May 24, 2018

Job Point Education Program - May 23, 2018

By: Claire Hassler, Missouri River Relief

Well, that’s a wrap on our “Stewardship on the Missouri River” education program! Missouri River Relief (MRR) spent the whole day at Katfish Katy’s in Huntsdale, Missouri working with AmeriCorps members from Youth Build and Job Point. The members were young adults, ages 16 to 24, from St. Louis, Kansas City, and Columbia, Missouri. They investigated the river at stations on land and then worked together in service of the Missouri River by picking up trash.
Morning Welcome and Introduction to the Missouri River
For this education program, we partnered with Job Point, which is an employment center that helps people with career planning and job placement assistance. Job Point was an excellent partner and this program wouldn’t have been possible without them. Thank you Job Point!

We started off the day by introducing the students to the Missouri River, Missouri River Relief, and Job Point. We were also grateful to have Senator Blunt’s Community Liaison Ailey Pope and the Boone County Presiding Commissioner Dan Atwill join the education program and give words of support.
Words of support and encouragement from Senator Blunt's Community Liaison
There were about 60 students at this program. We split them into two groups, 30 in each, because the day was divided into two segments: On the Water and On the Land.

On the Land
For one portion of the day, students rotated through three stations on land to learn more about the longest river in North America. The first On the Land station was called "We All Live Downstream." It was a stream table model of the Missouri River put on by Boone County Storm Water Education.

Hands-on and minds-on while learning how the river has changed over time 
Theresa Thomas and Lynne Hooper presented and instructed the students. They taught participants about how stormwater becomes contaminated and also how best management practices improve the quality and reduce the quantity of stormwater that enters the Missouri River.

Studying the kinds of bugs that live on the Missouri River
The second land station was called "Through the Eyes of a Scientist" and it was all about using microscopes to investigate macroinvertebrates that live in the Missouri River.  Amy Meier and Lily Kennedy with the Missouri Department of Conservation guided the students with the microscopes and showed them all kinds of bugs that live on the Missouri River. They taught participants about adaptations and assessing the quality of a stream site based on the macroinvertebrates that live there.

Station three on the land was a guided bird observation hike hosted by Paige Witek with the Missouri River Bird Observatory. Paige taught the students how to use binoculars and showed them bird skull replicas of species that live along the Missouri River. 
Giving pointers on how to identify the difference on species of hawks
On the hike, participants explored the natural history and adaptations of birds that live along the river and got to practice finding the moving birds in their binoculars. After a lunch break, the On the Land group and On the Water group switched places.

On the Water

After a safety talk and getting fitted for life jackets, participants headed out onto the river! MRR had three boats on the water. 
For a lot of AmeriCorps members, it was their first time on the Missouri River. 
Our experienced boat captains and deckhands gave the students a guided tour, pointing out an eagle’s nest as they passed it and sharing the history of the river. 

Looking in all the right places for river trash

Enjoying the river breeze with beautiful views of the bluffs 
Some boats also stopped along the way to pick up trash. Here is the trash tally of what they found:
  • 21 bags of trash!
  • 55 gallon drum
  •   2 large Styrofoam chunks
  • 2 Large plastic tubs
  • Cattle feeding tub
  •  Large cooler (coffin cooler)
  • Plastic tool box
  • Large cooler
  • 3 tires on rim
  • Box tv
  • Fridge door
For many students, it was their first time out on the river. Because of this, a lot of growth happened.
At the end of the day as part of our group reflection, we did a whip around activity. The students stood in a giant circle and went around one by one, saying one word they used to describe the Missouri River before today’s program and one word to describe it after today’s program. 

Here are some things the students said: 
  • Before / After:
  • Big / beautiful
  • Trashy / cool
  • Watery / peaceful
  • Dirty / relaxing
  • Gross / refreshing
  • Dirty / fun
  • Scary / chill
  • Dirty / serene
  • Big / tranquil
The day was hot, but our students and presenters were champions and finished the day with smiles on their faces and chilled towels on their heads!

