Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Why of WEN.


I was new to WEN when I started out here as a Compact Service Corps member.  The last month and a half has been spent getting my feet wet (!) in a whirlwind of Mayfly Flings, programs and Stream Team planning.  Throughout my learning and orientation process I’ve found a group of folks who care so deeply about teaching people the importance of environmental stewardship that they volunteer their free time; asking no compensation other than the knowledge that they are making a difference in children’s lives and thus the world—of course, the ability to hang out with some of the coolest people in Missoula is also a huge plus!  It’s inspiring to see the volunteers and the WEN crew in action.  I truly believe in what we do here and I’d like to take a moment to give an example of why it’s so important.


Last week I had the pleasure of working with Kitty on developing a program for Willard Alternative High School.  For the first two days we went in for class visits, discussing groundwater and the connection between Wilderness and our watershed’s health.  The visits went great and the students were presented with a lot of interesting knowledge and seemed quite engaged.  Yet there still seemed to be a slight sense of disconnect, a few blank stares, a little bit of shifting in chairs.  Some folks just are not hardwired to absorb a full spectrum of knowledge from a classroom.  I know because I am built the same way.  I never learn quite as well as when I’m out and about and getting my hands dirty.  With that in mind, it came as no surprise that our final day with Willard went so well.  Every single student out on the river was actively engaged and excited about the experiments they designed.  There were no blank stares, no restless shifting, only smiling faces absorbing experience.  To me, that’s the heart of what WEN is all about; it’s what the heart of all good education is about.  The class visits are wonderful and really fun; the knowledge we present is important and valuable; putting it all into perspective by physically interacting with the river is invaluable.  I’m very excited to spend my time working with some of the coolest and most passionate people in Missoula doing something that benefits students so much.


Jared Betz
Community Coordinator
Watershed Education Network
(406) 541-9287

Friday, October 12, 2012

Sanders County Water Festival




On Tuesday, October 9th I tagged along with Kitty to help out with the Sanders County Water Festival. As we drove Highway 200 from the National Bison Range to Thompson Falls Kitty let me know that we would spend the day with students from each town we passed: Dixon, Plains, Paradise.  By the end of the festival we had used the Enviroscape, a watershed model, to educate most of the fifth graders from a 100-mile stretch of the Clark Fork. Students learned about point and non-point sources of pollution and different contributors to pollution in a watershed including farms, sub-divisions, factories and forests. We all worked together to dream up pollution simulations and brainstorm solutions to mitigate damage to the watershed.

Check out this Sanders County video from 2011!

The WEN Enviroscape was one of a series of stations through which students explored their watershed. Representatives from Fish and Wildlife used games to teach about fish life cycles, forest service personnel provided hands on training in tree identification, and local consultants taught some traditional crafts built from the riparian environment. At the end of the day I couldn’t help but think it doesn’t just take a village to teach a child, it takes the many villages within a beautiful watershed to teach children to be stewards of place. 
Jess Kindred
Volunteer


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Why I don't do kids...Oh, wait....yeah


On May 3rd, we asked a group of kindergartners – “Did you see the river last week?  What was it like?” Out of a flooding of answers (pun intended), we heard “It’s so brown!  And super high!  And moving so fast!  It’s like at blood levels…BLOOD levels!!!” He probably meant flood levels, at least that’s what I hope he meant.
The next day, we asked a group of high school students at a Flagship outing the same question.  Silence.  Then there was one raised hand followed by, “It was like, yeah.”  She meant the same thing as the 5-year olds, but it was SO huge she was at a loss for words.

After a three year absence, I’m back with WEN for the month of May as a field assistant.When I started here as a volunteer in 2006, my motto was “I don’t do kids.”  Since I’ve been back it’s all I’ve done, and happily so.  They never fail to surprise me and they really do say the funniest things.  Like this little gem (on preventing pollution): “What if we placed security guards at places people pollute?  And when the guards are off duty, we should have sensors in the ground that will call 9-1-1 as soon as pollution is detected.” I like your thinking, kid.  So, how does it feel being back on the WEN team?  It’s like, yeah…

It's moments like these that make me smile every day!

See you at the river!

Heidi Sedivy
WEN Field Assistant

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Grant Creek Stream Team

As a new intern to WEN I have already had some awesome experiences and have learned so many new things!! I attended a groundwater presentation two weeks ago, and got the fortunate experience of attending a stream team session with Kevin and Lindsey this past Sunday.  Upon my arrival at WEN the weather was an unfortunate gray skies, and light snow. After loading up the truck and meeting the two awesome folks I was to spend the next few hours with, I found the sky looking a lot less gray.  The three of us headed to Grant Creek, near the Elk Foundation in order to test the PH, dissolved oxygen, velocity, and macro-invertebrate selection of the creek.  After unloading the equipment and setting it up, we began work right away. Lindsey got to work testing the dissolved oxygen and teaching me the ins and outs of the chemistry involved. Kevin and I put on waders and headed a little deeper into the creek in order to catch some macro-invertebrates.  Doing a little "jig" in order to get the little guys out of their hiding, I did what looked like the twist, and we caught mayflies, stoneflies, caddisflies, and other "macros" with a net and poured them into the bucket for further observation.  We had fun discovering the different "macros" in the creek, it was a hide and seek game played on a very tiny scale with plastic spoons.  Once we separated the little guys, we identified and counted them.  We then sent them back on their way down the stream.  After this was finished, all that was left was the velocity check for the stream.  Very scientifically measured, we timed the amount of time a tennis ball took to make it down stream from a measurable distance.  We did this ten times to average and ensure accuracy.  All in all it was a great way to spend a Sunday outdoors.  We measured the health of Grant Creek and I got to visit a new creek in Montana.

-Carlee Webb
Intern for WEN

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Stream Team Unite!!!

This past Monday, President’s day, the stream team headed out to take water samples from Patty Creek. When we arrived at our site destination below the holding pond, we were surprised to find the stream dried up! So we threw our gear back in the car and headed to Rattlesnake Creek. After the gear was set up we were ready to perform chemical experiments to check the oxygen levels of the creek while other stream team members were strapping on their waders and preparing to step into the freezing cold water…brrrr. After about a half hour we had already confirmed the oxygen levels in the creek and were waiting to sort invertebrates into ice cube trays to be counted and recorded. There sure is something special about watching these tiny little bugs swim around in a plastic container. My imagination was set free as I tried to fathom how many of these little critters there are just living in this one small waterway. It’s amazing! Thanks to everyone who made my first stream experience one to remember. 


Katie Thurlby
Volunteer
Watershed Education Network

Friday, October 7, 2011

Swan Field Trip


This last Tuesday, Kitty and I headed up to the Swan Valley in the early morning. We sleepily arrived and set up for the field trip and waited for the kids to arrive. As the students rolled out of the bus, their enthusiasm for the field trip was contagious. This group of students had been going out on our WEN field trips every spring and fall since they were in 3rd grade, and were excited to learn more and build upon what they had already learned in the previous years. At the bug station, students excitedly ran over to me, eyeing the waders already. As we talked about the different kinds of aquatic macroinvertebrates in the river, I was surprised by how much the older students remembered. Finally, the students were able to get into the waders and collect the macroinvertebrates in the river. We found so many mayflys! We also found a couple of ‘mystery bugs’ that the students we able to identify through our dichotomous key. As they proudly told me what each bug was named, I was reminded that no matter how much we think we may know about something, we can always learn something new.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Science In The Name of Fun

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.

--
Clinton Begley
OfficeCoordinator
Watershed Education Network