Thursday, March 30, 2017

Beneath the Surface: Many Hands = Clean Water

By Sage Passi
Photo Credit: Clean Water Minnesota


You have to admit, it was a hard winter. Not for the usual reasons. Not in these parts perhaps. The storms around us didn’t overwhelm us. The snow didn’t pile up interminably. In the midst of it there were some temptingly warm and sunny, April-esque days. Were these the antidote for our winter blues? There were days when we were sure spring had arrived for good. Then a cold snap would besiege us and it was back to hunkering down, turning on the space heater, pulling out books like Year Round Indoor Salad Gardening and burrowing under the covers.

As we inch our way into spring with its zigzags between cold and warm spells, the antidote for me has been thinking about the cool people who emerge and I get to know in the midst of my work. It’s like snorkeling and stirring up the layers of a lake and finding all these colorful stones and fish and a myriad of mysteries beneath the surface. They are so many individuals going about their missions, making change while many others are waiting to be discovered. Here are a few of their stories that rose to the top of the surface recently! 

A Gardener Extraordinaire

Photo Credit: Clean Water Minnesota

May Lee is a Ramsey County Master Gardener who calls me in the early part of each year. I know I will hear from her then, because she is very busy the rest of the year. Getting a call from her at 7:00 in the morning is not surprising. Her voice is familiar. We are both up early and she is anxious to sign up for seed planting and transplanting shifts at schools.
May signs up for practically every seed-planting and transplanting shift. It’s just what we need. Her approach with kids, like many Master Gardeners, is helpful, gentle and encouraging. 

May Lee helps Farnsworth third graders transplant seedlings in late March.
Photo Credit: Sage Passi

I met May Lee for the first time many years ago on a rain garden project in the Battle Creek neighborhood. When we planted seeds together in late February this year, we had some time to chat. She told me about the documentary that TPT (Twin Cities PBS) had just produced about her life.

Photo Credit: Clean Water Minnesota

May Lee, as a young woman, left Laos in the early 1980’s in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal from Viet Nam. She told me she did not know how to read at the time she came to this country. Eventually she went to school. Now May Lee and her daughter, Mhonpaa run the first organically-certified Hmong garden near Stillwater. May Lee also mentors others who are interested in learning about organic approaches to farming. Here’s a video created by SPNN (St. Paul Neighborhood Network) with May Lee at the farm where she and her daughter raise organic vegetables for sale at farmer’s markets and for their own family’s use. 

I recently arranged an interview with May Lee with writer Maddy Wegner at one of our last planting sessions for the season at Farnsworth. This story is featured on the Clean Water Minnesota website created by Watershed Partners. You can read the story here.

Someday I’d like to go visit her farm and have May Lee mentor me! Thank you for volunteering with us each year, May Lee!

To read more about May’s life story and work as a mentor click here

Helping Hands Assist with the Birth of Spring

A team of volunteers and students assemble at Menomini Park to study Battle Creek Lake’s water quality.
Photo credit: Nicky Thompson
On the cusp between February and March, I lose my voice. It’s my second cold within two months, but I have two back-to-back field days at two different lakes so there’s no hiding under the covers for me. The balmy weather of the last day of February has shifted and on March first I wake up to a crusty layer lingering on the ground from a surprise overnight snowfall. What a change from the day before when we were out on the dock at Beaver Lake with four classes in the balmy pre-spring air.

The purpose for this second trip is to help fourth grade students from another school, Woodbury Elementary, understand the relationship between their upcoming rain garden project on their schoolground and its positive impact downstream at Battle Creek Lake where the storm run-off from their school parking lot, road and rooftop drains. They alternate their time on the boardwalk at Menomini Park, a short distance from their school, by listening to Watershed staff Dave Vlasin and Eric Korte talk about their water quality monitoring equipment, then try their own hand testing the water back on shore with simpler measurement tools.
Woodbury students in Nicky Thompson’s fourth grade class on the boardwalk at Battle Creek Lake.
Photo credit: Nicky Thompson
The storm has delayed the bus’s arrival, but after several cell phone calls from teachers, the first two classes arrive. I need to provide instructions, but for the whole morning I must resort to other people talking for me. I’m glad I’ve recruited a team of veteran ace leaders. There’s a lot of explaining to do! One of the new people who steps up to the plate is an energetic Washington County Master Gardener, named Bobbie Sweeney, who Master Water Steward and Master Gardener Anna Barker recruited to support our rain garden project. This is my first opportunity to see her in action.
Washington County Master Gardener Bobbie Sweeney
assists another school with winter seed sowing.
Photo Credit: Anna Barker

From the moment I meet Bobbie, I can tell she is going to be great! She jumps into the pool, so to speak, like she’s been swimming there for years. I appreciate her exuberance and positive energy on this brisk and challenging morning.

