Missouri River Academy, July 2018

Missouri River Academy, July 8-15, 2018 

By: Claire Hassler

Another Missouri River Academy has come and gone, and I think we’re all going through camp withdrawals. The 2018 Academy flew by, it’s hard to believe it’s already over! Camp may have ended but the friendships linger and the memories will last forever.  

Campers, Kristen, and Kevin pose for a group photo at Peer’s Store, where they stopped along their bike ride to learn about flooding and the Missouri River.

It’s hard to describe what makes camp so special; you just have to be there to experience it yourself. Some things that might contribute are: 

  • The scenic golden-hour views of the bluffs from the river during the sunset cruise 
  • The laughs shared during community time 
  • The morning walk across Camp Trinity for breakfast, with dew gathered over the pond 
  • The unexpected surprises, like getting to tour a tugboat 
  • The relationships that start as distant and shallow, but slowly grow into friendships that are rich and fun-filled 
  • The intense “Missouri River Olympics” competition 
  • The passionate presenters who open up their livelihoods to us so that we can connect to the river.
Campers gaze at the sunset from the boat during the sunset cruise. 

Those are just a few aspects of Missouri River Academy that made it so awesome this year. To go more in-depth, here is a day-by-day breakdown of our week: 

Sunday, July 8th – Welcome to the Missouri River Academy  

The focus for day one was getting to know each other and getting excited for the week ahead! Students focused on the question “What do I hope to get out of this week on the Missouri River?”  

We welcomed a group of excited campers to Camp Trinity in New Haven, Missouri, where we spent the next four days. We started the Academy off with Missouri River Olympic Games, a lesson about the Missouri River Watershed, and a night hike!  

To warm up for the River Olympics and to get to know each other, the campers play Magic Carpet, a team building game that involves communication, teamwork, and leadership.    

There were three Olympic teams: The Kingpin Dolphins, The Pride, and the Freaky Fries. We had competitions throughout the week, giving each team an opportunity to take first place, earn glory, and win a prize. The students also dove in to their action projects.

For the first lesson, students learned about identifying problems and the stakeholders involved in those problems. Students selected issues facing the Missouri River and placed them on a graph based on the level of stakeholder agreement as well as the science and technology that is available to solve those issues. 

Monday, July 9th – Connecting to the Missouri River  

River AC, free ice cream, and star gazing were just a few of the exciting parts of day two of the Missouri River Academy!  On this day, students focused on the question “How do I explore my connection to the Missouri River?”  

We began the day on the river. Due to mechanical issues in one of our boats, students rotated between an On the Land station and a river cruise. Everyone was super flexible with this last-minute schedule change. 

We also broke out the blue trash bags and did a river clean up, Missouri River Relief style! Students picked up trash and also looked for their own trash treasure, which they used for their action projects later in the day when they learned about systems modeling. 

Campers pose for a group photo on their bikes before heading out on the Katy Trail for 7 miles!   

After lunch students traded trash bags for helmets and rode bikes for 7 miles on the Katy Trail. Along the way the students stopped at Peer’s Store, where free ice cream awaited them, and went on a prairie hike! After spending all day in the sun, nothing beats cooling off in the pool, which is what most students did during Community Time.

The Olympic competition was fierce this year! At this point The Pride was in the lead. They gained most of their points by asking awesome questions to our presenters.  In the evening the students explored a stream near Camp Trinity. They used clear cups to catch and observe different animals - this hands-on experience was definitely a highlight.   

Campers search for wildlife as they explore a stream near Camp Trinity.

When night fell, the students gazed at the stars. They had fun finding different constellations and got to see Mercury, Jupiter’s moons, and Saturn’s rings through telescopes. Ending day two with this activity was simply stellar. 

Tuesday, July 10th – Behind the Scenes of the Missouri River 

During day 3 of Missouri River Academy we examined different parts of the Missouri River ecosystem, from the plants that grow along its banks to the fish that swim in its waters. Students focused on the question “What components make up the Missouri River Ecosystem?”  

We started the day off learning about birds from the Missouri River Bird Observatory. Students looked at bird skulls and played a game that mimicked a bird’s migration pattern. The kids used all of their senses on a riparian forest hike and unleashed their artistic sides by painting Missouri River-inspired watercolors.  

Carter enthusiastically answers questions about pallid sturgeon after fishing on the river with the Missouri Department of Conservation. 

After lunch, we set back out onto the river to go fishing with the Missouri Department of Conservation! Some students dissected Asian carp, an activity loved by some and disliked by others, but everyone enjoyed using poles to fish for catfish.  

Students stretched their minds with Minute Mystery riddles during the Olympic games (The Pride was still in the lead by 5 points) and ate watermelon by the pool during community time.   We watched the sun go down from the river during a sunset cruise. The students socialized and opened up to each other during a group reflection activity called Rose, Thorn, and Bud. It was wonderful to see the friendships among the campers growing with each passing day!  

