The property development process

Aristotle is credited with the phrase, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Today, Mike and I traveled down to Nixa for the James River Basin Partnership Watershed Festival. We were each given a group of fifth graders and spread out to lead an activity called Sum of the Parts. Crayons rolled on the gymnasium floor as students exchanged colors and crouched over their pieces of printer paper.

They were given the task to independently develop a piece of riverfront property however they like and represent their ideas on paper. When it came time to share their developments, I had them all line up in a row and connect their independent properties into one long section of stream bank, a connection that I did not tell them about ahead of time. They each described their property and then we talked as a group about what types of pollution might enter the stream during a rain. When each student finished, he or she passed their crayon to the next student downstream.

As we worked our way down the river, the handful of crayons got fuller and fuller and the two girls at the end of the line had a heap of crayons representing the various pollutants that had entered the stream. As we sat back down, I showed them a few examples of best management practices and they were given a chance to incorporate those elements into their drawings. They proudly took turns presenting their improved properties to the group.

"I'm just gonna draw myself huggin' ducks and stuff"

“I’m just gonna draw myself huggin’ ducks and stuff”

After we finished with the kids, they moved on to the cafeteria to watch the Fishin’ Magicians, otherwise known as our friends Steve and Amy. With the kids out of site, Mike asked if we had any good stories from the kids. We proudly took turns describing the way the students improved their properties and how fun they were to teach.

We laughed as we shared stories of their creativity and humor and I took inventory of the people in the room, Missouri Department of Conservation, Ozarks Water Watch, James River Basin Partnership, Master Naturalists, City of Springfield, and Watershed Committee of the Ozarks. Individually, each organization makes significant improvements to our communities, both human and otherwise. However, as I looked from face to smiling face, I couldn’t help but wonder if our combined efforts become something even greater than the sum of the parts.

Rob Hunt, Watershed Center Coordinator


A cruise ship with a rain harvesting system

A cruise ship with a rain harvesting system

A green roof on a "simple mansion"

A green roof on a “simple mansion”

Adequate trash receptacles for riverside basketball fans.

Adequate trash receptacles for riverside basketball fans.


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