Freezing temperatures, three feet of snow, and the creek still flows: these three facts define my first three months as the Education Specialist and Adopt-A-Stream Coordinator at the Kenai Watershed Forum.
KWF is a non-profit environmental organization that aims to work together for healthy watersheds on the Kenai Peninsula. We work towards this mission by providing high-quality education, restoration, and research programs.
The Education program at KWF has many facets, but the Adopt-A-Stream program is our longest-running, nationally recognized program emphasizing hands-on watershed science, and outdoor exploration. Monthly classroom visits provide context to our field studies in watersheds, water quality, salmon life cycles, macroinvertebrates, invasive species, and more. This program gets young people outside year-round. Snow, rain, or shine – we are exploring and learning creekside.
This has been a special year for our program. As a new instructor, I am learning about each creek as we visit, alongside the students. With every trip, I discover something new and remember why this is so important. With every “that’s so cool!” or “is that a fish?!” I am reminded of the joy and wonder that the outdoors can bring. Even in the freezing rain, when I forgot my gloves, those exclamations of joy bring me back.
Why I’m here
My professional philosophy “you can’t care about something you know nothing about” drives my work every day. Even the most tedious tasks become immensely important when viewed through the lens of educating youth to care about the natural resources surrounding and supporting us.
The Adopt-A-Stream program aims to foster personal connections with our watershed to inspire the next generation of river stewards. By encouraging exploration outside, the students are creating memories of time spent by the water. The water that provides habitat for our food, and shapes our landscapes.
I have memories of my own childhood, playing in lakes, floating rivers, and catching tadpoles in ponds. These experiences greatly influence my life and my career choices. Giving young people the time to simply notice their surroundings and look a little deeper can have a profound impact. Not only on the life and perspective of the individual, but our community as a whole.
Just last month, a parent chaperone on a creek visit told me they remember coming down to the creek for Adopt-A-Stream visits when they were younger. Even if these students don’t grow up to be environmental scientists or natural resource managers, the memory of a fun time by the creek is still crucial to the protection of our watershed.
What I’m looking forward to
We are planning big things for the summer! Like a lot of environmental organizations in Alaska, the summer season is the busiest time of year. We will have our annual summer camp and our newest program, Junior Stream Watch! This is a new youth-centered branch of Stream Watch, our long-standing, volunteer-based program focusing on habitat protection and restoration.
This new program aims to engage young people in protecting and monitoring these natural resources we all rely on. Summer camp will continue with the philosophy that the outdoors is best, and allow youth to explore nature in a fun, hands-on, and science-based way.