Awakening to the Nixle’s text “Heat Advisory – Dangerous heat will affect the area today” didn’t dampen our spirits, we were on a mission. Ninety-nine degrees, full sun - So be it. Last week, for four packed days, eleven eclectic educators were eager to learn about the Missouri River, the longest river in North America, and bring that message and discussion back to our youth. Among those curious and committed educators were Candy Marshall and Angie Rogers from Boonville High School. Missouri River Relief’s “The Missouri River: Catalyst for Learning” workshop delivered; this being one of the many programs they are developing as recipients of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) environmental education grant.

Awakening to the Nixle’s text “Heat Advisory – Dangerous heat will affect the area today” didn’t dampen our spirits, we were on a mission. Ninety-nine degrees, full sun - So be it.  Last week, for four packed days, eleven eclectic educators were eager to learn about the Missouri River, the longest river in North America, and bring that message and discussion back to our youth.  Among those curious and committed educators were Candy Marshall and Angie Rogers from Boonville High School. Missouri River Relief’s “The Missouri River: Catalyst for Learning” workshop delivered; this being one of the many programs they are developing as recipients of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) environmental education grant.
We came to appreciate the complexity of the river’s ecosystem.  Once a wide meandering river filled with islands and snags during early 1800 Lewis & Clark exploration, it is now quite different. In present day, there are over a dozen dams and it has been straightened and channelized making it narrower and deeper. We considered the Army Corp of Engineer’s mammoth task weighing all the varied demands of ten states managing this 2,341 mile long river meeting the needs of transportation, hydropower, flood control, and various types of recreation.  Changing the natural flow of the river (and nature) always has consequences. In 1990 the US Fish and Wildlife Service placed the once common pallid sturgeon on its endangered species list so the Corp has been experimenting with ways to restore spawning areas with slow moving side channels. The recently developed Jamison Island chute, downriver from Glasgow, appears promising. There are so many lessons the river has to teach us as it is ever flowing and ever changing.
We learned about the struggles of corralling invasive species such as the Asian Carp and Zebra Mussels, and the economic and ecological impacts. The Asian Carp is especially troublesome and frustrating, as “proactive” steps might have prevented their exploded population after the 1993 flood spread them far and wide.  Casting doubt on scientific evidence is dangerous and hampers our efforts, now left to “react” to a much larger problem nationwide.  And we discussed what comes with such a huge watershed (17 percent of the continental US basin), farm community pesticide and fertilizer runoff and litter, lots of litter. Our wonderful river stewards, Missouri River Relief (MRR), have now hosted over 147 clean-ups events capturing 843 tons of trash along 1088 miles of the Missouri River the last fifteen years. We discussed available resources, how to organize cleanup events, and how those activities foster a connection to the river, nature, and community. Great news - we are on their schedule for another riverbanks clean-up event Fall 2017!
We explored and shared the wonders of nature.  Bird specialists helped us hear the varied sounds of birds as we meandered through the woods from Arrow Rock down to the river – the “peter, peter, peter” call of the Tufted Titmouse in harmony with the Carolina Wren’s “tea kettle, tea kettle”. At times we focused our complete attention on one single item of nature (I notice…It reminds me…I wonder…), and when the heat was unbearable, we kicked in the “River AC” motoring a bit faster up the river.  Traversing the river from Arrow Rock to Rocheport, we admired the bluffs, cliff swallows nesting under the bridges, bank swallows with holes in the mud, the swirling water above the wing dikes, and learned navigational terms such as “Red Right Returning”.  This rich environment came alive as we met with varied specialists deepening our understanding.
Throughout it all Kristen Shulte, MRR educator, led discussions about creative teaching and learning techniques that foster curiosity and wonder in our youth. Participants developed diverse lesson plans, educators from our schools, State Parks, rural/urban settings and not-for-profit environmental organizations. All were honing their skills, exploring ways to help our youth develop creative thinking and problem solving skills, fostering their ability to make connections.  We came to realize the environment touches everything we teach, giving us a wide range of possibilities. One participant mentioned how much she enjoyed noticing the similarities and differences between the Missouri River and the Mississippi River, which flows past her community. They all loved viewing our river from the Katy Trail Bridge, evening strolls around town, and sunsets on our river.   
Angie Rogers has taught many of our kids locally over the last 19 years, now teaching high school human anatomy/physiology and zoology.  She has always loved the outdoors and is glad her students tend to sense and internalize her excitement.  She looks forward to bringing a new perspective of our river into her classroom starting with a lesson plan on local fish. She expressed excitement the Missouri River flows by our community. Candy Marshall, our high school biology teacher, said she can envision many new ways she will explore science in her curriculum, applying all she has learned about the river. Initial thoughts are to focus on the Missouri River food web and the implications of invasive species. She expressed a new founded appreciation for where she lives and how special it is to live by the Missouri River. Now very enthused, our teachers hope to partner with MRR so their students too will have the opportunity to experience our river.   
We all expressed our gratitude to Missouri River Relief for their wonderful river stewardship, and the opportunity for us to truly experience, appreciate and feel connected to our river. One participant summed it up nicely. While initially fearful of the river, after floating thirty miles down the river she felt affirmed, she tearfully stated “that is My river.”