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Introduction How Rivers Run Stories Value Of A River What We Can Do
Students of the stream
Energetic educators (pg 2 of 3)

Innovative educators can use rivers to teach lessons that are full of life-literally. Nancy Jacobson at Frazee Elementary School saw stream restoration as an opportunity to teach her inquisitive fifth-grade class about stream ecology and restoration.

A failing dam on the Otter Tail River in Frazee was removed in 1999 after the city realized that needed repairs were too expensive to justify (see "Reconnecting the Red"). After the dam was removed, however, the river rapidly cut a deep, straight channel through the sediment that had accumulated behind the dam. City leaders were concerned about the appearance and long-term stability of the site, which is adjacent to two city parks.

The river channel was reconstructed to provide site stability, better habitat for fish, and more recreational opportunities for local residents. Two new meanders were dug to increase sinuosity. Numerous root wads were put in place to protect outside bends from erosion. Seven riffles were built to bring the river back up to its floodplain, and native plants were planted along the banks and in the floodplain where the soil had been disturbed.

Working with the DNR's Stream Habitat Program in Fergus Falls, Jacobson's class helped with the plantings in 2001 and 2002. Dogwood and willow cuttings were collected nearby, taken to the project site, and planted by enthusiastic students. The class has also been working with a DNR fisheries biologist from Detroit Lakes to collect water samples four times a year, monitoring the quality and condition of the river. Students experienced firsthand the lessons of nature, including harsh conditions when ice augers were used to drill sampling holes in winter.

Jacobson's fifth-graders learned that restoring the river made for a more natural, self-maintaining condition. Since the dam has been removed, fish can migrate upstream and sediment can travel downstream without becoming trapped. Students also learned that restoring the stream made an aesthetically pleasing stretch easily accessible for recreation. The large boulders at the riffles and the root wads provided many vantage points at the water's edge for fishing or otherwise enjoying the river.

These lessons are ones that they can proudly share someday with their kids and grandkids when they visit their fifth grade outdoor classroom-on the banks of the Otter Tail River.

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Shop smart
Go native
Farmers and food
Citizen scientists
Vital volunteers
Save energy
Reduce waste
Students of the stream
Innovative designs
Think big thoughts
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