This blog tells the story of the River Stewards at the University of Dayton. For more information about the River Stewards program or the Rivers Institute, please visit our website at http://rivers.udayton.edu.
I spy something with my
little eye and it looks a lot like kids learning their multiplication tables. I
spy boys and girls eagerly raising their hands to be picked to clean the dinner
tables. I spy them helping each other stack chairs at the end of the night. And
most of all, I spy an infinite amount of laughter. I spy Adventure Central.
This after school program is unlike anything I’ve known before. Kids come here to
not only learn about rivers, creeks, plants, and the environment, but are also
aided with their homework. Adventure Central allows them to begin to see their
worth. Being a kid is tough, and it’s not acknowledged enough how great of an
impact the environment has on the adult a child eventually grows into. Adventure
Central is an environment that sees the fiery passions that children develop so
easily and embraces them for it, helping to spread the love to everyone.
My first night at
Adventure Central I watched a very discouraged little girl, who had fallen
behind in school, catch up on homework. After she put her things away, she sat
with a little smile on her face clearly proud of the work she had accomplished.
Without Adventure Central, who would have helped her catch up? When would she
have found the time? It’s hard to say. However, she grew just a little bit that
night and more importantly, she began to believe in herself. Maybe it was the
first time or maybe the first time in a long time. Either way, it was a step in
the right direction. It is a direction that will show her that she can do
anything she sets her mind to and that by continuing to try, she can go further
than she ever thought possible.
Whenever I leave Adventure
Central, I am eager to return. I want to see what these kids can discover about
themselves and their untapped potential. I want to see them grow, and, with the
help of people that care, every one of them will grow. It’s easy to become
discouraged by the direction our planet and quality of life are heading, but these
kids give me hope. They will not be the same generation as the one preceding. They
will not ignore the problems ultimately hurting us, and they will not let hate
defeat them. When I look at these kids, and the opportunities Adventure Central
is giving them, I can’t help but to spy a brighter future.
After a couple months of planning this event, we were
finally able to see it come into fruition. Our RiverMobile has never been this
far north before and this was an excellent opportunity to visit our river neighbors in Sidney. Sidney is extremely rural and most of the families have their own farmland. Agriculture is a huge part of life. It was really fun connecting with them and learning from each other.
The RiverMobile was showcased at two different events, the school tours for 4th graders and the
Family Farm tours.
For a couple of weeks, I’ve been up to Sidney prepping for our
Fairlawn tours. With the help of Leslie and Katelyn, Fairlawn FFA student
leaders and moderators, Lynda Adams (Shelby
Soil & Water Conservation District Education Coordinator), and of
course some pretty awesome River Stewards, we were able to pull off a wonderful
Fairlawn Local hosted 4th grade classes from Fairlawn, Holy Angels,
and Jackson Center for their Harvest Days RiverMobile and Dairy Farm tours.
They were split into two groups for the RiverMobile and Dairy Farm and then
switched after lunch. Not only did the kids get to explore and learn from the
RiverMobile, but they also had a lot of fun with the activities. Fairlawn FFA
used our edible aquifer activity and they also had other crafts and edibles to
incorporate their Harvest Day themes. The kids had a great day full of fun, learning, and treats!
The FFA leaders were trained
earlier in the week so that they would be able to lead tours for Harvest Days.
They put in a lot of work to organize and plan these events and I was beyond
impressed. We brought some extra River Steward t-shirts for our FFA tour guides
and they took their roles very seriously. When the school tours were complete,
the FFA leaders invited Katelyn and I to Dell Delight Dairy Farm owned by their
teacher, Mr. Sailor, and his family. We were able to see their milking facilities and
even play with some cows!
Our River Stewards: Meg Maloney, Sarah Richard, Katie Weitzel, Ana Ritz, and Charlotte
Shade led tours to families taking part in the Family Farm Tour day. The
RiverMobile was only one of the many stations that were showcased that day. Since I wasn’t able to attend
the Family Farm Tour, some stewards shared their experience with me.
Katie: “It was really cool
to see how interested people from the community were in conserving water and
keeping the rivers clean.”
Meg: “I loved working at the
Drive-In Tour this weekend! I got to meet a lot of wonderful people! It was
amazing to hear about how so many farmers are really concerned about keeping
the water clean in our watershed. The conversation that stuck out to me the
most was a gentleman who said
often get a black eye for being the ones to pollute rivers, but we don't want
our fertilizer in there either, we want to help. It's just hard to know how."
