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 kristen@riverrelief.org, 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.

July 20, 2018

Missouri River Academy, July 8-15, 2018

Missouri River Academy, July 8-15, 2018 
By: Claire Hassler, Missouri River Relief 
Another Missouri River Academy has come and gone, and I think we’re all going through camp withdrawals. The 2018 Academy flew by, it’s hard to believe it’s already over! Camp may have ended but the friendships linger and the memories will last forever.  
Campers, Kristen, and Kevin pose for a group photo at Peer’s Store, where they stopped along their bike ride to learn about flooding and the Missouri River.    
It’s hard to describe what makes camp so special; you just have to be there to experience it yourself. Some things that might contribute are: 
  • The scenic golden-hour views of the bluffs from the river during the sunset cruise 
  • The laughs shared during community time 
  • The morning walk across Camp Trinity for breakfast, with dew gathered over the pond 
  • The unexpected surprises, like getting to tour a tugboat 
  • The relationships that start as distant and shallow, but slowly grow into friendships that are rich and fun-filled 
  • The intense “Missouri River Olympics” competition 
  • The passionate presenters who open up their livelihoods to us so that we can connect to the river
Campers gaze at the sunset from the boat during the sunset cruise.     
Those are just a few aspects of Missouri River Academy that made it so awesome this year. To go more in-depth, here is a day-by-day breakdown of our week: 
Sunday, July 8th – Welcome to the Missouri River Academy  
The focus for day one was getting to know each other and getting excited for the week ahead! Students focused on the question “What do I hope to get out of this week on the Missouri River?”  
We welcomed a group of excited campers to Camp Trinity in New Haven, Missouri, where we spent the next four days. We started the Academy off with Missouri River Olympic Games, a lesson about the Missouri River Watershed, and a night hike!  
To warm up for the River Olympics and to get to know each other, the campers play Magic Carpet, a team building game that involves communication, teamwork, and leadership.    
There were three Olympic teams: The Kingpin Dolphins, The Pride, and the Freaky Fries. We had competitions throughout the week, giving each team an opportunity to take first place, earn glory, and win a prize. 
The students also dove in to their action projects. For the first lesson, students learned about identifying problems and the stakeholders involved in those problems. Students selected issues facing the Missouri River and placed them on a graph based on the level of stakeholder agreement as well as the science and technology that is available to solve those issues. 
Campers Elsie and Kampbell examine a graph with river issues on it during the first research session of their action projects. 
Monday, July 9th – Connecting to the Missouri River  
River AC, free ice cream, and star gazing were just a few of the exciting parts of day two of the Missouri River Academy!  On this day, students focused on the question “How do I explore my connection to the Missouri River?”  
We began the day on the river. Due to mechanical issues in one of our boats, students rotated between an On the Land station and a river cruise. Everyone was super flexible with this last-minute schedule change. 
We also broke out the blue trash bags and did a river clean up, Missouri River Relief style! Students picked up trash and also looked for their own trash treasure, which they used for their action projects later in the day when they learned about systems modeling. 
Campers Lucas and Gabe pick up trash along the Missouri River during the river clean-up.    
After lunch students traded trash bags for helmets and rode bikes for 7 miles on the Katy Trail. Along the way the students stopped at Peer’s Store, where free ice cream awaited them, and went on a prairie hike! After spending all day in the sun, nothing beats cooling off in the pool, which is what most students did during Community Time.
Campers pose for a group photo on their bikes before heading out on the Katy Trail for 7 miles!   
The Olympic competition was fierce this year! At this point The Pride was in the lead. They gained most of their points by asking awesome questions to our presenters.  
In the evening the students explored a stream near Camp Trinity. They used clear cups to catch and observe different animals - this hands-on experience was definitely a highlight.   


Campers search for wildlife as they explore a stream near Camp Trinity. 
When night fell, the students gazed at the stars. They had fun finding different constellations and got to see Mercury, Jupiter’s moons, and Saturn’s rings through telescopes. Ending day two with this activity was simply stellar. 
Tuesday, July 10th – Behind the Scenes of the Missouri River 
During day 3 of Missouri River Academy we examined different parts of the Missouri River ecosystem, from the plants that grow along its banks to the fish that swim in its waters. Students focused on the question “What components make up the Missouri River Ecosystem?”  
We started the day off learning about birds from the Missouri River Bird Observatory. Students looked at bird skulls and played a game that mimicked a bird’s migration pattern. The kids used all of their senses on a riparian forest hike and unleashed their artistic sides by painting Missouri River-inspired watercolors.  
Lucy focuses on painting the riverbank during watercolors. 
After lunch, we set back out onto the river to go fishing with the Missouri Department of Conservation! Some students dissected Asian carp, an activity loved by some and disliked by others, but everyone enjoyed using poles to fish for catfish.  

