By: Claire Hassler
For the second year of Missouri River All-Stars, Missouri River Relief (MRR) partnered with the University of Missouri College of Education and engaged 125 fourth graders from Columbia Public Schools in after school programs. The goal of Missouri River All-Stars was to activate students’ innate sense of wonder and natural curiosity to explore the Missouri River, while increasing their knowledge and understanding of the river to deepen their connection and sense of responsibility to its care and stewardship.
Four schools participated in Missouri River All-Stars this year. Each school had four after school programs from March to May 2018 and one on-the-river field trip on April 29. During the after school programs, students learned about the Missouri River ecosystem and the impact that humans have on the river. They did this by going through stations, collaborating with their peers and problem solving. During the field trip, students also went through stations and got to experience the river firsthand. All-Stars also included a teacher curriculum development program that helped teachers collaborate with each other and integrate the river into their classrooms.
In the first lesson, Discovering the Missouri River, students worked in groups to learn about claims, evidence and reasoning. They practiced making claims using evidence and reasoning through a picture walk. The students examined photos from a news article and then predicted what the article would be about. Next, students got in small groups to read and discuss the article “Our Missouri River.”
The second lesson, Structure and Behaviors of the Pallid Sturgeon, used four stations to engage students in the exploration of the adaptations and behaviors that help the pallid sturgeon, which is an endangered type of ray-fine fish, survive in the Missouri River.
In one station, students used a model of the pallid sturgeon’s life cycle to review important factors of transitioning from one life stage to the next. In another, the students drew predictions to explain how the pallid sturgeon is adapted to feeding on the dark, sandy bottom of the river. In a third station students created their own questions and defined problems based on observations of the historical range of the pallid sturgeon. In the last station, students watched a short video about the pallid sturgeon’s larvae drift and created Venn Diagrams of the survival and challenges the larva face.
In Forces that Shape the Pallid Sturgeon Decline, the third lesson, students faced the question of how human alterations to the river have affected the pallid sturgeon. Students went through four stations and learned about how damns, sediment, channelization, and water-flow have brought change to the Missouri River.
On April 29, the students had an on-the-river experience. The focus of the day was Recovery Plan for the Pallid Sturgeon. The students arrived at Katfish Katy’s at 10 a.m. and divided into four groups. The groups participated in two stations, had a break for lunch and then finished off the day with two more stations.
The first station, Experience the River, was a boat ride that incorporated spectacular views of the Missouri River for a one-of-a-kind learning experience. Students observed the differences between a chute, a nursery, and a channel on the Missouri River.
The second station, Through the Eyes of a Scientist, was hosted by Dr. Ben Herman, who is with the University of Missouri College of Education. The station examined the relationship between students’ observations from the boat ride and what they learned during the after school program.
The third station, Through the Eyes of an Explorer, bridged the connection between art and science. Students learned about research conducted by Lewis and Clark and looked at their early paintings of the river. Students then used watercolors to document their view of the river.
The fourth station, Meet a Fisheries Biologist, introduced students to Carrie Elliot, Dave Combs, and Aaron DeLonay, who work with the U.S. Geological Survey and are helping to recover the pallid sturgeon. Students also got to practice the real-life research techniques the scientists are using.
The students packed up and headed home at 2:30 p.m., ready to apply all their newfound knowledge in the final after school program of Missouri River All-Stars.
Another facet of the All-Stars program was a behind-the-scenes teacher workshop. In the workshop, teachers used their Missouri River All-Stars experiences to develop and adapt their own lesson plans about the Missouri River. The teachers met once a week for four weeks at the College of Education office to collaborate and plan.
The NGSS-aligned environmental science and engineering based lessons were implemented in their classrooms and compiled into curriculum packs to be made available for other teachers.
The fourth after-school lesson, titled Scientific Arguments for Pallid Sturgeon Management, took place after the field trip. It addressed how scientists use claims, evidence and reasoning when debating solutions, specifically regarding pallid sturgeon recovery. In this lesson, the students split into two groups and developed their own solutions for pallid sturgeon recovery. Their plans included evidence and concepts addressed in previous lessons. Students had to consider the short and long term effects of their plans, who would be affected and what the next steps would be once their plan was put into action. The two groups then presented and debated their plans. The lesson concluded with students reflecting on how their views of the pallid sturgeon issue had changed since the beginning of the Missouri River All-Stars program.
We owe a huge thanks to our sponsor, the City of Columbia Stormwater Education and Outreach Program. All-Stars wouldn't have been possible without their support. The Missouri River All-Stars program was a smashing success this year, and we’re already planning for the 2018-2019 program. Stay up to date on information and contact Kristen Schulte, MRR’s education director, at [email protected].