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Working to protect the Mississippi River and its watershed in the Twin Cities area
There has been a great surge in the number of teachers and educational program directors looking to engage students and program participants in hands-on activities. At FMR we value this effort to help students achieve academic goals while also giving them opportunities to become action-oriented citizens. This page is meant to provide teachers and coordinators with a brief overview so we may best work together. It covers kinds of service activities, important general points for professionals, how education is intertwined with events and additional resources.
• Service-learning is a teaching method that integrates academic study with meeting community needs. When classroom content is closely tied to service activity and students are asked to reflect on the experience, learning deepens, and communities are strengthened.
• Community service is long- or short-term volunteer activity that helps meet a community or organizational need.As you can see in the service opportunities section, FMR primarily offers a variety of short-term community service opportunities. We also partner with several teachers who use service-learning techniques to intentionally link their curricula to specific river protection activities. (A stenciling outing is the most popular way to support earth science, water resources or similar classwork.)
As much as possible, we encourage educators and program coordinators to promote the idea that students are serving the Mississippi River and its watershed. With this in mind ...
• Students need to understand that natural cycles do not always follow the academic calendar. Most events must take place April through October, and there are specific times of year to remove certain invasive species, gather native seed, etc.
• Please encourage students to review and consider not only FMR's volunteer opportunities, but those of all of our Serve the River partners. Especially when they have more than eight hours to contribute.
• 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 o the river, but it's helpful if students know that they need not stick to more obvious river-related activities such as litter pick-ups.
It is also helpful for students to have a very detailed breakdown of what service-related activities "count." Students and service program participants frequently ask FMR staff 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 their required hours.
At every FMR activity we strive to educate participants about the importance of their contributions to the health of the Mississippi River and its watershed. Each stenciing activity is preceded by an engaging educational presentation, and links to additional information are provided in each event listing on our calendar and in pre-event communications. Also, every restoration activity begins with an overview of the site, an intorduction to FMR and our project partners, as well as a brief training.
We have fashioned much of our programming to provide convenient but meaningful ways for people to be involved in the health of the river. As a result, we conduct over 100 high-quality events or outings a year. Although this leaves little time to visit classrooms for general river or "About FMR" presentations, we have found that students are far more engaged in the on-site educational presentations that are part of our stenciling and other outings. Some Serve the River partners are able to arrange both in-class educational presentations and outdoor activities.
• Learn and Serve America
This national organization offers additional resources for service-learning students, teachers, parents and groups across the country.
• Eco Education
This non-profit focuses on providing environmental education to students in the Twin Cities metro area and is an excellent service-learning resource.