I think this is really
powerful because it reinforces our mission to go out and reach out to the
people in the community to help them combat pollution issues.”
community seemed to be genuinely interested in what we had to say no matter the
age! and the smiles on the kids’ faces when they got
to paddle in the canoe was absolutely priceless"
Overall, this event only
further delineated the whole reason the RiverMobile exists. Our watershed is
special and our friends in Sidney also agree. Whether we use water for brushing our teeth or watering our crops, we all love our water
and want to see it remain healthy. The younger kids loved sharing stories of
how they enjoy the rivers and expressed how sad they would be if the fish
were sick or if the waters weren’t clean. Our lovely neighbors in Sidney hosted us
with the best hospitality. I can’t wait to make my way back to see those cows!
The past month has been a blast for the Summer Team. We have worked with so many amazing groups. The YMCA camps around the Greater Dayton area made an appearance at our Rivermobile, we got to lead a mini orientation for Adventure Central, high schoolers from Argentina studying abroad at UD through the Center for International Programs were able to kayak and learn about our rivers, and finally the Victory Project men were able to learn the ins and outs of kayaking.
The YMCA camps came to UD from Germantown, Englewood and many other places as well. This River Mobile event was three days long and the amount of enthusiasm from each group was refreshing. We settled into a routine of waiting for the kids to arrive, dividing them into smaller groups, then taking them through each classroom. Every classroom was, seemingly, a new adventure to the YMCA campers. The history room was a great way to gather the children and gain their attention. The second classroom is a great transition from Dayton flood history to information about the water under our feet. The kids love the last classroom because it is interactive and they are allowed to talk about activities that they enjoy. Overall, it was a successful three days and the Summer Team had a great time.
Adventure Central is an organization the the Rivers Institute is very fond of. We were fortunate enough to create a “mini orientation” the the oldest group of campers. We begin the program with some classroom action. The campers were actively learning about the history of Dayton’s rivers and a few of the key figures that helped shape Dayton into the city that it is today. The second day of the orientation consisted of the kayak basics such as safety and proper paddle usage. Finally, the third day of the orientation we took the campers to Eastwood Metropark to get them into the water and practice their new skills. The summer interns probably had just as much fun as the campers did.
We took this newly developed “mini orientation” lesson plan and implemented it on two other programs. These programs included the young adults from Argentina who are studying on campus and the Victory Project boys. Each program was catered to the specific group but each participant received a little lesson on Dayton’s history, kayak safety, and paddle technique. The boys and girls from Center for International Programs were excited to get off campus and get active. Eastwood Metropark was a perfect location to hike the Buckeye trail, play team building games, and kayak around the lagoon. The Victory Project program timeline allowed the Summer Interns to get to know the participants and the result of this was a very fun and successful paddle down the Mad River.
I believe it was about 3 days in when I had a
special realization. “I’ve never went more than 1 day and 1 night without
seeing at least 1 person that I know”. At that point, I really knew that my
journey had begun. So there I was, driving through Arkansas, en route to Texas, seeing
ahead of me 17 more days of this solo travel experience. In my 20th
year, 20 days on the road, 20 states, 6,100 miles, 11 National Parks, and 160
hours of sleep in the back of my red Mercury. The idea of it excited me.
Perhaps that’s because I’m the crazy dude on the road who talks to himself and
dances alone in the car. Whatever it is, I enjoy being alone. This isn’t to say
I don’t enjoy being with others. Like with all things, there is a time for
I will say this, being alone that long brings
new thoughts to mind. Beyond just thoughts, new perspectives, new habits, and
new visions come too. All because it’s a new experience. I so often found
myself truly feeling another person there with me. After so many nights, I just
felt like surely by now there is someone else next to me watching the moon peek
over that desert ridge. For just brief moments in time, I would forget
I was the only one seeing, hearing, and feeling these currents of time. If you
know me, then be assured I thought of you. I thought of everyone in my life.
Enough time had passed that I no longer missed one person like you would miss your
mom or your closest friend in a certain moment. I got to a point where I wanted
to be with every person I’ve ever met. I wanted to hear the voices and
experience the personalities. This wasn’t a sad sort of longing though. I only
felt a happiness come over me that I suddenly realized everything in this universe
is connected. And that is
where the water enters my story.
