Students honor the Missouri at armory Friday By Jerry Wilson It was supposed to be spring, but the thermometer read 33 degrees. You expect rain in spring, but snow on April 25? Yet the third annual river Appreciation Day went â�?�? without the river. Bad weather did not dampen the enthusiasm of the two dozen organizers and presenters, the score of USD student helpers and the 114 area fifth graders who gathered, not at the Missouri as in past years, but in the National Guard Armory for river day. River Appreciation Day grew from the vision of Grace Freeman, who during a summer on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana experienced a week-long series of events honoring the Flathead River. When she returned to Clay County, Freeman enlisted the help of sisters Cindy Kirkeby and Nancy Carlsen in planning a similar event to honor the Missouri. They decided to concentrate their efforts on a single day each April and to invite fifth graders in the countyâ�?�?s schools. â�?�?We assumed that many fifth graders didnâ�?�?t have a lot of experience with the river,â�? said organizer Nancy Carlsen. â�?�?We wanted them to learn more about the birds, the animals and the science relevant to the river, about the ecology and how to protect and enjoy the river. We also wanted to let kids find ways to express their responses to the river through poetry and art.â�? â�?�?We invited fifth graders because they are still really interested in learning, but not too sophisticated to be open to just enjoying themselves and the river,â�? Cindy Kirkeby added. â�?�?We wanted to appeal to both the intellectual and the creative, along with upholding the tradition of honoring the natural world.â�? The organizers asked for help from area agencies responsible for our 59-mile stretch of the Missouri protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act â�?�? the National Park Service, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the South Dakota Geological Survey. Organizers also asked area naturalists, writers, visual artists, musicians and Native American singers and storytellers to participate and in 2006, River Appreciation Day was born. In past years the youngsters lounged on the grass at Clay County Park, where bird songs and the riverâ�?�?s flow inspired their art. This year they were insulated from those influences â�?�? but also protected from natureâ�?�?s harsher elements by gymnasium walls. Students from Vermillion, Gayville-Volin and St. Agnes schools circulated from station to station at 15 minute intervals to learn about river ecology, soils, plants, birds, mammals, fish and endangered species and how to protect the river ecosystem and habitat. Unfortunately, a scheduling conflict prevented Irene- Wakonda students from attending. Students also learned about kayaking, boat safety and how to camp without leaving trash or tracks. Each wrote a river poem, made a sailboat and added strokes that extended from its water symbol center the spokes of a giant sand mural mandala designed by Amy Fill and other artists. As in past years, the day began with music from Ed Johnson and Michelle Martin. In recognition that Clay County is the historic land of the Yankton Sioux, the event included native story teller Joe Oakie and ended with singing, drumming and dance led by Wayne Evans and Vermillionâ�?�?s Oyate drum group. Other area residents who devoted their day to river appreciation included Nancy Losacker, Harry Freeman, Terry Hill, Norma Wilson, Joe Keeton, Sam Schelhaas, Jody Moats, Karla Zuetenhorst, John Rokosz, Ron Thaden, Mark Dixon, Deron Ruesch, John Erikson and Sarah Chadima.
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