December 7, 2018

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 sunscreen, a shady hat, at least two water bottles, umbrella, raincoat/boots, and more. A complete list of items to bring will be available upon enrollment. “

“What is the Missouri River Creative Art Project? 

The Missouri River Creative Art Project is an art project that we require each student to complete by the end of the program. For the art project, students will work in partners to 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. 

“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 is 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 24,000 volunteers. In addition to our experience carrying out programs, MRR Education Director, Kristen Schulte, has over 12 years of experience working in outdoor education and has personally coordinated the last three Missouri River Academy programs. 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 Director Kristen Schulte at  

September 27, 2018

Missouri River Information Packets

The Missouri River is home to fascinating creatures, as well as many issues. That is why we felt it was necessary to develop information packets about the Missouri River.

Designed for high school students, these packets introduce and discuss a broad range of information; from the giants who dwell in the depths, to the consequences of the interaction between cities and the Missouri River. Each topic is accompanied by a summary description of what it is, why it is, and why it is important to the Missouri River. Designed for high school students, these packets introduce and discuss a broad range of information; from the giants who dwell in the depths, to the consequences of the interaction between cities and the Missouri River.

Each topic is accompanied by a summary description of what it is, why it is, and why it is important to the Missouri River. Listed below are the topics and links to each information packet separated into three main categories:

Invasive/Non-Native Species on the Missouri River
Endangered Species on the Missouri River
Human-Related Issues on the Missouri River

Missouri River Pop Quiz Question!

1. This species is native to eastern Asia but were imported to the United States in 1973, primarily as a biological water quality control mechanism in fish hatcheries to clean up excess plankton in the water. The fish escaped these impoundments during flood events and were introduced into free-flowing rivers, such as the Missouri River, where they flourished and spread. WHO AM I?

2. The human process of straightening and deepening channels in rivers. Primarily, it is done to make the river easier and safer for larger boats to pass through, to provide a channel that is stable and unchanging, and to protect developed cities and towns from river meander. WHAT AM I?

3. This species was commercially harvested from the mid-1800s until they were listed as endangered in 1990. They were harvested primarily for their valuable eggs to make caviar. However, by far the largest threat to this species is thought to be habitat alteration associated with dams and channelization. WHO AM I?

4. The water that comes from industrial wastewater, home sewage, and rainwater runoff funnels into a single pipe going to a treatment plant. When there is too much runoff, such as after a heavy rainstorm, the single pipe cannot handle the amount of runoff and wastewater and the water must be sent somewhere else. For cities along the Missouri River, the Missouri River is where that overflowing waste ends up. WHAT AM I?

5. BONUS QUESTION: Originally, from the seas of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, this species was accidentally brought over by cargo ships coming into the Great Lakes from the Black Sea. This species can spread so quickly because not only do they reproduce in huge numbers, but they can also survive multiple days out of water, allowing them to be transported on boats and other equipment. They were found in Missouri in 1991 in the Mississippi River. By 1999 they spread to the Missouri River near Sioux City, Iowa. WHO AM I?

Answers: 1-Silver Carp, 2-Channelization, 3-Pallid Sturgeon, 4-Combine Sewer Outfalls, B-Zebra Mussels 

Thank You for Your Support!

A big thank you to the writers and designers of the information packets! This included:
  • Josh Palmer, Student – the University of Missouri, who started the project
  • Leif Nordstrom, Student – the University of Missouri, who put his own touch on the packets
  • Claire Hassler, Student – the University of Missouri, who pushed the packets to the finish line.
  • Abi Jackson, Graphic Design Artist who laid out the formatting.
  • Felicity Dykas, Head of Digital Service Department- the University of Missouri for helping us upload all the information packets to MO Space.
We also could not have done it without the help from our numerous agency partners, these packets include expertise from Aaron DeLonay, Duane Chapman, Barry Poulton, Matt Strukhoff, Susannah Erwin, Carrie Elliott, and Rob Jacobson at the U.S. Geological Survey and Darby Niswonger, Chris Newbold, Bob Rives at the Missouri Department of Conservation.

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!

