Churchill students participate in River Wranglers program

River Wranglers recently presented a Conserve the Carson River workday for Churchill County students.

River Wranglers recently presented a Conserve the Carson River workday for Churchill County students.

  • Discuss Comment, Blog about
  • Print Friendly and PDF

Fifth graders from Numa Elementary School and Karl Marsh’s students from Churchill County High School recently participated in Conserve the Carson River workdays on the Carson River in partnership with the River Wranglers.
The River Wranglers program began in 1994. Their mission is to promote stewardship of the Carson River watershed through youth mentorship and experiential education. The River Wranglers work with schools in all six counties educating students about their relationship with the river and how they impact the watershed. 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.
The River Wranglers also take 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) in Fallon, River Wranglers began training CCHS students from Marsh’s science classes weeks before. Working with the fifth graders allowed 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,” Marsh said.
On the workdays, the CCHS science students were assigned stations and then the fifth graders rotated between all the stations learning something different at each one. The first station was the nonpoint source pollution and carbon footprint station. The purpose of this station was to teach students about the difference between point and nonpoint source pollution, identify the six categories of nonpoint solutions and what kinds of pollutants are in each category, learn what they can do to help not pollute and bring awareness to the community, and to determine their own carbon footprint and what kinds of things they can do to reduce it.
The next station was build a watershed station. The purpose of this station was for students to learn about and identify locations in the watershed (the counties/cities), which way the water flows, mountain ranges within the watershed, animals of the watershed, water features along the watershed, and other facts throughout the discussion. The activity included familiarizing with the map of the watershed and then "building" a watershed on the ground with a "river" and different cities/features/location cards for the students to place.
Then there was the incredible journey station where students learned about the water cycle. They began by familiarizing themselves with the water cycle and identifying parts of the water cycle on a poster. They then went 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. Another station is the observation station, where students got to take a walk along the river and take notes of the life the river supports such as flora and fauna, and learn fun facts about them.
Often this station involves being quiet in nature to observe and writing or drawing about what was seen. Lastly, there is the animal pelts station.
At this station, students got to know the animals that live in their watershed. Along with learning fun facts about all sorts of creatures, they also discussed pollution and its effect on their habitat/environment and what we can do to help better it. These stations provided 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. “It was a very eye-opening experience being able to help teach fifth graders about the Carson River Watershed,” CCHS student Mason Storm said.
Fifth-grade teacher Trudy Mills said she 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.
Mills also sent a survey to her fifth-grade students to see what they thought about the different stations and participation in CCRWD. Her student's responses were overwhelmingly positive.
One student stated, “I liked learning about the water cycle."
Another enjoyed learning about the animals in the area and a third student said, “I like that we got to just sit and observe the river and even got to see a dam and a bunch of ducks.”
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,” she said. “Getting to know the students and hearing and seeing how this program has a positive effect is just wonderful and something I truly treasure.”
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,” Felderman said. 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,” Feldermann said.
Kaitlin Ritchie is public information officer for the Churchill County School District.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment