Outdoor America 2020 Issue 1
South Dakota >> Forced to sell their property due to development pressure in the 1990s, the Rapid City Chapter of the Izaak Walton League invested proceeds from the sale with an eye toward the future. Today, the chapter uses its financial resources to support conservation, environmental education, and other initiatives that broadly benefit the entire Rapid City community.
Its signature initiative is the Conservation/Youth Education Grant, which provides financial support to local organizations that administer education programs focused on youth. Youth and Family Services of Rapid City (YFS) has been a regular recipient of this chapter grant since 2015. Each year, YFS serves more than 14,000 children and their families throughout western South Dakota, many of whom live in poverty. YFS provides food, health care access, counseling, environmental and conservation education, and other services.
Thanks to the ongoing financial support from the Rapid City Chapter, YFS has successfully incorporated the League's Creek Freaks program into their youth activities. Creek Freaks uses local streams and other waters to teach middle school students about chemistry, biology, math, and how to use technology to communicate about water quality issues. To date, over 600 area youth, mostly from low income and single parent homes, have received environmental education, including Creek Freaks, through YFS.
Taking the youth streamside to sample is usually a daylong event.The chapter's assistance is not limited to financial aid. Mark Boddicker, the Chapter's Conservation Officer, trained the YFS staff on how to perform Creek Freaks activities with students. The YFS staff, in turn, teach the youth how to assess the health of streams by collecting and identifying different bugs and other aquatic life commonly found in streams. Then, the children and staff move streamside with kick seines and bug cards to try for themselves. Often, chapter members have assisted with these classes and commented that the youthful participants are totally amazed at what they find in the streams. One member reported, "I did not see a single cell phone in use. All the children could not wait to wade in the stream. And their eyes popped wide when they saw the contents of the kick seine."
Due to the chapter's outreach, hundreds of local youth have been exposed to environmental education, including the League's Creek Freaks program. Unfortunately, not every child is inspired. After one seven-year-old saw the organisms from the stream, I personally heard him shriek, "Ewwww, I'm never going in the creek again." You just can't win them all!
Learn more about Creek Freaks
Main image: Ongoing financial support from the Rapid City Chapter of IWLA has helped Youth and Family Services continue with their Creek Freaks Program.