August 17, 2018

Knowing: An Internship Reflection

Hello Fellow River-Lovers,

I'm popping in for one last blog post as Missouri River Relief's Education Assistant Intern. It's been a wild ride since I started in May, so I'm going to take this opportunity to reflect on my experiences.

I began this internship before my spring semester was even over. I stayed up all night finishing a paper so I could turn it in early and head to Kansas City for my first weekend on the job and my first river clean-up. Before I even had time to breathe, I hurriedly packed my bags, brewed one last cup of coffee, and hustled out the door for the 2018 Kansas City Teacher Workshop and River Clean-Up. 

Here’s what I knew in that moment:
  1. I knew that this was a cool opportunity. I mean… how many internships involve camping along the Missouri River with a full view of the Kansas City skyline?
  2. I knew that I was lucky to have this internship, especially because I’d never had one before, and I knew I had a lot to learn.
  3. I knew it might rain on Saturday.
Here’s what I didn’t know in that moment:
  1. I didn’t know how many river dogs I would meet throughout the summer.
  2. I didn’t know how long an 8-hour work day really is.
  3. I didn’t know I’d meet the most incredible kids at Missouri River Academy, or that I’d still be missing them when summer ended.
  4. I didn’t know how hard the staff at non-profit organizations work just to make ends meet.
  5. I didn’t know how refreshing River AC could be, or that sunsets are prettiest when watched river-side.
  6. I didn’t know about wing dikes or the Steamboat Arabia or the lifecycle of a pallid sturgeon.
  7. I didn’t know how intense my Chaco tan would get.
  8. I didn’t know how to post to Facebook Live (oh wait, I still don’t…).
  9. I didn’t know how much I enjoyed teaching kids about the natural world.
  10. I didn’t know I would fall head-over-heels in love with the Missouri River and Missouri River Relief.
That’s a list of things I didn’t know when I started this internship, but that I know now. The list of things I still don’t know is much longer (so long it’s kind of scary), but here’s the thing: this internship, and Missouri River Relief as a whole, has got me so excited to keep figuring out what I don’t know, to jump into new experiences, to never stop learning, to crank up the river AC and embrace my weird. And for that, I’m eternally grateful.

I wish words could convey the way my heart swells as I write this. I wish words could convey my gratitude to Kristen (the Education Director of Missouri River Relief) for taking me under her wing, for always teaching me, for being patient and wise and funny and someone I’ll look up to for the rest of my life. I wish words could convey how much I’ll miss this when it is gone.

Of course, words don’t get the job done (they never do!); so I resort to pictures, a firm believer in the power of visuals. These are some of my favorite shots I’ve taken throughout my internship. I hope they more adequately convey the emotions that my words can’t.

Kansas City Teacher Workshop and River Clean-up:

This was one of the first photos I ever took for MRR. It’s crazy how the time has flown. I packed my bags for KC, I blinked, and then summer ended!

I was awestruck at my first river clean-up. The crew worked like clockwork in the way they gathered, tallied, and disposed of all the trash the volunteers had gathered earlier in the day. 

Sunset Excursion:

This event was awesome because 1. We got to be out on the river as the sun was setting and 2. I got to mess around with my camera and take fun pictures like the whole time!
I loved watching Kristen do what she does best all summer: teaching! With every program, I learned countless things from her, and I’m so excited to see how she’s going to continue growing Missouri River Relief’s education programs.  
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: sunsets are best when watched river-side.
Missouri River Academy:

I grew up going to summer camp, and my camp memories are some of the happiest in my life. I was overjoyed when I learned that I’d (technically) get to go to camp again this summer through Missouri River Academy!

