Fifth graders learn to appreciate Missouri River, environment

Fifth graders learn to appreciate Missouri River, environment
Area fifth graders and their teachers gathered April 28 at Clay County Park for an educational day at the Missouri River, or in Lakota, the Minisosa.

The 150 students were from Gayville-Volin, St. Agnes, Vermillion, Wakonda, and one homeschooling family.

The Lakota storyteller Jerome Kills Small said the Lakota word means turbulent water, and warned the fifth graders to respect the river and its unpredictable strength. Kills Small and nine other presenters gave the students information on everything from poetry to river safety. Half of the students attended a two-hour session in the morning, and half in the afternoon. Presentations included:

? John Roskocz, a National Park Service Interpreter from the Missouri National Recreational River division, presented "No Trace Camping."

? Sarah Chadima, a geologist with the South Dakota Geological Survey, demonstrated the effects of ground water pollution in the river.

? Joe Keeton, SD Game, Fish, and Parks conservation officer for Clay County, was joined by his counterpart from Yankton County in a presentation on area wildlife.

? Karla Zeutenhorst, an Army Corps of Engineers interpreter at the Gavin's Point Visitor's Center, presented a life jacket safety course.

? Amy Fill, Clay County glass bead maker and visual artist, helped students create a four-by-eight-foot mural of the river.

? Norma Wilson, a poet, prose writer and member of the Living River chapter of the Sierra Club, helped students write haiku poetry, which is now bound for presentation.

? Chad Cadwell, owner and guide of Missouri River Expeditions of Gayville and his assistant, Robin, taught students kayak operation and safety.

Local musicians Ed Johnson and Michele Martin sang songs such as "Shenandoah," which talks about the "wide Missouri," and "This Land Is Your Land." USD's Oyate Singers, led by Dr. Wayne Evans, sang drum songs to honor the river and its life-giving forces. The students asked wonderful questions and were real troopers, in spite of the rainy weather that day.

Community members Nancy Losacker, Jess McGinnis, Jerry Wilson, and Harry Freeman, along with the principals and teachers, participated as trail guides for the students.

The River Appreciation Day was financed in part by the local Living River Group of the Sierra Club. Students and teachers took home packets of information, including a booklet called Native Waters, printed by Project WET and distributed by the Discovery Center and Aquarium in Pierre. Jones' Food Center provided bottled water, and Newton Hills State Park donated the use of a canopy tent to protect the students from the weather. USD's Native American Cultural Center provided the chairs and tables. Vermillion's Coffee Shop Gallery provided hot coffee and sandwiches for lunch.

The event was inspired by a week-long River Honoring held on the Flathead River for the past 20 years in Montana. Organizers Cindy Kirkeby, Nancy Carlsen and Grace Freeman hope to make the Missouri day an annual event.

The mural, titled "Living River," and the booklet of student haiku poetry will be displayed at area schools, the Washington Street Arts Center, and other locations.

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