 Carter enthusiastically answers questions about pallid sturgeon after fishing on the river with the Missouri Department of Conservation. 
Students stretched their minds with Minute Mystery riddles during the Olympic games (The Pride was still in the lead by 5 points) and ate watermelon by the pool during community time.   
We watched the sun go down from the river during a sunset cruise. The students socialized and opened up to each other during a group reflection activity called Rose, Thorn, and Bud. It was wonderful to see the friendships among the campers growing with each passing day!  
Wednesday, July 11th – Forces that Shape the Missouri River 
On Wednesday, we examined how humans have impacted the Missouri River. Students focused on the question “What is the relationship between the Missouri River and humans?” 
We began at the Old New Haven School House, where we toured the museum and learned about the history of this river town. We also visited Astral Glass and learned about Lance and Gary’s river business and their experience paddling 1,300 miles of the Missouri River. They also demonstrated blowing glass for us!  
Students enjoy front-row views of glass blowing at Astral Glass Studio in downtown New Haven.     
We ate delicious pizza for lunch, which the kids got to create from locally grown ingredients while they learned about agriculture in the Missouri River Valley. We ventured to Hermann, Missouri and to top off lunch, the kids enjoyed picking herbs and munching on them at Deutschheim State Historical Society.   
We also experienced something rare – while visiting Hermann Sand & Gravel, we got to tour a tug boat! It was awesome to see what the inside of a barge looks like (and students loved getting to blow the horn).   
Students look around the engine room of a tugboat during their tour at Hermann Sand and Gravel.     
We also hosted the first-ever Missouri River Academy Mini Film Fest. We watched three short films: one about Standing Rock, one about Eagle Bluffs Conservation area, and one about geese. This was also a great opportunity for the students to cool off and eat popcorn.   
Students got to compare what they learned during the Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area documentary to how New Haven handles its waste water by touring the New Haven waste water treatment plant.  
To end the day’s adventures we had a drum session with a campfire and s’mores, an essential to any summer camp! 
Thursday, July 12th – Connecting Others to the Missouri River  
The last day of the 2018 Missouri River Academy was filled with heartfelt goodbyes and a shocking surprise! Students focused on the question “How do we deepen a sense of responsibility to the care of the Missouri River?” 
In the morning the students packed up their things and worked on their action projects one last time. They colored in their posters and storyboards and practiced presenting their “ask.”  
After that they competed in the final Olympic event - a relay race/obstacle course! Each team had to work together to complete various tasks, like shaving a balloon, army crawling under benches, hitting a target with water balloons, and making a half-court shot. The race was close until the very end, but team Freaky Fries pulled through and finished first! The Kingpin Dolphins were close behind and The Pride finished third. It was a hard-run race by all, everyone was very proud! 
Campers Parker and Hannah get ready to complete a three-legged race during the River Olympics relay race/obstacle course.  
Points were settled and it was almost a sure bet that The Pride would win the Olympic prize. The only points left to account for were if a team could solve a riddle/mind game they’d been working on all week. At the last second, the Freaky Fries solved the riddle, earned 20 points, and won the 2018 River Olympics!  
To conclude and reflect on an incredible week, the students passed the feather and shared the parts of camp that were most meaningful to them. The thing brought up most often was the amazing friendships they were able to build with each other.  
For the last activity of the 2018 Missouri River Academy, students presented their final action projects to parents/guardians and community members. The walls of the Old New Haven School house were covered in colorful posters, all calling for action to help the Missouri River.  
It was a great way to end the week, and we feel inspired by our wonderful students. Thanks for a great River Academy!  

Students enjoyed s’mores and a drum circle around a campfire during the last night of River Academy.

To see more photos, check out our Facebook albums and our Flickr
Academy wouldn’t have been possible without the following individuals and organizations. Thank you for supporting these students and their love for the river, we are so grateful! 
  • Missouri Environmental Education Association, Jan Weaver  
  • New Belgium Brewing, New Belgium Grant Program for Youth Environmental Education  
  • Better Environmental Education, Teaching, Learning & Expertise Sharing (BEETLES)  
  • The Katy Land Trust & Peers Store, Dan Burkhardt  
  • The Rio Vista Fund - a fund of the Greater St. Louis Community Foundation  
  • Colliers International 
  • Scott Mansker, River Miles  
  • Diana Papoulias, Board Member  
  • Dave and Fran Stous (Former Board and Committee Members)  
  • Camp Trinity 
  • Steve Schnarr, MRR Program Manager  
  • Claire Hassler, MRR Education Assistant  
  • Emma, Counselor in Training  
  • Indian Ridge Farm, David Menke 
  • Bruce Templer  
  • Gloria Attoun and Michael Bauermeister  
  • Ann Renee Gargrave  
  • The Audubon Society of Missouri 
  • Missouri River Bird Observatory, Dana Ripper, Ethan Duke and Crew  
  • Eastern Missouri Dark Sky Observer, Rick Schwentker  
  • Urban Forestry Council, Mike Smith  
  • Avant Gardens CSA, Charissa Coyle  
  • Missouri Dept. of Conservation, Darby Niswonger, Sarah Peper & Crew  
  • Deutschheim State Historic Site, Cindy Browne  
  • Astral Glass Studio, Lance Stroheke & Gary Rice  
  • Hermann Sand & Gravel Inc., Steve & Kate Engemann  
  • New Haven Public Works Department, Peter Otten  
  • New Haven: John Colter Museum  
  • Riverfront Cultural Society 
  • Scenic Regional Library New Haven Branch, Rachel Terbrock 
A group of students is ready to go fishing! 
If you would like to learn more about MRR education programs, please contact Education Director Kristen Schulte at kristen@riverrelief.org, and check out our education program page