She, along with the rest of our hearty local team of water educators, Angie Hong, Jenn Radtke, Stephanie Wang, Tracy Leavenworth and Anna Barker, divide up the morning classes to help students perform the tests, as I point, nod and whisper instructions. I just know they will all be a godsend when we are planting our large-scale rain garden project in the fall!

Students perform a dissolved oxygen test.
Photo credit: Nicky Thompson

After scooping and hauling buckets of icy water from the lake, Bobbie gathers the five students on her team, and they plunge their pH/temperature meter into a bucket, record their results, then snap dissolved oxygen ampules to mingle lake water with the reagent, compare them with a color chart and record those readings as well. There’s a chilly crisp wind coming off the lake that wasn’t there yesterday at Beaver Lake when we did our water quality monitoring with fourth graders during those balmy, mischievous spring-like conditions. Nevertheless, the students are real troopers and conduct all the tests! 
A team of Woodbury fourth graders collect data about Battle Creek Lake.
Photo credit: Nicky Thompson
The last test is the hardest. Several of our tubes on our new secchi tubes freeze where the water is supposed to be released and we can’t get a true reading. Nevertheless, the kids are empowered, having both braved the conditions and gathered revealing details about their neighborhood lake. 

When the buses leave, Stephanie Wang, one of our Master Water Stewards who is helping for the day, invites me to her house during the lunch break before the third class arrives at the lake. I gladly take her up on this offer. I definitely need to get inside somewhere and warm up!

I drive over to her house near Tamarack Nature Preserve, and the first thing I do after I remove a few layers of outerwear is ask her if I can lay out the contents of my wallet. When I was carrying water from the lake and setting the pail down, my wallet had slipped into the icy water. I retrieved it quickly and it didn’t seem too wet, but I was worried because my flash drives were inside it!

Stephanie does me one better and offers to spread the contents (not the credit cards or the flash drives!) on a baking pan and slides them into the oven. A short while later my dollar bills come out looking crisp and new. I can’t say the same for my Office Max receipt for clipboards for the trip, but at least I can still see the dollar amount and the date!

Stephanie proceeds to serve me tea and then makes me a hot bowl of oatmeal, which is just the ticket for a chilled lake monitor! We spend the next hour chatting about her ideas for engaging her neighborhood in protecting the Watershed District’s crown jewel wetland, Tamarack Swamp, that is located practically out her back door, and other ideas she has to help her community. Stephanie is a Master Water Steward who completed her capstone rain garden project this past summer with her partner, Anna Barker. They helped a homeowner, Mitzi Knutzen, build a rain garden above Battle Creek just up the street from Menomini Park in her back yard to help prevent erosion that otherwise could impact Battle Creek Lake downstream.

I feel nurtured, supported and rejuvenated with all of Stephanie’s hospitality and the help of our morning team.

Anna Barker explains the problem with salt in lakes.
Photo credit: Nicky Thompson

We return to the lake for round two. By afternoon most of the snow has melted and the sun is shining. Anna Barker primes the class about the impacts of chlorides on this water body. She explain that it just takes one teaspoon of salt to pollute five gallons of water.

Then we walk the students over to the channel that leaves the lake. This is the birthplace of Battle Creek. The students cross the road to see how it snakes through a valley and heads downstream.

Battle Creek leaves the lake, travels under a culvert and heads west toward the Mississippi River.
Photo credit: Nicky Thompson

In the afternoon our secchi tubes work and we are cheered and warmed up by the sun. We feel less rushed and are able to conduct all of our tests.

Anna Barker helps an afternoon team conduct their water quality tests.
Photo credit: Nicky Thompson

With more time for our second round, we are able to do Part 2 of our watershed journey. After monitoring at the lake, the class follows the creek in their bus and travels to McKnight Basins to see how the creek enters Battle Creek Park. The excitement builds as we head on the path to watch the fast moving water hit the walls of the weirs as it slow down and gets directed into several stormwater basins to settle out its sediment and pollutant loads before heading downstream to the Mississippi River. 

