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