddler slide
3 plastic sleds
1 Tuggy the Tugboat

If you are interested in joining us for a Missouri River clean-up, visit our volunteer sign-up page, and stay up to-date on upcoming events by subscribing to our newsletter. 

See you on the river!

June 23, 2017

Missouri River Sunset Excursion, June 15th, 2017

By Leif Nordstrom, Missouri River Relief

All aboard! Thursday night was another first for Missouri River Relief (MRR), as we teamed up with Columbia Parks and Recreation to host a Missouri River Sunset Excursion. This event invited Columbia area residents to join us for an evening filled with food, facts, and fun, while we enjoyed an intimate sunset cruise along the majestic Missouri River. 16 courageous guests joined us for the cruise, as we beat the heat, River Relief style. 
We were treated to a delicious fried fish dinner, accompanied by some scrumptious sides which had been crafted by our very own Kristen Schulte (MRR Education Coordinator), including her famous broccoli salad, creamy potato salad, and irresistible strawberry-rhubarb pie. We got to know each other the old fashioned way – around the dinner table – as Kristen presented a brief introduction to MRR and its crew, including Jeff (Executive Director), Steve (Program Manager), Mel (Assistant Program Manager), myself (Leif, Summer Intern), and of course, Baby (Mascot – see adorable pictures below). 

After dinner and introductions from the guests, we made our way down to the ramp to board, and divided the group onto two boats. While we didn’t let the heat ruin our night, I feel comfortable speaking on behalf of the group that we were all eager to feel what the MRR crew likes to refer to as the “river A/C”. As we cruised along, you could feel the relaxation washing over the group. With the A/C cranked up to a comfortable breeze, guests looked out onto the sparkling colors of the river, basked in the yellow-orange light of the fading sun. 
As we motored towards a river bank, Captain Jeff began to point upwards, identifying an eagle that was hovering over the trees. Passengers gazed in awe, and as we approached the bank, we were able to locate the large nest of this majestic bird. Jeff explained to passengers that as the years go by, the nest continues to grow larger. 
After our eagle-excitement dwindled, we brought the two boats together, to listen in as Kristen spoke about the various ways that the river has changed over time. Using historical pictures, guests were asked to make observations about the Missouri River between time periods. Kristen used this as an opportunity to describe several man-made constructs that have been used in the past to alter the river, including channels and wind-dikes. 
We then motored upstream, passing by towering bluffs that were decorated with lush, green vegetation. Once we brought the two boats back together, Steve provided a brief history lesson about our particular location, as we were within sight of Torbett Spring. It is believed that Lewis and Clark had once ventured by this spot, which is decorated with several archaic pictographs left behind by an ancient people. Unfortunately, most of the pictographs were destroyed during the construction of the railroad above, where the Katy Trail now stands. 
Next, Kristen asked the guests what they thought the bottom of the Missouri River might look like. Using maps provided by NGSS, she described how the texture of the bottom is very unique, and is continuously changing as the current rolls along. 
As the sun began to dip behind the trees, we made our way back to the landing at Katfish Katy’s. Once back on land, Kristen briefly described some of the planning and management strategies that are currently being used to maintain the Mighty Mo, and its many organisms that call it home. With that, we were off, capping an educational, but relaxing, sunset cruise. 

To stay up to date on all of MRR’s exciting programs, make sure to check out our education programs page, and subscribe to our e-newsletter. 

See you on the river!

