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.