One of the coolest parts of River Academy was watching the kids pursue their own passions. Seeing their faces light up and listening to them ask engaging questions about subjects they were interested in brought me so much joy. 
This was one of many scenic Academy views.
It was a hot day for a prairie walk but plant identification in the shade made up for it. 
I’ve learned from Kristen’s presentations that our section of the Missouri River is unique and that other parts of it look completely different. That makes me grateful for views like these but it also makes me want to explore more of the Big Muddy.
During the Academy sunset cruise we did some reflection activities. Kristen was authentic with the kids and they were authentic back to her. It was such a real moment and everyone felt connected. I’ll never forget it.
The kids were told to explore a stream and find an animal to observe in their cup. This was the result and the kids were so captivated!
This photo was taken before the MDC treated us to an Asian Carp dissection and organ identification. Some kids loved it; some kids hated it. I, for one, couldn’t get enough!
Being able to see (and photograph) live Pallid Sturgeon was awesome for me, especially because we bring preserved Pallid Sturgeon in jars with us to every education program! 
Only at river camp do your campers bring you Asian Carp eyes and hearts. Such a sweet gesture!
STEM Challenges:
For the past few weeks, I’ve been working on creating videos to introduce some STEM Challenge lessons Kristen has developed. The project put my journalism skills to the test and was so enjoyable for me. My favorite part of the assignment was going out to the river to gather b-roll footage. Even though my aim was to shoot video, I couldn’t resist capturing some photos too. I could’ve stayed out there with my camera all day.
Missouri River Relief: thank you, thank you, thank you a thousand times more from the bottom of my river-loving heart. 
The following two photos were not taken by me, but I am in them and they’re some of my favorites. I had to include them because I think they capture pivotal moments in my internship. 
These are only half of the kids who attended Missouri River Academy, but every kid who went has a special place in my heart. It was the best week!
This another shot from my first weekend with Missouri River Relief. In this moment I was giddy with anticipation for the rest of the summer and the rest of my time with MRR. Reflecting back, I can say that my internship more than exceeded my expectations.
This reflection has been all about knowing; what I knew, what I didn’t know, what I still don’t know. So along the lines of knowing, here are some things you, the next summer intern, should know before you start at River Relief:
  1. Test yourself to see how resourceful you can be – google is a valuable resource. Try and exhaust all options before you ask Kristen questions. Doing that will make you more confident, clear, specific, and concise if you do end up needing her help. You’ll find yourself googling silly things like “How do I edit my signature in outlook” or “How to send a professional email to another business” and it will all be worth it in the end.
  2. When helping people into boats: no matter how many times you tell people to get in from the side, they will still get in from the front. SO, position yourself strategically. You stand in front of the boat, close to the side from which people will get in. That way people will be forced to get in from the side. Put your hand out in front of you over the boat to help people in.
  3. As soon as you’re offered the job, start thinking about what you want to learn throughout the summer. I think the MRR staff asked me that question at least 5 times on my first day, and I wasn’t exactly sure what to tell them. They do such a great job of tailoring your internship to you so that you can get the most out of your experience. I told them I was a journalism major who wanted to spend her life communicating about the environment in some capacity, but I wasn’t sure what that would look like. They immediately gave me blog posts to write, photography assignments, they had me organize their working media lists, I pitched a story to a magazine, and they had me work on some graphics and design for them. It was all a blast, all such good stuff to put on my resume, and it was so unique to my desires and interests. I don’t think every job will put your needs/wants first like that, so take advantage while you can!
  4. If this is your first office job, figure out how you’re going to adjust to working in an office for forty hours each week. I definitely struggled with this in the beginning of my time with MRR, especially in the late afternoon hours and especially on Mondays and Fridays. Here’s what I did that helped: I did the hard stuff first – the stuff I was least excited about or that I knew would take the most brain power. I did stuff that involved movement or little brain power after lunch and right before the end of the day. I also kept a notebook near me to jot lists down as random thoughts popped into my head. Sometimes these thoughts were MRR related, sometimes they were not, but either way, getting them on paper and out of my head helped me be more productive in the long run.
  5. The rest of the staff is busy so they won’t follow up with you about everything. It’s your job to push your projects over the finish line, even if it seems like no one else is really involved or still pursuing them. It might seem like you’re annoying the staff, but in the end they’ll thank you for doing the stuff they’d never have time for. This will be the way you can have a lasting impact throughout your internship. If you don’t tie up your loose ends they’ll just be passed on to the next intern; try and avoid this.
  6. Enjoy every minute of it, even the hard stuff and the long days, because before you know it Kristen will be asking you to reflect on your experiences and all you’ll be wanting is one more week, one more day.