|Volunteer Coordinator Will Ridlehoover braves the clark fork in the name of science!|
Adversity often inspires ingenuity. At least it did with Will and I on the Clark Fork last Sunday.
Our weekly Stream Team outing focused on a section of the river just down-stream from the Madison Street bridge, and as with any wide river, the physical attributes of the Clark Fork presented certain challenges for data collection that had to be overcome.
The Stream Team typically examines three major characteristics of the river. Chemical, biological and physical attributes are measured in order to give us an accurate picture as to the character and health of the river. The physical examination is comprised of factors such as water velocity, bank width, water depth and overall morphology or the “shape” of that river’s section. All factors are easy to measure in small streams, but a several hundred foot wide river presents a few challenges of equipment and logistics. Luckily, Will and I were feeling particularly industrious that day, and he had some swimming trunks in his car.
Typically the river’s depth and width area easily measured with a depth pole and survey line respectively, but the fast moving and especially deep water combined with the extremely wide section we chose to measure made our typical methods impractical. So with a few handfuls of rocks inside of the nylon bag of a throw rope and the use of a sharpie I fashioned a makeshift depth gauge inspired by my youth on the Mississippi river and the endless reminders of how Samuel Clemens chose his famous pseudonym. In the mean time, Will paddled his way across the river with the aid of an inner-tube to fix a static line to the opposite bank and returned to begin the measurement process. Using the static line to hold his position in the river, Will worked his way across and dropped our makeshift depth gauge every “tube width” (3 foot 2 inches) and sounded off a reading to be recorded on shore. Sixty five readings later, we determined the width to be no less than 205.83 feet across and an average depth of around 3.5 feet.
While this data was useful and important to record for many reasons that any WEN volunteer can explain, the process of collecting it was important for some reasons you may not expect. Namely, it was hilarious. As Will worked his way slowly across the clark fork, the rest of the team recorded the data and chuckled at the increasingly louder depth reports echoing across the water, and the impressed expressions upon the faces of passers by. We always have fun on Stream Team, but when afforded the opportunity to innovate, be bold, and a little bit silly with like minded folks on the banks of a neighborhood river the experience becomes that much more powerful and rewarding. I can’t wait for next week, maybe we’ll find a way to build a submarine from Tupperware containers and driftwood.
Watershed Education Network
|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
Watershed Education Network
|Kitty Galloway, WEN’s program coordinator (left) and Lynne Dickman (middle)
from Ice Age Flood Institute teach river history to Sheryl Noethe (right) and the
Words with Wings students
|Huston Thompson and Deb Fassncacht led the aquatic
|Students play the Macroinvertebrate Mayham game|
|Students learn how their bug should move as a part of the
Macroinvertebrate Mayham game
|Huston Thompson catches some Aquatic Macroinvertebrates|
We then cleaned up the aquifer and set-up two stations: the groundwater flow model and Enviroscape. I lead the plastic Enviroscape town station while Kitty lead the groundwater flow model and Hillary took pictures. I was a bit apprehensive because it was almost summer and these kids were antsy. I started by introducing the town and talking about 4 types of pollution represented by the acronym ANTS: air, nutrient, toxic, and sediment pollution. Then I directed their attention to the plastic farm and asked why farms are good. The kids immediately started talking about pollution and I realized they hadn’t been paying attention. I asked who knew someone who was a farmer and almost all the kids raised their hands. Then I asked again why farms are good. “Food!” shouted one student. “Yes food is very important and all food comes from farms” Then I asked, “What kind of pollution would you find on the farm?” The kids thought for a minute then one kid raised his hand and suggested smoke from the tractor. “Yes,” I said reaching into a Ziploc bag I had hidden behind the Enviroscape. I pulled out a bottle of bubbles and asked, “who wants to show us air pollution?” Ten hands shot up in the air. I chose a student and watched as bubbles floated and landed all over the town. The students went on to talk about the benefits of suburbs, logging, factories and trucks. Then they guessed almost every type of pollution. They poured chocolate syrup on the road to represent someone pouring out oil, sprinkled chocolate chip dog poo, spread hot coco powder sediment and Kool-aid powder pesticides. Then I gave two students squirt bottles and the Enviroscape town had a rain storm. Exclamations of disgust rose from the students as dark, murky water flowed down the streams and into the lake. Then I discussed ways people and governments avoid these kinds of pollution through berms, fencing off cattle and other preventative measures.
When it came time to circle up Kitty asked what the students remembered from the field trip I was a bit nervous. They were obviously distracted by the proximity of summer break and I questioned how much they had learned. To my surprise many hands shot up in the air and they began talking about key points about aquifers, groundwater, and the Enviroscape lesson. They remembered that they should recycle oil and not pour it down a drain, and that you shouldn’t let your dog poop in the river. I smiled. To hear those kids talk about what they’d learned I knew our lessons were not something they would soon forget. I sipped my last bit of coffee and felt energized, not from the coffee, but from the knowledge that we had made a difference in these students’ lives.
For more information about the Sussex School project or WEN’s week curriculum, call 541-9287 or email email@example.com