Friday, November 19, 2010

Its Geography/Freshwater Awareness Week!

Freshwater is an important resource!  In honor of Geography and Freshwater Awareness Week, check out these water facts:
  • The Earth is 71% water.  97% of that water is in the ocean.  That leaves only 3% as freshwater for all the plants, animals, and humans that use it.
  • 98% of the Earth's freshwater is locked up in glaciers or deep within its crust.  This means that less than 1% of all water is available for use
  • Aquifers are often mined faster than they can recharge
  • Water that is easily accessed is also easily polluted and requires extensive and expensive treatment before it can be used
  • The average amount of water a family in Asia and Africa uses in one day is a little less than 5 gallons.  An individual in the United States uses an average of 100 gallons of water a day
  • In some regions in Asia and Africa, typically a woman in the family is responsible for walking to the nearest source of water and carrying it all back.  The average distance she will have to walk and carry water is 3.7 miles a day
Water is a precious resource, lets take care of it!

Weed Field Trip!

Tuesday afternoon, I biked along the river to meet up with WEN for the to go teach the fourth and fifth graders of Sussex Elementary School about invasive weeds, and native plants. Even though it was a rainy, gloomy day, we arrived at the greenhouse near Fort Missoula to a group of happy, energetic kids. Leah Grunzke, of the Montana Natural History Museum was already busy telling the kids all about weeds that are invasive in the Missoula area, and answering their questions.

After the students (who had decided to go by the name the Hilarious Hedgehogs-why not?) shared some great stories and observations about weeds, we all climbed on the little Sussex bus and went over to the Nature Adventure Teaching Garden to see a native plant garden in action.

The students had become familiar with most of the invasive plants that now make up the area around Missoula in our previous trip to the loading dock and path area near the Osprey field. There, the students had split into groups, and with the help of WEN’s plant expert, Jesse Dwyer, WEN’s director, Josh Gubits, a few of WEN’sother staff members and volunteers, and the student’s teacher, Pam Ward, the students all were assigned plants to seek out and identify. Once the students had spotted their plants, they had to sketch them, and describe aspects of the plant so that they could teach their fellow classmates all about it. After each group shared a bit of information about their assigned weed, they got to see some examples of aquatic invasive weeds and hear about the effects of these weeds and how they might be spread. This really was a great way to introduce the students to the idea of sustaining a natural garden in the high desert area that we live in, and why native plants are so important to keep around.

Back at the Nature Adventure Teaching Garden with Leah, the students got to better understand the benefits of a natural garden, from the reduced need of water, to the benefits for the wildlife in the area (especially birds).  Leah now gave the “Hilarious Hedgehogs” their assignment, they were to explore the garden and find one plant that they thought was interesting that they could tell their classmates about. Immediately, some students ran up the small mound in the middle of the garden, some ran to the far end of the garden, and most ran to the giant hollow cotton tree that they had been anxiously eyeing since they first entered the garden. Five or ten minutes later, the group was called together, and some kids shared their favorite parts of the garden, and others shared what plants they found. One little girl in particular had found a Penstemon that was still in bloom!

The students climbed back onto the bus with a little more knowledge of the world around them, and it feels amazing to have been a small part of that. That’s why I can’t wait to return work with and learn alongside the Hilarious Hedgehogs of Sussex Elementary. Soon we’ll be hard at work on our own Native Plant Garden along the Clark Fork right in front of the WEN offices!

-Katie Foster 
Katie Foster is a stellar WEN volunteer and a student at the University of Montana

Friday, November 5, 2010

Milltown Adventures

What do you know about the site where Milltown Dam used to be?

This past week I learned a lot about the past and future restoration and rebuilding of the Milltown Dam site.  We were fortunate enough to have Mike Kustudia, from Clark Fork River Technical Assistance Committee, to give us the most up-to date news on the site.  The site is now being restored, and will be rebuilt into a State Park.  It was very interesting to hear the whole story from an expert, and it was really fun to see how interested the 5th grade students were, as they had already learned some of the story from Deb's class visit.

Mike points out where the restoration process is taking place

After the talk with Mike, we split the students into two groups.  The first activity was a geo-cash activity, which was very cool for the students because they were able to explore on their own and learn about how the different groups in the area were affected by the Dam.  The second activity taught the kids about the long and hard journey that Bull Trout have to make in order to spawn.  For a couple fun minutes, they turned into Bull Trout as they made their way through the obstacle course.  They had to watch out for predators, environmental conditions, and turbines to make it safely to their redd where they could finally spawn.  It was really fun to see how much the students learned by being active!  I hope we get to do another Milltown Field trip soon!

Erica Thye
WEN Fall Intern