May 9, 2019, Adrian, Michigan – About 55 sixth-grade students from Morenci (Michigan) Middle School enjoyed a five-hour field trip May 1 at the Adrian Dominican Sisters Motherhouse, catching insects, learning about rain gardens and vernal pools, and coming to appreciate the value of water and the River Raisin watershed.
They were taking part in a new program, The River Raisin Water Festival, hosted by the Adrian Dominican Sisters and organized in collaboration with the River Raisin Institute, the River Raisin Watershed Council, and Lenawee Intermediate School District. Underwriters for the festival were Anderson Development Company, General Federation of Women’s Club, and Rotary International.
Corinne Sanders, OP, and Patricia Benson, OP, working with the planning committee, coordinated the event on the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse Campus. Students moved through a number of inside and outside learning centers, “experiencing topics that are intended to inspire us to protect, preserve, and enhance the River Raisin, its tributaries, and the land around it,” Sister Corinne said.
Topics included Habitat Restoration, Marsh Bird Management, Macroinvertebrates, Vernal Pools, River Raisin Plant Fun, Rain Gardens, Vermicomposting (composting with worms), and Where Water Flows.
Students and chaperones alike were quick to tell of the highlights of their experience of the Water Festival and what they learned from it. “It’s been fun going through the wild areas and learning about the bugs and flowers,” said Dea Ewald, a student. “The bugs were the most interesting – I used to be scared of them.” Her classmate, Jordan Watkins, also appreciated the bugs, especially the crayfish and dragonflies, and learned about camouflage.
Caroline Stuck, a substitute teacher at Morenci and a chaperone, learned about rain gardens and hopes to build one at home.
Sister Pat, a Board member of the River Raisin Institute, said the Institute has held a similar program, the Lake Erie Water Festival, at the Motherhouse of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) Sisters in Monroe, Michigan, for three or four years. Sister Pat suggested expanding the program into Lenawee County. “We just wanted to have this for our students in Lenawee County,” Sister Pat said. “We feel it’s a good exposure to what’s good for the watershed and the future.”
Sister Pat and Sister Corinne worked with Brittany Leick, Program Coordinator for the River Raisin Institute, who recruited the presenters and invited school participation. Planning for the event began in October 2018.
Sister Corinne said about 45 volunteers were involved in the program, including the nine presenters and their assistants. Among the volunteers were Adrian Dominican Sisters, who accompanied the students to the learning centers throughout the campus and enjoyed the presentations with the students.
Sister Corinne was most excited by the small groups of students who attended the presentations together. “There were 10 to 12 in each group, which gave them high quality small group experiences,” she said. “The students were very inquisitive and asked good questions.”
Feature photo: Elaine Johnson, former Permaculture Specialist for the Adrian Dominican Sisters, gives a presentation on rain gardens.