Ran into a Momma bear and her
cub 10 minutes after this.
Peaks of Otter, VA
Every person I’ve met, every action I’ve taken, and every place I
had ever been to had led me to where I am. I felt I had known that for some
time, but it was now much clearer. The kind of clarity that can never be grasped by words. Similar to when you have a really clear thought in your mind about something, but you just can’t put words to it for someone else.
If you drive down the road from Mt. Rushmore about a half-mile there is a lake on the left nestled in the gray rocks of the Black Hills Forest. Walk around
the lake going clockwise and you will come to a bridge. To the woods left of that bridge
there is a skinny little blocked off trail that leads to a charming little
waterfall hidden in the trees. So of course it wasn’t long before I was in the chilly
water feeling the slick rocks under my bare feet. There, shivering in
the water, hearing nothing but the gentle crash of the stream, I heard the
voice of the water. It said, “Cody, I enjoy your company, but you’re really
messing up my flow”. Haha okay that’s my only crappy river joke I’ll tell.
But in truth, the water did speak to me. It just spoke to me in a language that
is beyond the limits of our own words. And I smiled, cause I knew that all this
time I was right. I wasn’t alone. I was not the only one seeing the double
rainbow form across the prairie land in South Dakota. It wasn’t just me
Wind Cave National Park, SD
felt the mist of the waterfall upon my skin in the San Juan Mountains. To take
the words of Alan Watts, “You do not find bees where there are no flowers, and
you do not find flowers where there are no bees”. They are mutually arising.
Thus, they are one in the same, inseparable, just as we are inseparable from
everything around us. The water is a part of me and I a part of the water, part
of the Earth. Connected we are, all of us, all the time. The birds, the sun,
the stars, moon, and rivers. The veins of the universe. Shall we pulse with
When the children
of Dayton tour our River Mobile, the first station they stop at is a large map
of the United States to learn how the rivers are connected to one another. They
learn that our Great Miami River empties into the Ohio River, which then joins
with the Mississippi River, and finally ends its journey as the Mississippi
River spills into the Gulf of Mexico. This summer I find myself working in the
very same place where the water from the Great Miami River ends its travels:
the Gulf of Mexico.
This summer I have
been living on Dauphin Island in southern Alabama, working for the Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s (DISL) Research Experience for
Undergraduates (REU) program funded by the National Science Foundation. I
have found myself conducting research in aquaculture studies, a field that is
rarely thought about in the land-locked Midwest. I have been conducting a
research project in collaboration with the Auburn
University Shellfish Lab (AUSL) to understand how Eastern Oyster shells
recover from the unsightly “blisters” caused by the burrowing worm Polydora webstri, commonly known as a
opportunity has given me the very unique experience (for a Midwestern girl like
myself) to learn, not only about marine sciences, but also a community that is
built around the water. Back in 2005, Hurricane Katrina damaged the areas
around Dauphin Island and Mobile, Alabama and the economy has slowly been
rebuilding since the natural disaster. The goal of AUSL is to help start oyster
farms around the Gulf of Mexico as a new industry to grow the economy in the
south. The number of oyster farms has grown from about five farms to thirteen
farms today. Research projects like my own and the many graduate students that study
through AUSL aim to help the farmers grow oysters more sustainably and
efficiently, so that southern oysters can be just as, if not more marketable,
on the lucrative half-shell market across the nation.
I have truly
enjoyed conducting research in an applied science field that has allowed me to
interact with local farmers and turn their, perhaps,
“not-so-scientific-questions” into a publishable research project. It has been great
to use my community building skills that I learned through River Stewards to
work with the oyster farmers through AUSL where they constantly provide
instruction, research and outreach in the area of shellfish ecology and production
to the citizens of the Mobile Bay region. It amazes me that no matter where I
travel to in this country I can still find communities that value their water
sources just as much as Dayton. The love for our waterways and its resources
can be felt from the Great Miami all the way at the end here in Gulf of Mexico.
As the end of June is upon us, the beginning of new adventure and excitement is emerging. The Rivers Institute Summer Team had the wonderful opportunity to host three different organizations on paddling programs. It was a true blessing to be able to build new relationships with children and adults in the Dayton community. It was also a beautiful week to enjoy the outdoors and Dayton’s water resources.
