Written by Sarah Howe, MSUM Intern with River Keepers
On Saturday, September 4th, 2021, River Keepers set up shop at the community booth at the Red River Market in downtown Fargo. Being a small nonprofit, the opportunity to spread the word about our programming is vital. We often participate in community events utilizing different hands-on activities so the community can LEARN about the Red River, become stewards to help SUSTAIN the river, and safely ENJOY it. The 2021 Red River Market ran every Saturday from July 10th to October 30th from 10 A.M. to 2 P.M. They have a community booth where different local organizations can set up for the day and educate passers-by about their causes.
We brought our roots diagram activity to show visitors how different native prairie plants and their roots keep our water clean by holding the soil together and keeping the wind from blowing it into the water. Roots also soak up a lot of water which helps filter out pollutants, much like the plants and trees along the Red River. The activity was also set up to promote Reforest the Red, which took place the following week where hundreds of volunteers helped plant thousands of trees and shrubs. (Fun note: anyone can borrow these activity kits, just go to riverkeepers.org/projects-and-activities/activity-tote-checkout/!)
The activity was a large board with diagrams of different prairie plants, showing how tall they are in comparison to one another and how long their roots are below the ground. River Keepers employees, interns, and volunteers would cover the roots and have folks guess how deep they thought certain plants’ roots would go. Many people were surprised to find out just how deep some of those plants grow down into the soil, especially when compared to traditional lawn grass. It is fun to see participants faces light up when they realize a plant like buffalo grass, that only grows about ½ foot tall above the ground can have roots that go eight feet deep into the soil. They often seem shocked when learning about how useful native plants can be to keep soil and the river banks intact. One woman told us that this was the reason she had native plants for a yard, instead of the more common lawn grass. Ensuring outreach is interactive is an important part of our educational outreach so people have a meaningful and fun experience when, for example, they discover how important native plants and their root systems are to preserving the land around us, specifically the banks of the Red River.
We also have other activities to engage our community with, such as our fish identification activity that we had at the Red River Market in July to promote our upcoming youth fishing clinics. The activity helps both kids and adults alike learn to identify fish species in the Red River and their body parts. We have a big stuffed-animal catfish with removable labels to teach the parts of a fish (see photos).
River Keepers’ mission is to advocate for safe and sustainable uses of the Red River in the Fargo-Moorhead area, whether it be through education or volunteer activities. There are a lot of ways to assist with River Keepers’ outreach or with other programming. Interested in becoming a River Keepers volunteer? Check out our website at riverkeepers.org or contact Kim at email@example.com.