June 19, 2017

Missouri River All Stars, Fall 2016 - Summer 2017

Darcy Higgins leads a group discussion.
During the 2016-17 school year, 4th grade students from five Columbia Area Public Elementary Schools had the fortunate opportunity to participate in the Missouri River All Stars after-school program, hosted by Missouri River Relief (MRR). The goal of the program was to engage student’s innate sense of wonder and natural curiosity to explore the Missouri River, while increasing their knowledge and understanding of the Missouri River to deepen their connection and sense of responsibility to its care and stewardship. 
Students use maps to learn about the Missouri River.
During the program, students learned about the Missouri River by working in teams to develop their own knowledge of the Missouri River. The program was divided into five lessons, four taking place in the classroom and one on the river. The lessons are founded upon MRR’s Core Education Curriculum, which seeks to develop students’ understanding through three distinct contexts: Knowledgeable Ecologist, Insightful Historian, and Conscientious Community Member. These ‘roles’ guide our lesson plans, and facilitate an environment that is diverse and abundant with substantive information, which results in a well-rounded educational program. 
Eager curiosity flows through this excited group of students.
The first lesson, titled Connecting to the Missouri River, serves as an introduction to the program. In this lesson, students began to explore their own connection to the river by expanding their sense of wonder and curiosity. Using several maps, students learned about different historical perspectives of the river, and how uses of it have changed over time. 
Students construct maps detailing the life cycle of Pallid Sturgeon.
The second lesson, Behind the Scenes of the Missouri River, shifted the attention towards ecological factors that influence the river. Students explored the interconnectedness of the river’s ecosystem, and how diversity helps shape the ecological balance. Focusing on the Pallid Sturgeon, students followed the life cycle of an organism, and how it reacts to both abiotic and biotic factors in the river. 
What's a better way to learn than through hands-on experience?
The third lesson, Forces that Shape the Missouri River, built on the ecological aspects learned in lesson two, but added human factors, and how economic, environmental, and social systems interact with the river. Focus was placed on human actions, and the immediate impacts that can have a cumulative and long-lasting effect on the river. Artificial constructs, such as dams and channels, were the centerpiece for activities in this lesson. 
Students join together in exploration.
The fourth in-class lesson, Connecting Others to the Missouri River, sought to strengthen students’ sense of responsibility and care to the Missouri river. Students identified ways in which the watershed is a shared resource, and how impacts can be felt in communities that are many miles apart. Focus was placed on environmental stewardship, and developing skills that students can readily apply, strengthen, and share with their family, friends, school, and community. Significant historical figures, such as Aldo Leopold and Mark Twain, ignited students’ creativity as they worked in small groups to design possible solutions for ecosystem restoration or trash clean up. 
Students find shade as they listen in.

Field Trip:

The final lesson for the All Star program was an all-day outing on the Missouri River, taking place at Katfish Katy’s in Huntsdale, MO. Beginning at 10 AM, students arrived and were split into groups of 25, rotating between four different stations in 40-minute intervals. 
Questions abound during this engaging discussion.
The first station, Experience the River, was a boat ride on the Missouri River, where students were privileged to spectacular views, as well as in-depth information about the channelization of the river. 
With life jackets secured, students get ready for a boat ride on the Mighty Mo.
The second station, Through the Eyes of an Explorer, had students take a journey back in time. Hosted by local artist, Gale Johnson, students investigated the journals of Lewis and Clark, and made watercolor sketches using the river for creative inspiration. 
Gale Johnson speaks to the students about Lewis and Clark
The third station, Meet a Fisheries Biologist, allowed students to interact with some of the fish that call the Missouri River home. Dr. Rosenberger, a professor at Mizzou, accompanied by some MU students hosted a presentation that described the work that professionals are doing to help the river’s ecosystem. 
Students gather around for a closer look at some Big Muddy fish.
The fourth station, Birds of the River, provided students with tons of information about different birds that live along the river. Paige Witek, from the Missouri River Bird Observatory, guided students as they investigated the natural history of birds and how they have specifically adapted to the river ecosystem. 
Smiles all around after the boat ride.

After all groups had a chance to participate in the different stations, students departed at around 2:30 PM. What a great send-off this was for this year’s All Stars, serving as a fun and engaging culmination of the program.  MRR plans to provide an All Stars program for next year’s class as well, so to stay up-to date on information, make sure to contact Kristen at and check out our All Stars page
Sad to see you go! Students gather before departure.
See you on the river!