A lot of people helped make this program happen. A big thank you to our experienced boat drivers and deckhands: Steve Schnarr, Kevin Tosie, Jeff Boot Barrow, Patty Farrar, Steve Sadich, and Mike Crist. And our amazing presenters included Amy Meier, and Lily Kennedy with the Missouri Department of Conservation, Theresa Thomas and Lynne Hooper from Boone County Stormwater and Paige Witek from the Missouri RiverBird Observatory.

If you would like to learn more about MRR education programs, please contact Education Director Kristen Schulte at, and check out our education program page!

May 17, 2018

Kansas City Educator Workshop, May 10-11, 2018

By: Claire Hassler, Missouri River Relief

Last week, Missouri River Relief (MRR) was in Kansas City for a two-day educator workshop. Three teachers from the Kansas City area gathered with us to learn more about the Missouri River and how they can integrate the river into their classrooms. The teachers’ students ranged from elementary, to middle school, to high school. Regardless of the different ages of their students, all the teachers were eager to learn and bring exciting new content to their classrooms.

Ready for a day on the river!
Day one: 

Where is the best place to start a Missouri River educator workshop? On the river! We did just that. Our group met by the boat ramp of Kansas City Riverfront Park. After all the teachers arrived we introduced them to our crew: Kristen Schulte (MRR education director), Jeff “Boot” Barrow (MRR executive director), and myself, Claire (MRR education assistant intern). The teachers also went around the circle to talk about their goals for the workshop and their history
with the Missouri River. One of the teachers and I had never been on the river before, so all of us were excited to get out on the boat.

After a safety talk and life jacket fitting, we were off! While Jeff motored us downstream, everyone got acquainted with the river. We shared observations that started with “I notice, I wonder, It reminds me of…” At one point we noticed a memorial site for a fisherman, which included a giant bobber and some flowers. We wondered if that was his favorite spot on the river and how often he went there to fish.

We enjoyed incredible views of the Kansas City skyline from our boat. It was the perfect mixture of city and nature.
As we headed back upstream, Kristen taught about the history of the Missouri River. We visited the rock ledge that “gave birth to Kansas City” because it was the first place where everyone would dock their boats. The teachers lamented that the rock is only accessible from the river as they would’ve loved to bring their students out to see it.

Kristen shows the teachers the rock ledge that helped found Kansas City.
We learned about the ecology of the Missouri River and how it has changed over time, both naturally and artificially. Kristen taught us all about wing dikes, which have been a huge driving force of change along the Missouri River. Wing dikes are rock ledges that jut out from the riverbank and were built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to control the width of the river and keep the current away from the bank. The teachers had fun guessing where the wing dikes were located under water, looking for rock piles on the bank or debris floating in the river that seemed to be caught on something under the surface.

The group pulled over on a shady bank to learn more about the ecology of the Missouri River.
We ate lunch at Kaw Point, where the Missouri River and Kansas River intersect. As we were pulling up to the bank, Asian carp leaped out of the water to greet us. Luckily, none landed in the boat! We munched on chicken salad sandwiches and M&M cookies, applied fresh layers of sunscreen and talked about the joys and hardships of teaching, all while gazing at the beautiful Kansas City skyline.

One of our teachers poses by a statue of Lewis and Clark during our lunch break at Kaw Point.
After lunch and while our food digested we did a “walk and talk.” We hiked around Kaw Point while Kristen asked us questions, which we then discussed in pairs. We talked about living things on the banks of the Missouri River and at the bottom of the river, and how the various environments impact the way species live and adapt. We even saw some snow geese!

Kristen shows the group a map of varying depths of the Missouri River during a “walk and talk.”
For the second half of the day, we focused on the pallid sturgeon. Eager to escape the heat, Jeff drove the boat to a shady bank where we could get out and relax in the sand. We passed around stations that had activities relating to the pallid sturgeon’s life cycle and hunting behaviors. Kristen also told us about planning and management strategies regarding the pallid sturgeon, as it is an endangered species.

