Education Program Gets Kids on the River

Now a month into our educational program for the summer, we have been able to reach kids who rely on the Ipswich River for drinking water, as well as those from all across the watershed. As July just begins, we have already reached around 65 kids with our educational program by hosting field trips to our headquarters and by taking on site visits to various locations.

This past week we hosted two big youth groups; one, a day camp located in Middleton and the other, a group of homeschooled children spread all across the watershed. Of the 65 kids that have been reached through our program, around 40 of them have visited our headquarters (Riverbend) and of that 40, around 25 came on a field trip to us this past week.

The first group the association hosted was Creighton Pond Day Camp, which featured kids from Lynn to Andover to Middleton, all of which depend on the Ipswich River for drinking water or live in its watershed. This camp group ranged from 12 year olds to 14 year olds. Some of the campers and staff members told me that they had been here last summer and seemed excited to get out on the river again. We started the visit off with the sponge bucket relay, which when split up into two teams got competitive. This game was fun for the group and after they finished I explained that the water loss when carrying sponge from bucket to bucket is similar to the water loss from river to sink.

After we finished this game I did a dissolved oxygen test for the kids, and although not the most intriguing activity for some kids, most found the change in water color and importance for oxygen interesting. After asking questions about oxygen and why it is vital for fish, aquatic plants and rivers we ate lunch and then headed out on the river.

We ended up using 5 canoes and 4 kayaks, one of which was a tandem. With almost all the kids in canoes, team work was required to navigate through the winding river, currents and broken tree debris that inhabited some stretches. Although difficult for some boats, the group as a whole seemed very happy to spend a day out on the water.

Our next group was a smaller, younger homeschooled group that came to visit the next day. This group was made up of a large range of ages, from around 6 years old to 14. With 8 kids and 6 adults every kid was put in a canoe with at least one adult and had the chance to paddle with the help of their parent. They took on the river in 5 canoes and we began to paddle upstream, just like the group before.

Towards the end of the paddle everyone gathered up in their canoes and the children were spoken to about rain, where it goes and what makes a watershed a watershed. They were also asked about what animals they had seen so far on their paddle and what else might be hiding beneath the water and within the vegetation. They really enjoyed this conversation and I was impressed with all of the different animals they mentioned. Once this talk was over we headed back to the dock for a dissolved oxygen test and lunch before their departure.

Last week was just a glimpse into what the summer holds for our organization’s educational program. In the next month trips to Salem and Hamilton will be made, while other groups from places like Lynn will be visiting our headquarters. By partnering with different organizations and camps all around the watershed, we hope that our education program will spark an interest in young people and give them the tools they will need to protect and care for the river that so humbly takes care of us.

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