Kay Stone, an outreach administrator for the Auburn University Environmental Institute in Alabama, also finds the time to teach environmental education in three counties in Alabama's Black Belt—so named for the soil formation across the central portion of the state that once supported the cotton economy. In June, Stone took a Living Streams teacher training workshop at Auburn (above), a joint effort of Alabama Water Watch, Discovering Alabama, and the Sierra Club. Stone is standing second from left, second row.
The Living Streams workshops were started earlier this year by Water Watch. Alabama Sierra Club Water Sentinels coordinator Bryan Burgess (front row at right in above photo) quickly realized the workshops could dovetail with the work of the chapter and the Club's Water Sentinels Program, which had been conducting similar watershed trainings for years.
Burgess met with Dr. Bill Deutsch of Water Watch and Margaret Wade, Alabama Chapter Chair and director of the Camp McDowell environmental center, to discuss how they could be more effective as a team, and the Sierra Club has helped with the Living Streams workshops ever since. In return, Deutsch participated in a Living Streams workshop held at Camp McDowell this July. (Participants in that workshop are pictured below, along with a photo from an earlier watershed training at Camp McDowell.)
Photo by Mark Johnston
Photo by Bryan Burgess
The Sentinels and the chapter helped fund a Macro Mania game used to evaluate stream quality, and the Club has given out the game, water testing kits, and posters to all participants in the Living Streams workshops. "I've given out 60 so far just this summer," says Burgess, "which represents 60 different schools in the state."
Burgess was among the instructors at the Living Streams workshop at Auburn in June, where he sat down one-on-one with Stone to help her brainstorm about ways to get kids in the Black Belt more involved with environmental issues. Each summer Auburn also sponsors the YES camp, where kids learn about stream ecology and do hands-on work such as micro-invertebrate water testing and searching for reptiles and amphibians. The camp is open to the public, and Auburn invites four kids and one teacher from schools with limited resources to attend free of charge.
Stone is working with schools and the Army Corps of Engineers to do stream cleanups in Wilcox County, in the Black Belt. She says the kids pictured below, all of whom attended the YES camp this summer, have been participating in stream ecology since the 5th grade as part of the Environmental Science and Arts Program in Wilcox County. The photo was taken at breakfast just before the kids and their teacher went out to do water testing and creek cleanup.
Pictured in photo, left to right, are Jamonte Reynolds, teacher Freida Dale, Yakira Spears, Travaris Hunter, Dennis Block of the Auburn University Environmental Institute, and Alesia Abrams. Photo by Kay Stone.
Stone gave all the kids t-shirts and backpacks supplied by the Water Sentinels. "You can see in the faces of these children their excitement at protecting the environment they live in," Stone says. "They haven't had exposure to these concepts before, and they spread the word to their parents not to litter or dump motor oil in the back yard." Many of these kids, she says, never planned to go beyond high school, and now they plan to go to college and even study environmental science. "It's the smiles on their faces and their eagerness to learn about protecting the environment that's the measure of success."
Photos used with permission.