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Individual Placement Program

[Image Description: A MCC member and Forest Service employee are rafting down a river. The Forest Service employee is rowing the raft while the other is holding onto paperwork, likely for the survey they are completing. Off in the distance, there are mass

Streaming Young Minds Into Stewardship

When the day arrived to teach a group of 25 Ravalli County seventh-graders for the first time, my mind raced, double checking that I had everything ready. I ran through my prepared intro, the material I would go over, and the tugging reminder that the watershed vernacular would need to be adjusted for middle schoolers.

As students began to trickle in to the project-adorned science room for the Earth Stewardship Program lesson, I did my best to smile, appear friendly, and not look like another boring presenter. Those 48 minutes spent with them were not necessarily picture-perfect. The lesson left me feeling frazzled. I wasn’t able to fully command their attention, they weren’t always on task, and I couldn’t tell whether they had learned what a watershed was by the end.

After the students left for lunch, I began collecting the physical model they had constructed. Defeat lingered in the air. Picking up their worksheets on what they initially thought a watershed was, I saw many had drawn a shed full of water. A very common idea. But flipping one over to the post-lesson side, I was amazed at the accurate drawing and description of a watershed. Seeing their growth from the beginning to the end of the lesson, I knew they had all learned a few things. Even if they hadn’t shown it directly during the session, I had the evidence on those worksheets.

I returned to our local middle schools many times throughout the winter. Every time I left, a smile, whether tired or energized, was plastered on my face. The feeling of passing on knowledge to another generation and watching them connect in a new way to their environment was well worth it.

Leaving Wisconsin to teach seventh-graders in Montana about watershed health, as a Big Sky Watershed Corps (BSWC) member, was not always in my agenda or five-year plan. Graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Environmental Biology, I felt the world was my oyster while also a giant puzzle. I knew I wanted to make an impact with whatever I did, and grow outside of my comfort zone. The work I accomplished at the Bitter Root Water Forum has achieved that.