Association intern Peyton Curley gives Enviroscape presentation to a group of HERYN participants
Riverkeeper's note: This column was provided by association intern Peyton Curley. You can contact her at email@example.com
This summer, I got to be a team leader for the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association’s second annual Helping Engage our River’s Youth with Nature (HERYN) program. Ever since I began my summer internship at the MSRKA, I have been helping with preparations for the program.
I really enjoyed the experience. Environmental education is a career path I have been thinking about pursuing recently, so this program was a great way for me to explore if this is the right choice for me in the future.
HERYN is fishing and kayaking based for children ages 10-13. I had some experience kayaking, which I did every day at a summer camp I went to when I was younger. However, I had never fished before. On the first day of HERYN, I listened to the instructors Walt and Mike as they did the demonstration for the kids. I learned how to tie a Palomar knot, and how to cast my line. Then, later alongside my group, I got to catch my first fish.
This experience was great because a lot of kids already knew how to fish, but some of them didn’t. The kids that never fished before seemed a little more nervous about it, but I got to say to them “one week ago I’d never even held a fishing rod” as I helped them.
At first I was a little bit wary about baiting my hook with a live worm and holding the fish to remove it from the hook. I hated how the worms would squirm and how the fish were slimy. But, by the end of the week, I was doing both of those things with ease and confidence. It was very cool to see all of the kids’ improvement, but also my own as well.
I also enjoyed the kayaking portion. The kids got an introduction to kayaking in a pool, where they learned to flip and get back in the kayak. I even got to demonstrate how to flip the kayak and get back in one while in the water, which I had never done before. I also enjoyed the games that we played with the kids.
The staff would throw oranges into the lake, and the kids would kayak around to try to get the most. Some kids got so into the game that they would fall out of their kayaks while reaching for the oranges. Most were just happy they got the orange, even though they had tipped over!
It was really nice to see how excited the kids were about everything in the program. They would always get so excited about catching the fish, exclaiming, “I got one! I got one!”. They would often come up to me after our fishing time was over and exclaim “I caught 10 fish!”. They also got really excited about the kayaking portion as well. They were so into the games, especially kayak soccer and the orange pick up game.
It was fun to see all the kids excited, but seeing some of the quieter kids improve was awesome as well! Some kids would come in barely talking and nervous about fishing and kayaking, but by the end they had caught 15 fish and won our kayak races! It was so fun to see how much some of the kids were able to improve.
Each day would finish off with a presentation by me using the Enviroscape model. This model shows a landscape with a town, farm, factories, roads, and other industrial areas within a watershed. I would talk about different types of pollution, and then let the kids “pollute” the landscape themselves.
They would sprinkle cocoa and Kool-aid Powder to represent loose soil, pesticides, and fertilizer. Then, the kids got to spray water on the Enviroscape and watch the clean water turn to brown sludge. This presentation opened their eyes to how everyday things humans do can affect our waterways, and even the whole watershed.
Overall, this experience has made me more confident that I would like to pursue environmental education in the future. Helping kids is something I really enjoy, so teaching kids about protecting our Earth will combine two things that I love.
John Zaktansky is an award-winning journalist and avid promoter of the outdoors who loves camping, kayaking, fishing and hunting with the family.