Monday, August 30, 2010

Summer Field Trip

This Tuesday was another beautiful summer day and a perfect day to spend at the river. Josh, Megan and I headed to the Kelly Island area to meet some kids from the Montana Youth Homes. They had been down to this spot a couple times to explore, so they were all excited to learn about the watershed that they had been hanging out at.

The group turned into scientists in training as they donned safety goggles and gloves and began to measure the amount of oxygen in the river. As the chemicals began to react within the test tubes, the group found that the oxygen level in the water meant that river was healthy. Next up, we took to the river with nets to see what critters we could find in the river.

Working in pairs, the kids stirred up the rocks in the river to let the river bugs drift into the nets. When we emptied the nets, we found that there were a lot of stoneflies, along with a few mayflies and caddisflies. These were all more good signs that the river was healthy because they were able to support these animals that are sensitive to toxins. One girl was especially amazed that the river that they had been swimming in had all of these cool bugs swimming in it too.

As we marched away from the river with our equipment in hand, I thought about what we had learned in our couple of hours in the sun. The river was not only beautiful but also healthy enough to support all kinds of animals. Everyone loved playing in the river and cooling off, and today we learned how important it is to keep the river healthy so we can all continue to enjoy it.

Erica Thye
WEN Fall UM Intern
Senior in Environmental Studies

Downtown Tonight

On Thursday, August 19, during one of the last nights of Downtown Tonight, WEN had the opportunity to have a display at Caras Park. Josh Gubits, Alaina Strehlow, and I set up three tables for the night’s festivities, with multiple interactive stations, including bins of live insects collected from our very own Clark Fork River. While the live music and smoke-smell of grilled burgers draped the air, many people stopped amongst the hustle and bustle to check out WEN.

At the bug table, we were met with many curious passersby. Dozens of people stopped to spoon out the variety of different insects, eager to examine and sort them into separate trays. It was really inspiring seeing the enthusiasm in the community for watershed education—a variety of people, from near and far, were hoping we could come to their own schools and communities to offer information and activities. We received a promising list of people interested in our program, wanting to support us and learn more.

While Alaina and Josh were teaching about stoneflies and their riparian environments, I had the pleasure of offering painting and coloring activities to the kids (and some enthusiastic adults). Some drew rivers, fish, and sunshine, while others took up my challenge to draw one of the many pictures of bugs we had on display. Children walked away from our station excited to hang their new masterpiece at home, and I must admit I was a bit embarrassed by the number of Missoula’s young artists that put my artistic abilities to shame.

By the end of the night, there was a great feeling of success. The three-hour event frequently brought waves of people crowding the tables at once. I was very impressed and proud that we had so many eager minds—one young girl even asked for a piece of paper and a pencil to take notes! I have no doubt that the demand for WEN is in full-force, and I am eager for a turnout such as this night’s at our upcoming events.

--Megan Girsch, WEN Fall UM Intern