FMR service-learning & community service programs
There's been an exciting surge in the number of educators and engagement coordinators seeking to connect students or program participants with local hands-on service activities. This page is meant to provide a brief overview of the ways we can work together, covering:
• the kinds or types of service activities we can partner on,
• key points for college professionals,
• educational presentations and how education is intertwined with FMR events, and
• additional local resources for educators.
• By far, the most popular way to support earth science, water resources or similar classwork is with a stenciling outing and watershed education presentation. Most take place in St. Paul, plus a few are led for schools or community groups in north and northeast Minneapolis, and each can be ajusted to any audience between 3rd grade- and college-level.
Typically, this is considered more of a traditional community service approach — students do not complete research or come up with a new project. However, students often report a great sense of ownership in their accomplishments, which remain visible in the community long after their outing, and FMR works annually with many educators maintaining strong, long-term partnerships.
• For college teachers and service/engagement professionals looking to offer individual events to students, please do feel free to forward or post any FMR events on our calendar or e-newsletter to students! There's no need for special instructions, all sign-up info is listed on each event's webpage. Please note that students will need to register in advance and will need to sign up individually. Additional information is available on our Serve the River page for students.
• For teachers and professionals looking to offer a service option to students with more than six or so hours to complete, please consider offering Serve the River as students can rarely meet significant time requirements with FMR alone. With Serve the River, they can mix and match activities from several trusted organizations working to restore the health of the Mississippi River.
Please note that this is not a formal program in the traditional sense of the word. There is no over-arching orientation or overview. While we're happy to rovide guidance, students must ultimately be responsible for setting their own schedules, tracking their own hours and completing their own paperwork. We lay all of this out on the Serve the River page for students.
Key points for professionals
As much as possible, we encourage educators and program coordinators to promote the idea that students are serving the Mississippi River and its watershed. You can help us by communicating the following to students or program participants.
• Natural cycles don't always synch up with the academic calendar. Most FMR events must take place between late April and November, and there are specific times of year to remove certain invasive species, gather native seed, etc.
• If students have more than a few hours of service to complete, we suggest that they review and consider not only FMR's volunteer opportunities, but those of all of our Serve the River partners.
• It can be difficult for students and others to understand that there are many ways to help the river. We're happy to explain the connection between, say, removing invasive species and the health of the river, but if you could let them know that they need not stick to more obvious river-related activities such as riverfront litter pick-ups, that'd be really helpful.
• It's also helpful for students to have a very detailed breakdown of what service-related activities "count." FMR staff are frequently asked whether the time spent driving to an event, reading pre-event materials or helping with informal event outreach (such as calling friends and family to sign up) can be applied towards required hours.
• We do not have the clerical capacity to verify student hours after an event or search our registrants to see who comes from which school/class. Instead, we offer a form for students to bring to the event they volunteered at that staff can complete at the end of each activity.
Education is an important part of all FMR activities, whether they're billed specifically as educational events or not. We conduct over 100 high-quality public and group outings annually and at each and every one we make sure participants know how their contributions impact the health of the Mississippi River and its watershed. Each stenciing activity is preceded by an engaging educational presentation (options below), and every restoration activity, be it group or public, begins with an introduction to FMR and our project partners, an overview of the site, a brief training, plus links to additional information in pre- and post-event communications.
Additionally, experienced FMR staff can come to 4th-12th grade classes in St. Paul, north or northeast and sometimes south Minneapolis to conduct hands-on activities to learn about watersheds, runoff pollution, erosion and sedimentation, river ecosystems, invasive species and other water quality topics. Presentations:
• Are best suited for groups of 20-30 people, 4th grade and up
• Range from 50 minutes to 1.5 hours in length
• Are age-appropriate and can be customized for your group
• Can be scheduled year-round
If you're interested in scheduling a presentation, please fill out a request form!
• Learn and Serve America
This national organization offers additional resources for service-learning students, teachers, parents and groups across the country.
• Eco Education
This nonprofit focuses on providing environmental education to students in the Twin Cities metro area and is an excellent service-learning resource.