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The photo is one of my favorites. At no more than 5 years old, clad in blue corduroys and a striped red shirt, I stand off balance on the rocky shore and focus on counting the skips my carefully selected stone makes across the river. Just one skip. Behind me, on an upside down bucket, sits my grandpa. With suspenders on, and aluminum can in hand, he counts along with me. I’m fond of the photo for many reasons, but recently I was reminded how much it is simply a great capture of how lucky I was so grow up spending time at the river.

Missouri’s North River  | 1986

 
The reminder came this week when a kindergartner, spoon in hand over a plastic tub crawling with aquatic macroinvertebrates fresh from the Clark Fork asked me: “how did we get so many crawdads in here?” The question was a perfectly rational question to ask. It is the fact that I had the responsibility and privilege of answering it that made me realize just how important the roles of WEN educators really are. And, in the absence of an organization like WEN in my home town, how lucky I was to have that role filled by my family when I was a kid.

Growing up with a small river flowing through our family farm, and the great Mississippi charging south just a dozen blocks away from our house in town I had no shortage of opportunities to experience a river. But most importantly, my family was always there to introduce me to those opportunities, the fun of the river, and it’s significance. But not every kid is as lucky as I was, and the opportunities in our own back yards mean nothing without guidance and introduction from thoughtful families, friends and community organizations.

Clark Fork River | This Week

We had a dozen or so pairs of wide eyes, and highly raised hands at Clark Fork this week. But most importantly we had a dozen or so smiles as the four and five year old’s caught and counted mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies on the bank of an important river in their own back yard. Because while the youngsters may not retain the exact reason that these creatures are important to their ecosystem, they will certainly remember why the ecosystem was important to them on that warm September morning at the river.


By Clinton Begley
Office Coordinator
Watershed Education Network

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