River Rendezvous #42
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Outdoor Education in the Midst of Covid-19

     Some of the busiest weeks of the year for our River Watch Teams are the weeks between the start of the school year and the formation of ice on the rivers.  Though this fall was not full of large in-person events like it has in the past, it remained one of the busiest seasons of the year, an exciting change of pace after an abrupt ending to the spring programming last school year. 
     Our schools have been operating in a variety of models, allowing us to be socially distant outside, meet over video calls, and prepare new virtual interactive activities.  Two students paddling aside one another on the Red River in Moorhead, MN.River Explorers kayaking trips lend themselves especially well to social distancing and after two autumns with high water, this year’s paddling season was especially appreciated. IWI staff was able to take groups paddling on eight tributaries as well as the Red River itself! Trips spanned across the Red River Basin:  from the Swan Creek in Casselton to the Tamarac River in Marshall County.  Alongside River Explorers trips, River Watch Teams were able to conduct macroinvertebrate sampling and Water Quality Monitoring throughout the Red River Basin!
    Two high-school aged students wearing masks and chest waders bend over a kick net to examine its contents. For our schools that were not able to meet in person, the Monitoring and Education staff have been busy working to bring the rivers of the basin to the computer screens of our students.  One of these projects is focused on water quality data on the Red River.  Staff coordinated to collect fourteen samples on the Red River, headwaters to the U.S. Border. Data for each site was complied, including levels of Phosphorus, Total Suspended Solids, and Sulfates.  River Watch Teams were challenged to match the data compiled from each site with the location that it was collected from on the river.  We are excited to see how students experience the Red River virtually!
UND Education Students Dream Big
     The bridge over the Red River in downtown Grand Forks/East Grand Forks is a great place to teach and an even better place to learn.  A group of 42 college students from UND’s Education Department has had the opportunity to do both.   
     To begin their journey, UND students took part in the River of Dreams program, similar to any other class participating in our program.  UND students were taught the basics about how watersheds function and were taken on a virtual tour of their watershed from Grand Forks to Lake Winnipeg and ultimately to Hudson Bay.  Next students decorated their canoe and wrote a dream for the journey downstream.  Then, just as our 4th-6th grade students do, our future teachers brought their canoes to the shores of their local river to send them on their way, launching from the downtown bridge into the Red River.  As always, the canoe launch brought smiling faces and a curiosity about what the journey for their canoe will look like. 
     At this point, the UND students’ journey began to vary from the path our average River of Dreams students take.  Following the launch, UND students partnered with classmates and developed unit plans that target a specific grade level and subject matter but still relate back to watersheds and the River of Dreams program.  As each student presented their lesson plans in subjects ranging from science to math to art, it was easy to be impressed! 
     Many students brought their understanding of rivers and watersheds, which had been newly gained from River of Dreams, into their lesson plans.  It’s great to know that the story of working with these 42 students is not over.  As these students lead their classrooms in the years to come, they not only have the background knowledge of watersheds but also have the ability to design meaningful units from multiple subject areas.
Collage of students displaying the canoes they decorated and launching them into the Red River.
To check out the dreams and designs these dreamers had, head to their page on!

A special thanks to Josh Hunter, Julie Robinson, Sonja Brandt, Bonni Gourneau and Yujin Lee for helping to make this dream come true!
River of Dreams Updates and Highlights!
Canoe 20RD0167 was launched by students from Valley-Edinburg in Crystal, ND.  Students began the River of Dreams program last spring but, due to Covid-19, their canoes did not begin their journey until this fall! 
Canoe 19RD0501 was launched by a student at Schroeder Middle School who dreamed that the canoe would be found by several people along its' journey - and that is exactly what it did!  High water last year left the canoe stranded in debris pile in a tree along the shore of the Red River.  
Historic Canoes; on the Red and Lake Superior
      If you have seen our most recent blog post or happened across a popular trending news article entitled “Tiny boat message found 27 years after Duluth teachers launched it into Lake Superior” then you have heard about a small boat whose origins are based in “Paddle-to-the-Sea,” much like our River of Dreams program.  The tiny boat that was spotted on Lake Superior was not the only historic boat that was spotted this year.  Jumping over into the Red River Basin, another unique canoe was found! 
      The story of this canoe begins in 2001, when the River of Dreams program was envisioned and a pilot program was created.  As a part of the pilot program, a small batch of canoes were launched at the headwaters of the Red River in Wahpeton/Breckenridge.  19 years after these canoes were launched, one was spotted on a family farm just North of Christine, ND, ~52 miles from its launching point. After a little doctoring so that the canoe can be tracked on, the boat will be relaunched into the Red to continue its journey North!
Social Media Highlights
Published by Danielle Graham & Asher Kingery
Photos by Danille Graham

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