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Posted 8/2/2013

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Though the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District, operates a number of locks and dams for the prupose of generating hydropower, flood risk management and recreation, there is another benefit: educational opportunities for all.

A recent example is Chief Joseph Dam hosted the 9th annual Earth Day event on April 18. Held at Washington’s Bridgeport State Park the Corps oversaw 18 environmental education stations ranging from macroinvertebrates, wildlife trails, recycling, salmon life cycle and much more. Besides the scheduled programs there were also two drop-in programs that students could visit during breaks talking about safety and sustainable organic farming.

Several federal, state, community and volunteer organizations assisted in the delivery of the program to more than 400 elementary school students, their teachers and parent helpers from four communities. Students from 19 Washington classrooms from Brewster, Bridgeport, Mansfield and Waterville attended ranging from second to fifth grades. On hand were 10 high school volunteers from Bridgeport High School science class to help set up, take down and assist presenters with their programs.

Each April, the NRM staff at Chief Joseph Dam organizes and delivers this outdoor experience to local school groups for Earth Day. Interpretive services and outreach are part of the Corps’ mission of providing environmental education to foster voluntary stewardship of natural, cultural, and created resources.

Similarly, Albeni Falls Dam Park Rangers Taylor Johnson and Betsy Hull helped coordinate the two-day Pend Oreille Water Festival in Idaho. The 18th annual festival hosted more than 400 fifth graders from Bonner County, Idaho.

The purpose of the event is to show children the importance of nature and how to effectively manage natural resources. The local education community, including teachers and students alike, say they look forward to the annual festival which includes a variety of components.

One component is the Watershed Educational Trunk, which contains 20 lesson plans providing historical, cultural and geographical perspectives of the Clark Fork-Pend Oreille Watershed to fifth graders. The lessons are linked to an interactive story that takes students on a historical journey through time across the watershed. The trunk is circulated to teachers’ classrooms from March to May. This year, a natural resource professional was available to help teach the lessons from the trunk.

In addition to the trunk, a natural resource professional visited each classroom and engaged students and their teachers as "traveling water drops" in a hands-on-activity using a large, colorful watershed floor map. Park Ranger Taylor Johnson was able to assist in visiting every fifth grade classroom in Bonner County this year.

The outdoor classroom, held in mid-May at the Riley Creek Campground on the Pend Oreille River in Laclede, Idaho, where fifth graders are divided into small teams then guided by Sandpoint High School students through five different instructional, interactive stations where they learn through demonstrations and hands-on activities. Stations were taught by natural resource professionals from multiple agencies and focus on fisheries, water quality testing, animal tracking, Northwest explorers, how a watershed functions and a live birds of prey show.

Festival coordination is accomplished through partnerships of community volunteers and other natural resource management agencies. These agencies include: Idaho Fish and Game, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Pend Oreille County Public Utility District, Kalispel Tribe, Pend Oreille Lakes Commission, Laclede Water District, Idaho Department of Agriculture and many others.


For more information about what programs are available and when, go to