Teachers examine different kinds of sturgeon, held up in jars by Kristen.
We took one last river cruise back to the boat launch and then the teachers departed, ready to rest up for another day of learning on Friday.

Day two: 

On Friday morning Kristen and I met the teachers at the MU Extension Office in the River Market District of Kansas City. We would spend the day in the classroom learning how to apply the knowledge from the day before.

To start off, Kristen shared a structured outline of a Missouri River lesson plan with the teachers to help guide them with their own lesson planning. We also went over how people learn and modeled that with an activity and lesson about food webs in the Missouri River.

Teachers listen and take notes as Kristen presents the Missouri River lesson plan.
We let things simmer and took a tour of the Arabia Steamboat Museum. We learned about how people navigated the Missouri River in the 1800s with steamboats, and how dangerous a steamboat journey really was. Here’s a wacky fun fact: When the Arabia sunk, it was buried so quickly with sediment that everything was pristinely preserved, even the food on board. So when the crew excavated the site 132 years later, they found perfectly good buttermilk, pickles, and Champaign. They even ate the pickles and drank the Champaign themselves!

An enthusiastic tour guide introduces us to the Arabia Steamboat Museum and all the unburied treasures inside it.
As tasty as 132-year-old pickles sounded, Neopolitan pizza was more our speed. We headed to Il Lazzarone Pizzeria for lunch. The pizzas were served individually, so we thought we’d never be able to finish all of our food. As it turned out, that wasn’t an issue. Each of us finished every last bite.

We all gasp about the size of our pizzas and wonder how we’ll ever finish them all.
For the final stretch of the educator workshop, the teachers drafted and modified lesson plans to incorporate what they’d learned about the Missouri River the day before and make learning more experiential for their students. All three of the teachers decided to go above and beyond and tackle modifying an entire unit instead of just one lesson. After they had time to work on their plans individually, we convened in a group and each teacher shared what they had come up with.

We ended the workshop with a group reflection. Each teacher had come with different experience and prior knowledge of the river, so each got something different out of the last two days.
River and eager to bring it into the classroom to inspire their students too. The teachers said their experience was enriching and they felt more comfortable and capable teaching about the Missouri River in their classrooms.

If you would like to learn more about MRR educator workshops, please contact Education Director Kristen Schulte at, and check out our education program page for registration information, financial aid opportunities, and upcoming events. See you on the river!

Missouri River All-Stars, March - May 2018

By: Claire Hassler, Missouri River Relief

For the second year of Missouri River All-Stars, Missouri River Relief (MRR) partnered with the University of Missouri College of Education and engaged 125 fourth graders from Columbia Public Schools in after school programs. The goal of Missouri River All-Stars was to activate students’ innate sense of wonder and natural curiosity to explore the Missouri River, while increasing their knowledge and understanding of the river to deepen their connection and sense of responsibility to its care and stewardship.

Four schools participated in Missouri River All-Stars this year. Each school had four after school programs from March to May 2018 and one on-the-river field trip on April 29. During the after school programs, students learned about the Missouri River ecosystem and the impact that humans have on the river. They did this by going through stations, collaborating with their peers and problem solving. During the field trip, students also went through stations and got to experience the river firsthand. All-Stars also included a teacher curriculum development program that helped teachers collaborate with each other and integrate the river into their classrooms.

A group of excited students getting ready for their day on the river. Lifejackets – CHECK! 
After School Programs: 

In the first lesson, Discovering the Missouri River, students worked in groups to learn about claims, evidence and reasoning. They practiced making claims using evidence and reasoning through a picture walk. The students examined photos from a news article and then predicted what the article would be about. Next, students got in small groups to read and discuss the article “Our Missouri River.”

Students discuss “Our Missouri River” with Darcy Higgins, the All-Stars program instructor.
The second lesson, Structure and Behaviors of the Pallid Sturgeon, used four stations to engage students in the exploration of the adaptations and behaviors that help the pallid sturgeon, which is an endangered type of ray-fine fish, survive in the Missouri River.

