TWIN BRIDGES – On the banks of the Big Hole River grade schoolers from around the Ruby Valley poked, prodded and explored all things riparian last week as part of the Ruby Watershed Council’s annual Kids River Resource Day.
More than 80 third, fourth and fifth grade students from Twin Bridges, Sheridan and Alder gathered at the Giem Ranch south of Twin Bridges to learn about the area’s natural resources from different members of the conservation district. Presentation topics ranged from plant preservation and identification, soil function and local history to sage grouse habitat, songbirds and trout.
While many students were overjoyed by the thought of not spending the day sitting at a desk, the adult supervisors on sight made sure that the outing was both fun and informative.
Ranch owner and RWC member Gary Giem watched the group take an early lunch in the shade of towering cottonwood trees.
“The kids really learn a lot and enjoy it,” Giem said of the program.
“We’re trying to teach the kids about conservation and about nature, and be able to appreciate it,” he continued. “Its just different than being in the classroom. I think they learn better sometimes out getting hands on this kind of stuff.”
Although RWC coordinator Rebecca Mayfield Ramsey definitely had her hands full in organizing the event, she took a moment to reflect on the bigger picture of Kids River Resource Day.
“It really is probably the most fun event that we do,” said Mayfield Ramsey. “Even though we live in this rural community, there are a lot of kids that never get out into a river ranch location like this.”
“We want to invigorate their love of nature and conservation,” she added.
For many students the high point was the lecture given by Justin Gudde and Tara Nulph from the Ennis fish hatchery. They explained the life cycle and spawning habits of wild trout before turning the students loose on the riverbank with spinner rods.
“Its good to be able to watch them get the big smiles on their faces when they see all the fish jumping around,” Gudde said. “If we can get them to at least get interested in it right now, then maybe down the road when they’re able to go out and do stuff by themselves, be able to have something to do instead of sitting around watching TV or playing video games.”
Gudde explained that the student’s fishing poles did not have hooks to simplify the demonstration and avoid answering difficult questions about conservation should a fish swallow the hook. But that didn’t stop kids from tossing a bobber out into mid river, and some even caught grasshoppers to tie on the end of the line, a treat for both the kids and the army of fish attacking the water’s surface.
Third grade student Hunter Sager of Twin Bridges kept a close eye on the jumping fish as he struggled to free his hopelessly tangled fishing line.
“I think fish are really cool, and they let us enjoy having a day’s worth of fishing,” he said.
As for protecting natural resources and learning about conservation issues, Sager said, “I think we should do that, or else it wouldn’t be a river any more.”
“It wouldn’t be a river, there wouldn’t be no fish, and it just wouldn’t be cool,” he continued.
When asked about his favorite part of Kids River Resource Day, Sager paused a moment before answering.
“We get to learn a lot of stuff about nature and stuff like that,” he said. “Then we could do something for the earth someday.”