Working at the Illinois River Watershed Partnership this summer, I have already learned so much. I have been privileged to help facilitate summer camps, educating children ages 8 to 12 about the Illinois River watershed, the water cycle, the importance of rain gardens and recycling. As a student of sociology, I have learned so much more from these children than I thought possible in such a short time.
Over the last two months, over 300 children have come to the IRWP Watershed Sanctuary to attend either Art and Nature Camp or Watershed Camp. We had the challenge of learning everyone’s names, building relationships with them, establishing authority and respect as teachers, while remembering to be creative and enthusiastic so that they could enjoy themselves and enjoy learning. I watched these children fall into roles of leadership, support, friends and mentors and even rebels and I was shocked to realize how well you can get to know someone in eight hours, if you try.
I was delighted to lead a recycling presentation and activity. I learned that many campers do the recycling at home as part of their chores and many of them also have recycling programs at school. One day, I realized that each item I recycle is helpful, but by standing up in front of these children and helping them to realize why these things are so important, I was doing a greater deed than simply recycling any bottle. Many plastic bottles and other re-useable items will likely be recycled or reused many times in the future because I was able to stand and give these children an entertaining presentation to teach and remind them to recycle! That was a very satisfying moment.
With a hint of sadness, I realize that tomorrow is the last day of our summer camps. Upon reflection, I feel thankful to have been able to be a part of them, as an Energy Corps service member and as a part of the IRWP staff. I am very thankful that programs like this exist in our community and I look forward to being able to put my daughter into local camps like this when she is older. That being said, I am excited to start the second chapter of my service term with the IRWP and get started on the Rain Garden Project.
The IRWP along with another local watershed alliance, have the task ahead of installing approximately 30 rain gardens in public spaces before my service term is complete. I look forward to reaching out to our community and finding appropriate places to install rain gardens, meeting more wonderful people and sinking my roots even deeper into the beautiful community of Northwest Arkansas.
Jodi Nimmo is currently an undergrad at the University of Arkansas studying Sociology, Sustainability and Gender Studies. She is the lead organizer of a student group on campus and an active volunteer at Tri Cycle community farms as well as with other non-profits in her community. Jodi will be working with the Illinois River Watershed Partnership to build rain gardens in the watershed community and educating the community about the importance of keeping water clean.