From Salem to the River and Back

Within the last two weeks our educational program has visited Salem and Salem groups have come to visit us at our headquarters in Ipswich. There have been 4 different groups of Salem kids that have been a part of our educational program recently. The programs we run usually include some educational lessons and activities that focus on rivers, watersheds and conservation.

Why teach Salem kids about the Ipswich River and its watershed?

Those from Salem actually have an important relationship to the Ipswich River. The river supplies Salem’s drinking water, but because the city is outside the river’s watershed they cannot contribute to the recharging of the river. For this reason it is very essential to teach these kids the concept of conservation and also show them where their water comes from and what it takes to keep it healthy.

With help from some volunteers, we were able to show kids the beauty of the river and its importance. This was made possible through Salem Sound Coastwatch who brought a group of about 20 kids from For Kids Only Afterschool, then a group of about 50 from Healthy Harbors the next week. We were able to get about 70 kids from the city of Salem, all told, out on the Ipswich River to learn about why we need to keep it healthy for ourselves and all of our animal friends.

When canoeing and kayaking the kids were especially thrilled to see the bright colors of Painted Turtles sprawled out on every log that was baking in the sun. With the help of several river dwellers we saw whilst among our paddle, it was easy for the kids to understand that in order for their precious turtles to remain on the river’s edge we must keep their home in good shape.

Living on the coast, this group was not used to being out on freshwater. They previously had learned mostly about oceans/ saltwater, so it was really exciting for them to be canoeing and kayaking on the Ipswich. They seemed to be ecstatic to just touch the water with their hands, as they were constantly leaning on the sides of the canoes to dip their fingers in. They even loved the refreshing fresh water so much I speculate that a few tipped over their kayaks on purpose just to cool down, explore new waters and be closer to the turtles.

Although the Salem Recreation kids were not able to visit our headquarters and go for a paddle, they were still able to learn the same kinds of things that the other Salem groups did. On my two visits to Forest River Park the kids had remembered our program and seemed excited to play all the games that Rob (last year’s Education and Outreach Apprentice) taught them in the previous summer.

I performed a water quality test of dissolved oxygen one day. The kids seemed to really enjoy the science aspect and were interested to know that fish need this oxygen to breath, just like us! The kids also participated in our sponge bucket game and remembered the lesson it teaches from last year. The kids also drew some of their favorite water memories and I was proud to see that some of them had been kayaking and canoeing before on rivers in the area.

In these past two weeks Ipswich River Watershed Association was able to reach about 100 kids from Salem all between the ages of 6-14. This is wonderful news and very important, as this next generation will be the new river stewards soon enough.

Our Youth Outings and Education are funded by the McCarthy Family Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., CoTrustee.