On May 3rd and 4th, the fifth graders from Numa Elementary School and Karl Marsh’s students from CCHS participated in Conserve the Carson River workdays on the Carson River in partnership with the River Wranglers.
The River Wranglers program mission is to promote stewardship of the Carson River watershed through youth mentorship and experiential education. Their model includes training high school science, FFA, and leadership students to teach elementary students about the water cycle, water quality testing, the geography of the watershed, animal adaptations, flora and fauna of the watershed, and nonpoint source pollution. They also take all the students to the river for workdays in which students participate in interactive activities as well as complete some necessary work at the river. This work can involve wrapping trees to protect them from beavers, removing noxious weeds from the riparian corridor, or building boxes for wood duck habitats.
For the Conserve the Carson River workdays (CCRWD) here in Fallon, River Wranglers began training CCHS high school students in Karl Marsh’s science classes weeks before. Working with the fifth graders allows these high school students the opportunity to really focus on the skills they have been learning in Biology all year long and build on them. “It is a wonderful experience that allows our high school students to share some of what they know and who they are in a unique, fun, and engaging way with these fifth graders,” said Marsh.
On the workdays, the CCHS science students are assigned stations and then the fifth graders rotate between all the stations learning something different at each one. The first station was the nonpoint source pollution and carbon footprint station to teach students about the difference between point and nonpoint source pollution, and to determine their own carbon footprint and what kinds of things they can do to reduce it. Next was the build a watershed station to learn about and identify the counties/cities in the watershed, which way the water flows, along with mountain ranges, animals, and water features along the watershed. Then there was the incredible journey station to learn about the water cycle by going on an "Incredible Journey" as water throughout multiple stations (ex: groundwater, river, ocean, glacier, etc.) where they identified how the water goes through a particular location and gets to another. The observation station allowed students to walk along the river and take notes of the life the river supports such as flora and fauna, and learn fun facts about them. Lastly, there is the animal pelts station and learning about the animals that live in their watershed. These stations provide an excellent interactive learning experience for all the students. Not only are the fifth graders learning, but so are the high school students as they teach the younger students. CCHS student Mason Storm said, “It was a very eye-opening experience being able to help teach 5th graders about the Carson River Watershed.”
Fifth-grade teacher Trudy Mills loves the hands-on experience her students receive while learning about the watershed and the environment during these workdays. “It is fun to listen to them use the knowledge they gained when we have classroom discussions,” Mills said.
Rebecca Feldermann, Executive Director of River Wranglers said she loves being able to provide education and experiences in the outdoors along the river for students. “It really gives students the opportunity to see their watershed up close and learn just how important stewardship is to the environment and the water. Getting to know the students and hearing and seeing how this program has a positive effect is just wonderful and something I truly treasure,” said Feldermann.
Surprisingly, in working with schools the River Wranglers find that about half the students they work with have never been to the Carson River. “As shocking as we find that, we are also thrilled that many of the high school students we see remember coming to a Conserve the Carson River Workday when they were in elementary school,” said Felderman. Marsh also sees this in his classroom with his students and said, “Many of my students remember doing this with high schoolers when they were in fifth grade and still recall the great experience they had doing it.”
The River Wranglers have been working in the watershed for more than twenty years with help from the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, Carson Water Subconservancy District, and the county conservation districts, among many others. “Our overall vision is to empower youth through outdoor watershed education. With this education we strive to help to foster a relationship between students and their natural world and encourage good stewardship of the environment,” said Feldermann.
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