By Anna Miller
August is coming to an end, and with it the conclusion of my service.
The past two years have been an invigorating experience. Missouri River Relief as an organization has seen some tremendous organizational growth during my short time here. I think it’s time we both take a much needed stretch and reflect on our progress. I will take mine by sharing some highlights of my last year of service that may be useful to future AmeriCorps.
Throughout the end of 2021, my time was consumed by two programs designed for Columbia Public Schools. Those projects were the completion of the Missouri River Detectives video series and the creation of Missouri River Scientists; a traveling trunk explores the management strategies of the endangered Pallid Sturgeon. 795 students have engaged with Missouri River Scientists within one semester, a level of outreach that our curriculum does not usually see. Teachers are always hungry for something new. Don’t be afraid to let them dive into Missouri River education in their own way. Both Missouri River Detectives and Missouri River Scientists allow teachers direct access to our curriculum without making our presence or instruction necessary. Our future curriculum will more than likely be reflective of this as demand for Missouri River Relief education programs grows.
My advice to future AmeriCorps: don’t be a pretzel! You will feel pulled in certain directions. It’s alright to set a project aside in favor of another. Space can bring clarity like nothing else. You want to have a finished product that you can be proud of, rather than just finished.
To Claire, the current AmeriCorps education assistant, take your projects step by step and remember the Kristen is there to guide you. For me, this project was the Equity, Inclusion and Cultural Relevancy Action Plan announcement.
After a year of planning, the Equity, Inclusion and Cultural Relevancy Action Plan for this organization was announced and made public through Our Mission page. I expect that future AmeriCorps will have the task of implementing the ideas laid out in the plan.
This year, pandemic restrictions for field trips lifted for Columbia Public Schools. This allowed Missouri River Relief to focus on reconnecting directly with local fourth graders through the Missouri River Days field trip. Volunteers and crew were excited to interact with the students and share their knowledge of the Missouri River with young learners.
In June, Mornings at the River made a triumphant return as 867 families members attended six of our riverside events designed for 0 to 5-year-olds. This program has proven its longevity post-COVID and will be in the wheelhouse of education programs for years to come.
After wrapping Mornings at the River, we debuted the new Missouri River Adventure Camp that had been designed under Laura Waldo-Semken. 36 campers were able to take daily field trips around the Columbia area to explore their local watershed. This program would not be possible without the assistance of an AmeriCorps. Use this program as a way to build confidence with this young age group. AmeriCorps will be expected to plan and lead sections of the daily schedule, including the games!
I would like to thank Missouri River Relief and Stream Teams United for this opportunity. It has been an exciting past two years with new experiences abound. To all future AmeriCorps, remember that this position is as much about creating a unique experience for yourself as it is about building education programs. I suggest that you find your niche, but don't be afraid to ask for new challenges. You will grow from them.
For a deeper insight into my first year of service, feel free to read through my first reflection.