By Ashley South
Seven students from the Troy area between the ages of eleven and fourteen departed from the Troy High School on July 24 to embark on a three-day, two-night Water Camp trip held in the Yaak Valley. The students learned about water-based science, art, and restoration along with experiencing fun adventures at surrounding tributaries that flow in the Yaak Valley.
On the first day, students gathered at the Yaak River Campground to meet with the United States Forest Service, Three Rivers Ranger District. A Wildlife Biologist and other staff taught camp participants about local animals and habitat areas that use clean water. Clean water is a necessity for healthy populations and important to every living thing, they learned.
Students were also able to explore, and take time to sketch or journal while learning about the Yaak River watershed. Later in the day the students took in the view from Hensley Hill with pizza from the Yaak Mercantile for dinner.
Day two started bright and early with morning Yoga taught by Shakti Soul Yoga and Movement followed by a healthy breakfast that was partially harvested from the Morrison Elementary School’s Garden.
The Hydrologist and Silviculturists from the Three Rivers Ranger District then joined the students to teach about stream side stability, riparian zone filtration, and the importance of trees for stabilizing banks and preventing erosion.
“I didn’t know water was so important to this area and the planet,” said Wiley, one of the Water Camp students.
In the afternoon the students hiked to Vinal Lake to relax and use water color paints.
Returning to the Sylvanite School in the evening, students learned how to use a solar oven and helped make dinner which was again provided by the Morrison Elementary school garden.
Day three was full of fun with the Yaak Valley Forest Council’s Field Crew. At the Upper Ford site in the Yaak, students participated in an aquatic insect class finding mayflies caddisflies, and stoneflies in different life stages and learning to identify them.
Participants learned how aquatic insects are a sign that a waterway is healthy, and how these insects are important contributors to all life systems surrounding waterways.
Students also learned about invasive weeds and they helped lay weed mat to treat areas full of Hawkweed and Canadian Thistle. They learned why invasive weeds are detrimental to native plants and habitat areas.
Along with a hearty lunch and time to explore students saw unstable bank areas that have sluffed off into the Yaak River and learned how that sediment load is harmful to the tributaries, fish, ecosystems, and surrounding public and private land.
The Field Crew explained what kind of plants and shrubs are good for bank stabilization and why.
“This was an opportunity to educate children about what areas surround their homes as well as making learning about science and water fun,” said Shawna Kelsey, organizer of Water Camp.
Water Camp was sponsored by the Yaak Valley Forest Council, a nonprofit organization that works to protect, restore, and connect communities and wild places. The camp ended with happy kids who enjoyed the unique hands on learning experience.