Nicky Thompson’s class assembles to learn about the weir system in Battle Creek Park.
Photo credit: Nicky Thompson

One of the other champions of the day, Nicky Thompson, the fourth grade teacher whose class is on this round of our field trip, comes through with flying colors. Her enthusiasm is palatable and it spreads to her students. I met her this fall for the first time at the Children’s Water Festival at the State Fairgrounds. She’s been taking her classes there for five or six years. Each year I receive a packet full of thank you letters from her students thanking the Watershed for funding their buses.

The students are watching the water flow over the first weir in the system.
Photo credit: Nicky Thompson

After seeing one of the weirs, Nicky sends the kids who are cold back to the bus to warm up and the rest of us run with enthusiasm to get a view of the turbulent water of the creek as it plummets into the second weir.

Thanks to Nicky, I received some great photos of this event from her a few days later. 

Woodbury students marvel at the quantity of water moving through the second weir.
Photo credit: Nicky Thompson

As the day comes to an end, and the bus returns to school, I feel appreciative of everyone’s contributions. It definitely takes a village to understand and protect our water and to birth spring! 

Doo Good in Woodbury

By Stephanie Wang and Linda Neilson

Spring is a great time to get outside, except when you have to watch your step in your yard, on the sidewalks and in the parks for the occasional dog dropping. Most would agree that dog droppings are smelly and gross. It ranks as one of the top complaints received by staff members from the City of Woodbury’s Environment and Parks Departments.

To address the issue, Master Water Stewards Stephanie Wang and Linda Neilson attended the Central Bark Pet Expo in Woodbury on February 18, 2017, to talk to attendees about picking up and properly disposing of dog "doo" in order to help improve water quality.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the typical dog excretes three quarters of a pound of waste per day — or 274 pounds per year. About a third of Minnesotan households own dogs, a total of over 930,000 dogs.[1] In one year Minnesotan dogs will produce over 120,000 TONS of waste, a mass exceeding the total weight of 65,00 typical school buses each weighing 18 tons.

Unfortunately, allowing dog waste to decompose where it falls is a problem, even if it’s on your yard. Dog waste carries viruses, bacteria and parasites that can transmit disease to humans and pets. A day’s waste from a typical dog can contain 7.8 billion fecal coliform bacteria as well as host Giardia and Salmonella.[1] Melting snow or heavy rainfall eventually washes dog waste left in yards, parks and on sidewalks directly into our lakes, streams and wetlands. Once in our waterways, the dog waste, which is high in nitrogen and phosphorus, promotes aquatic plant and algae growth. 

The “Doo Good” message focused on picking up after your pet to protect our lakes, streams, wetlands and the health of both humans and pets. Master Water Stewards Linda Neilson and Stephanie Wang created a poster and tags reinforcing this message and developed a plan to engage people at the Woodbury Pet Expo in order to actively engage people of all ages. 

Stephanie engages participants of all ages.

They asked adult pet owners to mark where they walk their dog using a dot on a Woodbury map and then to write down one idea about how to motivate everyone to pick up dog waste. In exchange for their input, the participant received a Milk Bone tagged with “Doo Good” reminders and a dog waste bag. The bag giveaway provided a chance to role play handing a spare bag to a fellow pet owner while saying “Do you need a bag?” to prevent them from walking away from their pet’s waste.

The team also offered cat stickers to passing children. They encouraged children to think about how snowmelt or rain flows across yards and down the street, carrying trash like dog waste into the storm drain and directly into a water body without treatment using the "Your Street Connects to Lakes & Rivers” display.


Activities that Worked Well during the Expo
  • Giving away Milk Bones to people who provided input at the table by answering where they walk their pet and what they think could motivate people to pick up pet waste.
  • Handing out Milk Bones to vendors at the other tables and encouraging them to stop by the Doggy Doo table.
  • Talking with children about where the water from the snow melt ultimately ends up using the East Metro Water Resources Education Program display.
  • Poop bags were not the greatest hit. However, they were useful for demonstrating how one could hand an extra bag to a pet owner and ask “Do you need a bag?” to prevent them from walking away without cleaning up their pet’s waste.

