Last week was a busy one at the Watershed Center. We hosted a great event on Tuesday that targeted a homeschool audience in an attempt to connect the environmental education community to the home educator community. Two days later, we hosted the Missouri Stream Team Introductory workshop. In both events, I witnessed adults filling in the role of the student.

Between cool and cloudy weather, a national homeschool basketball tournament, and free roller coaster rides at Silver Dollar City (seriously, the same day), our event was slightly less populated than we had planned. On the bright side, a few kids got a great deal of attention from Springfield’s best Environmental Educators. An unexpected and perhaps more important impact fell upon the grown-ups in the room. A room full of educators filled the room and shared downtime together. Presenters browsed tables, met their extra-organizational counterparts, and hatched new collaborations. We had stumbled into one of the best professional networking opportunities of this year. We all learned of organizations or programs that were unknown to us previously, stretching and connecting the axons and synapses of Springfield’s environmental mind. The atmosphere was electric, and we all left the room charged and unimpeded by a less than normal turnout for our event.

Stream Team trainees enjoying late March snowflakes

At the Stream Team workshop, I had the opportunity to play host and student. Men and women stood out in the snow, clad in waders and duck boots, giddy with excitement as we stared into a net. Hands shaking from the cold, we pulled sturdy stonefly nymphs, corpulent crane fly larvae, and even a stealthy sculpin. A room full of quiet and studious adults transformed into giggling children, full of wonderment and butterflies at our discoveries.

How hard it is to change a grown-up. It has taken years, but we have filled ourselves with contentment, pride, selective hearing, and notions of “how things work” or “how things ought to be.” Errors and misconceptions revealed to us often fall away at our next obligation or distraction. New and wonderful facts and knowledge meet hard-packed busy lives and bounce harmlessly off of a tough shell. Yet, time and time again, I am reminded how willing and eager young people are to learn new things. At every field trip, every event, every interaction, kids will gladly accept what they have been told, or better yet, what they have seen and held and felt. Therein lies the cause of our miraculous conversion at a Stream Team training session and at the Educational event. Experience, hands-on engagement, and an atmosphere of freedom and encouragement caused both groups of adults to shed baggage and become courageous, making new friends, stepping off of the snow-covered bank, holding a crayfish. The only way to bypass this condition of adulthood is to teach your neighbor as one child would teach another; with excitement and wonder.

As we pursue opportunities to educate the public, we will continue to find ways to engage and interact with our community as peer-to-peer relationships form and the good news of clean water spreads.

Rob Hunt, Watershed Center Coordinator



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