On June 21st, Professor Richard Bendula and his summer geology course joined the Rivers Institute Summer Team on the Mad River to travel down to Riverscape Metro Park. This particular program presented the unique opportunity to communicate with a diverse group of students because all of the students were from Saudi Arabia. We were able to have a great conversation about Dayton’s water resources, as well as the importance of conserving Saudi Arabia’s limited groundwater supply. Even though we were from completely different countries, there was one aspect of our countries that united us all—we all depend on our water resources for prosperity and wellbeing.
The following day, the Summer Team joined the REC Kids camp to paddle in the indoor pool with their campers. This day will stand out as one of the most enjoyable days of the year. The children participating in the camp had a lot of fun energy and excitement. It was an absolute blast to see young children smile and enjoy themselves in the kayaks. The children were having so much fun that some of the campers never wanted to get out of the kayaks. The children were a joy to watch and hopefully are inspired to get back into a kayak in the future. Thank you REC Kids for the smiles and laughs.
On Friday the 24th, we unpacked the Rivers Institute kayaks at Findlay Street where we went over paddling basics and safety tips with the lovely Berry Scholars. After helping everyone into their kayaks, we had an enjoyable and relaxed paddle. A rainfall the day before had the river running a little more swift than earlier in the week. We were given the opportunity to share the knowledge that we have acquired over the past few weeks about the riparian zones and the surrounding areas such as the water treatment plant.
Overall, it was an amazing week for growth, fun, and safety.
We kicked off our summer team with a trip through our second favorite watershed: the Little Miami Watershed. With all five members of the summer team finally together, we, along with Leslie and Jeff, spent two days paddling down the river learning about the Little Miami River and water ecology while growing as a unit.
On this paddle, we were joined by Aaron Rourke of Rivers Unlimited, and were supported by Mike Schumacher and Bill Schieman of Little Miami Watershed Network. One of the most valuable takeaways of this trip were the discussions we shared about civic engagement and the challenges we may face as leaders in the community.
As members of the Rivers Institute and Fitz Center, civic engagement is at the heart of what we do. We want to develop community around rivers and preserve and value Dayton’s rivers as the asset they are to the Dayton community. But we recognize that it is all too easy to get pulled into the efforts of everyday life—our school work, careers, and personal relationships—and neglect to engage with our broader communities in meaningful ways. Bill Schieman brought up how valuable it is for citizens to commit to lifelong engagement in their communities. By becoming involved in initiatives as simple as cleaning up trash from the river or serving at a local soup kitchen, to larger commitments like serving on a local zoning or school board or working with a conservation agency, we can stay connected to the people and resources in our community. And all the work that people do, large and small, coalesces to create a vibrant community.
A vital part of the summer team’s effectiveness of coordinating programs is our interaction with children. It is a true blessing to be able to interact with children and young adults. Whenever an opportunity arises to work with kids, excitement immediately follows. However, there are certain challenges that present themselves when working with adolescents. Not following directions, making inappropriate remarks and not paying attention all hinder the educational experience. Unfortunately, these are situations naturally present themselves when working with younger audiences.
When discussing with Bill about these difficulties, he voiced his advice to us young educators. Maintaining composure and giving the children your focus and attention shows them that you care and they are valued, and sometimes that attention and love is all that they need. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that, although the children may not show an interest in the discussion or activity at the moment, they do indeed reflect on the experience and remember it. Engaging with children does have an impact, and that is important to remember when it seems like nothing is sinking in.
Both days of the trip, we had some very thought provoking discussions with Aaron, Mike, and Bill on some of the challenges of sustainability and food issues in the world. Our conversations, both days, focused on food and climate change. We discussed the problems with not taking action until we directly feel the effects of unsustainable behavior. We talked about how often this conversation comes up in day to day dialogue but our generation and future generations need to focus on taking action. Sustainability has become more of a of an idealistic aspiration in our society rather than an actionable paradigm. Now is the time to actually act upon this ideal and work towards a more sustainable future.
On a more lighthearted note, we saw a lot of wildlife that made the trip that much more exciting. We saw 148 turtles and caught three of them. Disclaimer: we let all turtles free. Their names were Graham, Lucas, and Squirt (Gimme some fin. Noggin’. Duuude.) We also saw a bald eagle, a beaver, an otter, and green heron among other animals.
All in all we grew a lot as individuals and are looking forward to an fun and impactful summer!