In one station, students used a model of the pallid sturgeon’s life cycle to review important factors of transitioning from one life stage to the next. In another, the students drew predictions to explain how the pallid sturgeon is adapted to feeding on the dark, sandy bottom of the river. In a third station students created their own questions and defined problems based on observations of the historical range of the pallid sturgeon. In the last station, students watched a short video about the pallid sturgeon’s larvae drift and created Venn Diagrams of the survival and challenges the larva face.

Darcy Higgins poses questions for curious fourth graders during the after school program.
In Forces that Shape the Pallid Sturgeon Decline, the third lesson, students faced the question of how human alterations to the river have affected the pallid sturgeon. Students went through four stations and learned about how damns, sediment, channelization, and water-flow have brought change to the Missouri River.

Students discover the effects dams have on rivers by building their own models.
Field Trip: 

On April 29, the students had an on-the-river experience. The focus of the day was Recovery Plan for the Pallid Sturgeon. The students arrived at Katfish Katy’s at 10 a.m. and divided into four groups. The groups participated in two stations, had a break for lunch and then finished off the day with two more stations.

Students spent the day outside on the Missouri River All-Stars On-the-River day, experiencing the river firsthand and applying what they learned in the after school programs.
The first station, Experience the River, was a boat ride that incorporated spectacular views of the Missouri River for a one-of-a-kind learning experience. Students observed the differences between a chute, a nursery, and a channel on the Missouri River.

Students are ready to set sail for a boat ride!
The second station, Through the Eyes of a Scientist, was hosted by Dr. Ben Herman, who is with the University of Missouri College of Education. The station examined the relationship between students’ observations from the boat ride and what they learned during the after school program.

Classroom knowledge and real-life experiences intertwined during the Through the Eyes of a Scientist activity.
The third station, Through the Eyes of an Explorer, bridged the connection between art and science. Students learned about research conducted by Lewis and Clark and looked at their early paintings of the river. Students then used watercolors to document their view of the river.

Nothing beats lounging along the riverbank! Students use watercolors to paint the Missouri River, much like Lewis and Clark did.
The fourth station, Meet a Fisheries Biologist, introduced students to Carrie Elliot, Dave Combs, and Aaron DeLonay, who work with the U.S. Geological Survey and are helping to recover the pallid sturgeon. Students also got to practice the real-life research techniques the scientists are using.

Carrie Elliot and Dave Combs, biologists with the U.S. Geological Survey, teach students about their research techniques.
The students packed up and headed home at 2:30 p.m., ready to apply all their newfound knowledge in the final after school program of Missouri River All-Stars.

Teacher curriculum workshops:

Another facet of the All-Stars program was a behind-the-scenes teacher workshop. In the workshop, teachers used their Missouri River All-Stars experiences to develop and adapt their own lesson plans about the Missouri River. The teachers met once a week for four weeks at the College of Education office to collaborate and plan.

Teachers learn together with the MU College of Education
The NGSS-aligned environmental science and engineering based lessons were implemented in their classrooms and compiled into curriculum packs to be made available for other teachers.

Wrapping Up: 

The fourth after-school lesson, titled Scientific Arguments for Pallid Sturgeon Management, took place after the field trip. It addressed how scientists use claims, evidence and reasoning when debating solutions, specifically regarding pallid sturgeon recovery. In this lesson, the students split into two groups and developed their own solutions for pallid sturgeon recovery. Their plans included evidence and concepts addressed in previous lessons. Students had to consider the short and long term effects of their plans, who would be affected and what the next steps would be once their plan was put into action. The two groups then presented and debated their plans. The lesson concluded with students reflecting on how their views of the pallid sturgeon issue had changed since the beginning of the Missouri River All-Stars program.

Collaboration is key when it comes to problem solving and pallid sturgeon management.
We owe a huge thanks to our sponsor, the City of Columbia Stormwater Education and Outreach Program. All-Stars wouldn't have been possible without their support. The Missouri River All-Stars program was a smashing success this year, and we’re already planning for the 2018-2019 program. Stay up to date on information and contact Kristen Schulte, MRR’s education director, at and check out our All-Stars page.