AMERICORPS AND EDUCATION UPDATE
By Jessica Saxton
It’s been about four months since I joined the United Communities AmeriCorps, serving with Umpqua Watersheds as the Environmental Education and Outreach Leader. During this time, I’ve had the pleasure of being introduced to all sorts of fun and important activities, such as helping with the annual Umpqua Brew Fest and helping to host 99.7 KQUA Living Downstream. As important as Umpqua Watersheds’ work is for the environment and our community, it has also had a great impact on me. I’ve already gained a great deal of life and career experiences, such as the opportunity to practice my organizational and networking skills, leadership, and more. I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve with Umpqua Watersheds and learn more from the incredible people in our community.
Living Downstream Radio Show
I’ve had the opportunity to interview some amazing people in my new hosting role. The first episode that I had a hand in creating was an interview with a volunteer butterfly liaison at the Elkton Community Education Center, Barb Slott and the co-founder of Western Monarch Advocates, Robert Coffan. During this interview, both guests spoke about monarchs and the ways in which their organizations help to protect the species. This was my first taste of preparing questions, editing audio, and of course, actually interviewing someone! The position of host was one of the roles I was most apprehensive about, but Barb, Robert, and every interviewee since have been wonderful. I’m grateful for their patience as I learn, adapt, and build confidence. Subsequent interviewees include Jordan Weiss, a mushroom foraging expert, and Bryan Benz, professor and head of the Natural Resource Program at Umpqua Community College, who provided information regarding the Natural Resource program in which I am enrolled. Most recently aired was an interview with Woody Lane, a livestock nutritionist, forage and grazing specialist, who shared some insight into his line of work and its importance.
I have been developing my leadership skills with the help and guidance of Fremont Natural Resources Teacher, Robyn Bath-Rosenfeld. Robyn has helped me gain confidence in the classroom by allowing me to lead activities. One such activity was building miniature watersheds to explore how water and pollution flow through local watersheds. The middle schoolers enjoyed this hands-on activity that helps them to visualize what they were learning during their lessons about water. During the following week, the students collected water samples from a nearby pond, and placed the samples under microscopes, documenting the results in their nature journals.
I also volunteered on a field trip with the Fremont middle schoolers. Students visited the Elkton Community Education Center, where they learned about monarch butterflies from the researchers and caretakers. The students enjoyed seeing these butterflies in stages from cocoon to maturity and had the opportunity to see them released into the wild. They learned how to carefully pick up monarchs, determine gender, and assisted in tagging them for tracking. Another aspect of the field trip was to encourage the students to find natural resources around them. After walking the grounds and exploring nature, the students took turns listing different natural resources and their uses. Upon completion, many of the students understood and acknowledged more natural resources in the environment compared to when they first arrived.
During October the children at Fremont Middle School participated in an activity known as Gyotaku Fish. Gyotaku is a traditional form of Japanese art that began over 100 years ago as a way for fishermen to keep a record of the fish they caught. They would apply Sumi ink to one side of a freshly caught fish, then cover the fish with rice paper and rub it to create an exact image of the fish. The students recreated this traditional form of art with acrylic paint, paper, and some creativity.
Additionally, I have been helping out at the Boys and Girls Club, where the variety of age groups means that a different activity is offered every week. So far, they have done the Gyotaku Fish, owl pellet dissection, and miniature watershed creation. Upcoming activities include creating bees from toilet paper rolls, hummingbirds from pinecones, and more. I’m also preparing for the upcoming “Environmental Detectives” series with Alexandra Harding’s class at Jolane Middle School. These students will be participating in Forestry Thursday activities throughout the rest of the school year. I can’t wait to support Alexandra, and all our partners in education, in teaching our local youth about fun environmental topics!