Wednesday, July 11th – Forces that Shape the Missouri River 

On Wednesday, we examined how humans have impacted the Missouri River. Students focused on the question “What is the relationship between the Missouri River and humans?” 

We began at the Old New Haven School House, where we toured the museum and learned about the history of this river town. We also visited Astral Glass and learned about Lance and Gary’s river business and their experience paddling 1,300 miles of the Missouri River. They also demonstrated blowing glass for us!  

Students enjoy front-row views of glass blowing at Astral Glass Studio in downtown New Haven.     

We ate delicious pizza for lunch, which the kids got to create from locally grown ingredients while they learned about agriculture in the Missouri River Valley. We ventured to Hermann, Missouri and to top off lunch, the kids enjoyed picking herbs and munching on them at Deutschheim State Historical Society.   We also experienced something rare – while visiting Hermann Sand & Gravel, we got to tour a tug boat! It was awesome to see what the inside of a barge looks like (and students loved getting to blow the horn).   

Students look around the engine room of a tugboat during their tour at Hermann Sand and Gravel.     

We also hosted the first-ever Missouri River Academy Mini Film Fest. We watched three short films: one about Standing Rock, one about Eagle Bluffs Conservation area, and one about geese. This was also a great opportunity for the students to cool off and eat popcorn.   Students got to compare what they learned during the Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area documentary to how New Haven handles its waste water by touring the New Haven waste water treatment plant.  To end the day’s adventures we had a drum session with a campfire and s’mores, an essential to any summer camp! 

Thursday, July 12th – Connecting Others to the Missouri River 

The last day of the 2018 Missouri River Academy was filled with heartfelt goodbyes and a shocking surprise! Students focused on the question “How do we deepen a sense of responsibility to the care of the Missouri River?” 

In the morning the students packed up their things and worked on their action projects one last time. They colored in their posters and storyboards and practiced presenting their “ask.”  After that they competed in the final Olympic event - a relay race/obstacle course! Each team had to work together to complete various tasks, like shaving a balloon, army crawling under benches, hitting a target with water balloons, and making a half-court shot. The race was close until the very end, but team Freaky Fries pulled through and finished first! The Kingpin Dolphins were close behind and The Pride finished third. It was a hard-run race by all, everyone was very proud! 

Points were settled and it was almost a sure bet that The Pride would win the Olympic prize. The only points left to account for were if a team could solve a riddle/mind game they’d been working on all week. At the last second, the Freaky Fries solved the riddle, earned 20 points, and won the 2018 River Olympics!  

Students enjoyed s’mores and a drum circle around a campfire during the last night of River Academy.

To conclude and reflect on an incredible week, the students passed the feather and shared the parts of camp that were most meaningful to them. The thing brought up most often was the amazing friendships they were able to build with each other.  For the last activity of the 2018 Missouri River Academy, students presented their final action projects to parents/guardians and community members. The walls of the Old New Haven School house were covered in colorful posters, all calling for action to help the Missouri River.  It was a great way to end the week, and we feel inspired by our wonderful students. Thanks for a great River Academy!  

A group of students is ready to go fishing! 

To see more photos, check out our Facebook albums and our Flickr! Academy wouldn’t have been possible without the following individuals and organizations. Thank you for supporting these students and their love for the river, we are so grateful! 

  • Missouri Environmental Education Association, Jan Weaver  
  • New Belgium Brewing, New Belgium Grant Program for Youth Environmental Education  
  • Better Environmental Education, Teaching, Learning & Expertise Sharing (BEETLES)  
  • The Katy Land Trust & Peers Store, Dan Burkhardt  
  • The Rio Vista Fund - a fund of the Greater St. Louis Community Foundation  
  • Colliers International 
  • Scott Mansker, River Miles  
  • Diana Papoulias, Board Member  
  • Dave and Fran Stous (Former Board and Committee Members)  
  • Camp Trinity 
  • Steve Schnarr, MRR Program Manager  
  • Claire Hassler, MRR Education Assistant  
  • Emma, Counselor in Training  
  • Indian Ridge Farm, David Menke 
  • Bruce Templer  
  • Gloria Attoun and Michael Bauermeister  
  • Ann Renee Gargrave  
  • The Audubon Society of Missouri 
  • Missouri River Bird Observatory, Dana Ripper, Ethan Duke and Crew  
  • Eastern Missouri Dark Sky Observer, Rick Schwentker  
  • Urban Forestry Council, Mike Smith  
  • Avant Gardens CSA, Charissa Coyle  
  • Missouri Dept. of Conservation, Darby Niswonger, Sarah Peper & Crew  
  • Deutschheim State Historic Site, Cindy Browne  
  • Astral Glass Studio, Lance Stroheke & Gary Rice  
  • Hermann Sand & Gravel Inc., Steve & Kate Engemann  
  • New Haven Public Works Department, Peter Otten  
  • New Haven: John Colter Museum  
  • Riverfront Cultural Society 
  • Scenic Regional Library New Haven Branch, Rachel Terbrock 

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