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The Adventures of 12 Students on the Missouri River

Can you imagine exploring the Missouri River by boat, learning about ecology, history and the biology of aquatic river life from experts in the field? This is how 12 Missouri students ranging from 12-18 years old, spent their week with Missouri River Relief’s “Big River Experience” annual summer camp. The camp is part of the [email protected] program hosted by MU Extension and the 4-H Center for Youth Development. To trace their steps and learn from the adventures of these students, read below to follow their unique experience.

Day 1: We dedicated our first day on the Missouri River to exploring our personal connection to the Missouri River. We worked to build our observation skills through an activity called “I notice, I wonder, it reminds me of...” Then we fine-tuned our sense of sound, by completing a sound map at a nearby spring that was pouring into the Missouri River.

After lunch we found a prime location under the 1-70 bridge, complete with shade and absent of mosquitoes, it provided a wonderful opportunity to pause and appreciate the river. The students spent time painting the Missouri River scene in watercolor with gifted teacher and artist Ruthie Moccia. We concluded the day in a classroom discussing the Missouri River watershed and the historical connections that tie Missouri communities to the river.

Day 2: We started Tuesday morning sampling for macro-invertebrates with Missouri Stream Team at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area. After lunch we hopped in boats with the Columbia Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office crew to check the nets they had very kindly set up for us. Each student had the opportunity to hop in the boat and learn how to take scientific samples of aquatic life on the mighty Missouri River. We were able to see and touch a variety of fish including Flathead Catfish, Longnose Gar and Shovelnose Sturgeon.

We finished the day with a river clean-up collecting trash along the river. The trash we found included 140 plastic bottles, 67 pieces of Styrofoam, 40 aluminum cans and much more.

Day 3: We started our day off bright and early with the Missouri River Bird Observatory, learning about the scientific sampling process for mist netting birds at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area. Getting up close and personal with the birds was such a treat.

After learning about Missouri River birds, the City of Columbia’s Stormwater Educator, Mike Heimos gave us a tour of the cities storm water remediation’s. We got to check out some cool re-engineered wetlands and storm water retention techniques.

Following this, we headed to the Urban Farm and met with Laurie McCurdy at the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture to get a tour of the farm and learn about farming effects downstream.

After lunch, we really needed to cool off, so we went swimming at Stephens Lake Park. We finished the day sorting the trash we had collected the day before. We categorized and counted the trash found in the 20-30 minutes we spent scouring the banks of the Missouri River the day before.

Day 4: Thursday marked the last day of our [email protected] "Big River Experience" camp! We brought together everything we had been learning throughout the week for a great final day. We turned river trash into artistic masterpieces, played river jeopardy, and even passed the feather (a Missouri River Relief tradition).

The day included a surprise presentation from Janet Moreland, a river expert, whose "Love Your Big Muddy" solo expedition traveled from the source of the Missouri River to the Gulf of Mexico. Janet’s presentation was filled with inspirational photos and stories as the first woman, and American to complete the journey. In fact, we were blessed to have Janet all week volunteering her time and knowledge with us! 

We Could Not Have Done It Without You! 

A special thank you goes out to all of our Big Muddy partners who joined in the “Big River Experience” program to provide their expertise and enthusiasm to the students. Overall, the experience was invaluable. We all learned so much from the Missouri River, from our presenters, and from each other.  It was an experience that will not be forgotten!

A big shout out to City of Columbia Stormwater Utility for helping make this camp happen with a generous sponsorship this year. The Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation also helped with a grant. Without these sponsors this camp would not have been possible.

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