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.  

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...


Clothing:

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

Appliances: 

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.
Overview:
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 kristen@riverrelief.org and check out our All Stars page
Sad to see you go! Students gather before departure.
See you on the river!