Endowment: National Clean Water Fellowship

We’ve been telling you about numerous chapter and division projects that have been supported by the IWLA Endowment. But the Endowment also funds worthwhile projects at the national level, such as providing financing for a Clean Water Fellowship (a position that it also financed by other foundations and individual donors).

The goal of this position is to deliver and manage the League’s Creek Freaks program. As you may already know, Creek Freaks is a national program that engages children ages 10-14 in hands-on education using streams as living classrooms. The Clean Water Fellow trains and supports Creek Freaks program leaders and holds environmental education programs for children. (The name “Creek Freaks” was actually suggested by one of the program’s early student participants and has been a hit with kids and program leaders ever since.)

Creak Freaks activities are based on the Bureau of Land Management’s “Holding Onto the Green Zone” curriculum, with revisions and additions created by League staff. In addition, the League developed a Web site to support the program, including a resource library and a place for kids and adults to put their photos, videos, and stream monitoring data.

Erin Johnson was selected for the two-year Clean Water Fellow position in January 2014. In her first year on the job, Erin trained more than 175 adults as Creak Freaks leaders, teaching them how to use the program to successfully engage youth. A survey of adults who attended these trainings early in 2014 found that 14 program leaders had already engaged more than 3,000 students in Creek Freaks! Erin is hopeful that surveys will show similar success among adults who attended later trainings. The program’s total youth engagement since 2012 is more than 12,500 children across the country – and that number is rapidly growing with Erin on board to lead the program.

During workshops, Erin provides information on different ways to monitor stream health, including biological, chemical, and physical indicators. Hands-on activities demonstrate many properties of the riparian zone, including how the twists and turns of a stream help to slow down water, prevent erosion, and maintain the stability of the stream banks.

In 2014, Creek Freaks took over the League’s YouTube channel with a series of video demonstrations of Creek Freaks activities. These videos not only supplement in-person workshops, they can offer training to many more adults who cannot attend a workshop – and engage middle-schoolers online. The videos can also be accessed through the Creek Freaks Web site at www.creekfreaks.net/training.

Closer to home, Erin has been working with students at schools near the League headquarters to increase conservation education outreach in the community and test new Creek Freaks activities. So far, Erin and other IWLA staff have engaged more than 500 children directly in Creek Freaks activities, including at three in-depth afterschool programs.

Early this year, Erin will be presenting Creek Freaks held by three regional/national conferences held by the National Afterschool Association, American Camp Association, and Northeast YMCA. These conferences will provide new audiences for Creek Freaks and an opportunity to expand the reach of League programming. Erin continues to coordinate Creek Freaks workshops for IWLA members and other interested community groups and has several scheduled for this spring.

Erin is also working to correlate the Creek Freaks curriculum to educational standards such as Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards to make it easier for teachers to incorporate the lessons into their school plans. She is also hoping to expand outreach to trained Creek Freaks leaders to provide additional support for their local efforts.

The Endowment has provided $10,000 a year for each of the two years of the fellowship. Providing funding for the Clean Water Fellowship is an excellent example of the Endowment’s commitment to programs that are supportive of the philosophies and objectives of the League. To learn more about Creek Freaks, visit www.creekfreaks.net.

— Miles Greenbaum, IWLA Endowment Vice President

For more information about Endowment grants, including grant application forms, visit www.ikesendowment.org. Applications can now be submitted electronically.