Missy Kieffer

Dreamstarter Teacher Missy Kieffer: Creating young “River Protectors”

Missy Kieffer of Wellpinit, Washington is a pre-K Headstart teacher on the Spokane Indian Reservation which is surrounded by rivers, lakes and dams – “these are the same dams that prevent the salmon from returning to our waters.”

Missy used her $1,000 Dreamstarter Teacher grant to create young “river protectors” in the hopes of the salmon returning to their rivers, hopefully in her lifetime.

She reported at the conclusion of her project in September that her goal was “to inspire children to be outside protecting and taking care of our natural resources and to inspire them to come up with a plan to help bring salmon back to our local rivers.

“We brainstormed how to get salmon around the dams. Additionally, we wanted to be able to enjoy our resources by going out on the local lakes catching fish.”

With her grant funding, she purchased a water pumping system designed for children to enable her 20 students to understand how dams prevent the salmon from returning upstream to spawn, as well as fishing poles and life jackets for each child in her class. (“Children are fascinated with the physical action of pumping and the gratification of seeing the water flow from the pump as a result of their efforts,” states the manufacturer. “This pumping system has many open-ended options for kids. The children can build a system of tunnels and pump water through to see the result.”)

“So having the water table as part of the grant worked really well as we could use it whenever we wanted.”

She noted that children who had never fished before got to go fishing for their very first time.

“Those same children participated in the tribe’s fishing derby,” she said. “I think by taking them fishing it showed our families how easy it was, and also possibly taught them how to fish. For my disabled students it brought the community together to help our class be able to go fishing with volunteers.”

Missy also recounted that one of her students’ grandparents approached her after their first fishing trip.

“Her grandchild has some serious medical conditions, making it pretty dangerous for her to be out on a lake, especially with a fishing pole,” she said. “She thanked me for showing her how to include her granddaughter in family activities such as fishing and how important it is for her granddaughter to always be included in school events and family events.

“She was afraid her granddaughter was going to face always being excluded on field trips and she was so relieved seeing how our staff, volunteers and even the class worked together to make sure she was having fun as she fished.”

Missy reported that she achieved all the goals she had personally set out for herself and her class.

“I believe that the solution to making our rivers healthy and sustainable again will rely on this generation of children that I am teaching.

“I realize they are very young, but I want to spark their imagination along with developing their higher level of thinking and see with our classroom explorations what solutions they can come up with to bring the salmon home.”

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