Friday, February 18, 2011

The WEN Team Celebrates 15 Years of Watershed Education!

As we turn of the calendar see 2011 - it means a staggering 15 years since Watershed Education Network’s co-founders, me (Deb Fassnacht) and Wendy Sturgis decided to bring citizen-based volunteer water monitoring to western Montana. Wendy said the fateful words as we formed a board eight years later in 2004, “…it will take about 15 years to get this to be a real nonprofit”. In the meantime, WEN, he 501 (c) 3  has seen a steady increase in the demand for our School Stream Monitoring Program (SSMP) and each of our stellar program coordinators have brought advancements to the program with their expertise and perspectives on rivers. The program coordinators that have moved on to bigger and better things include: Greg Grallo (1997-2002); Sean Sullivan (2000-2007); and Josh Gubits (2007-2011). In this time WEN has grown in our programs: pre-K focus,, wetlands, groundwater, Milltown Dam Journeys, high school  Flagship after school, and summer Liam Wood Flyfishers and River Guardians offerings to get kids out to their creeks.
We warmly welcome Kitty Galloway from Bellingham, Washington as our new program coordinator, She brings her gifts of science education and curriculum building to WEN, along with a great personality. Underlying the water education progress and our ever-evolving process is a key element that isn’t always made explicit. WEN has an incredible team of people. The team of people has been rich in dynamic personalities, age, profession, and background. In the beginning, our team of volunteers included our children, Max and Ben Fassnacht and Wendy’s daughter, Kate Moo
re. We graduated to recruiting community volunteers and University of Montana students. Some are so much a part of the WEN trainings, field trips and Stream Team, they often go unrecognized beyond the twice a year volunteer appreciation party and BBQ.
Yesterday I was reminded of this fifteen year run of attracting talented, thoughtful people to be a part of a very program: ‘we are growing the next generation of watershed stewards’ . Three volunteers came to the WEN office to get a groundwater flow model ready, Vija Pelekis,  Erica Thye, our MTCC VISTA Member, and Vicki Balfour, our Board member. We took care of all the last minute preparations, printing flyers and handouts, packing a ‘build your aquifer lesson’ set of supplies and remembering our new, poster showcasing WEN. Our board member, Vicki Balfour came to provide moral support and leadership. As I watched the packing and preparing, I realized how fortunate I am to work with such incredible team of people. What a gift, to have volunteers that show up on time, with smiles asking, “What’s next”?
As we headed out to make a presentation and share our good work in the community, I was seeing the team through fresh eyes. People are kind to each other, give direction as needed, pick up where each other leaves off, and enjoys the time together doing good, meaningful work. Later after the adrenaline rush of a great presentation was wearing off, we talked over what we did well and what we can do to do an even better job of showcasing WEN’s amazing work. All these ideas and all the brainstorming, bringing new concepts, thoughtful suggestions, and organizational tips to be more efficient is how we have gotten WEN from an idea to where we are.
We look at a calendar already filling with class presentations and field trips. We are digging deep to ask who can become interns and work with more set priorities and schedules. We are expecting good things to come from all the energy, ideas and hard work of this spring, our fifteenth season! It is good to see the energy, enthusiasm and dedication to making water education thrive for students and people in Montana.
 -Deb Fassnacht
Deb is the Executive Director and co-founder of WEN

Friday, February 11, 2011

Groundwater Field Trip Pictures

Check out our pictures from our Groundwater Field Trip!

Deb presents the Groundwater Flow Model to fascinated students
Kitty Galloway explores groundwater layers with students
The Students get ready for the Groundwater Flow Game

Clay sticks close together!
The Groundwater experiment shows how
water moves through sediments

Do you want to learn more about your Groundwater Field Trips?  You can email WEN at or call us at 406-541-9287

Monday, February 7, 2011

Groundwater Field Trip!

Last Wednesday, I joined Deb, Erica, Kitty, and Stephanie at Garden City Montessori for WEN's ground water presentation. What a blast! The students were so engaged and enthusiastic to learn about ground water and Missoula's aquifer. I was happily surprised to see how knowledgeable the students already were about watersheds; one young student even described the movement of water through the landscape from rain to rivers and even included evaporation. Kitty Galloway coordinated some great activities for the kids including an interactive aquifer game. Students were designated as either boulders, sand, clay, or cobble and then the rest of the class acted as rain drops and moved through the different types of substrates as acted out by their classmates. Everyone loved the game and really understood how easy or difficult it is for water to move through different mediums in an aquifer. 

After the interactive aquifer game and a wonderful build your own aquifer activity, Deb wowed the students with the groundwater flow model. Everyone, including myself, was completely immersed in the groundwater flow model. With this awesome tool, Deb showed the students at Garden City Montessori how water moves through aquifers and how groundwater contamination can pollute our rivers and drinking water. I thought the demonstration was particularly helpful to show how the composition of an aquifer will determine the movement of water. It was such a wonderful time for everyone! The kids were so engaged and eager to learn about their aquifer and their teacher, Megan, was involved and continued their groundwater lesson with our Groundwater Flow Model, even as we were leaving. At the end, we packed up and headed back to the WEN office with big smiles and the warm feeling you get from being around kids and their complete enthusiasm for the world around them- including watersheds!

-Vija Pelekis
WEN Volunteer

Friday, February 4, 2011

What's Happening at WEN?

Check out what happened at WEN this past week through our Weekly Update!