Some Interesting Comments from Attendees

  • Because dog waste is biodegradable, several people noted that they felt bad about putting it in plastic bags for disposal. Note: Perhaps people aren’t aware of the bacteria introduced from pet waste. This was another educational opportunity. 
  • Some homeowners associations supply poop bags for their residents at a minimal cost of less than $2 per year to pay for poop bags.
  • Some participants mentioned that more signs are needed to point out it is okay to throw bagged pet waste in trash cans.
  • It was suggested that more dog waste stations with bags are needed as there are not enough trash bins.
  • A few attendees mentioned that their mothers taught them to pick up after their dogs and suggested running a “Mom’s Campaign”.
  • Some believed that male dog walkers more often fail to pick up animal waste.
  • Based on remarks during the expo, it seems that many don’t clean up frequently, especially in the winter, but feel that their pet is not contributing to the problem. Note: This can be another potential educational opportunity.
  • Some suggested that corporate sponsors be obtained to offset the cost of providing poop bag stations in public parks. The Manager of Woodbury Animal Hospital was quite interested in this possibility.
  • Some homeowners associations are working with the city on installing dog stations and trash cans.
    Master Water Steward Linda Nielson
    with her dog Annie out for a walk
    around Langton Lake in Roseville.
    All parks should have dog bags. Some
    specific examples noted in Woodbury were:

    Dancing Waters Fish Lake is 90% improved.

    Carver Lake Trails needs dog bags.

    Park Hills neighborhood needs stations.

    Wedgewood needs consistent clean-up.

    Park Hills needs poop stations along paths.

    Bluegill Trail is very well taken cared for.
    Carver Lake's newest residents need to be educated and get reminders.

At the end of the four-hour Woodbury Pet Expo, the Master Water Steward team relaxed and reflected on their achievements. With the support of Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District staff, they had created a low-cost campaign reaching over 84 adults and 45 children at this one-day event.

How can you be a “Doo Gooder?”
  1. Be prepared! Always carry poop bags with you.
  2. Bring extra bags so you don’t run out or so you can help someone in need.
  3. Put the bag in a trash can.
  4. Never leave a bag on the trail – there’s nobody designated to pick it up!
  5. Pick it up at home (or hire someone to do it) to keep your yard healthy and to protect lakes, stream and wetlands.  

For a copy of the printed materials to use in your own outreach, contact RWMWD at 651-792-7950. 

[1] “Pollution Prevention Fact Sheet: Animal Waste Collection.”

[1] Chin, Richard. “Minnesota’s pet ownership goes to the dogs.” Pioneer Press, 3 Jan. 2013.  

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Sue Fourniea: Champion for Young People and Water

By Randee Edmundson & Sage Passi

Sue Fourniea, St. Paul science teacher, along with Ames Lake colleagues, receive a Watershed Excellence Award for their years of engaging young people in watershed education and protection.

“We decided to do something that would bring our students together, using the geographical community we had in common to learn about the natural environment and the relationship humans have with their natural and neighborhood communities. As we conjured up these ideas of partnering, Jeff said, "and we have a great science teacher who is gonna love this! Her name is Sue Fourniea."  - Randee Edmundson

Sue Fourniea out on the trail at Ames Lake with former
Cleveland special education technology teacher Pam Bloedoorn.
These words shared by Randee Edmundson, science educator and RWMWD Citizen Advisory Commission member, were the beginning of an eight-year, cross-school environmental stewardship of Ames Lake watershed started by Sue, Randee and Jeff Theune, an eighth grade social studies teacher at Cleveland Quality Middle School in 1997. This accolade about Sue, was echoed by Randee Edmundson, who coordinated a “spoken word” performance and slide show with Ames Lake team colleagues during the Watershed District Excellence Awards ceremony last November to honor Sue for her many years of watershed service, collaboration and involvement with St. Paul youth in water and environmental related causes.

Sue gears up for a canoe trip starting at Lake Gervais.
Jerry Webster, a former Audubon volunteer, accompanied them.

Sue, a retired eighth grade science teacher, was presented with a Watershed District Excellence Award in Youth Engagement at the RWMWD Recognition Dinner this past November. Sue retired this past spring after forty years of teaching, twenty-three of the years were with St. Paul Public Schools.

Interdisciplinary Teams Partner with Mounds Park Academy

As a science teacher at Cleveland Middle School for seventeen years, Sue was part of an interdisciplinary team of teachers and students that came together multiple times a year to study and do service learning activities; first about rivers and then about Ames Lake and Phalen Lake on the East Side of St. Paul. In the early years this school teamed up with a private school, Mounds Park Academy, to engage young people in learning about local watershed issues.

Sue looks on as her students plant a tree on the edge of the site of Phalen Shopping Center
before the center was torn down for the Ames Lake Restoration in 2000.

 "Sue and I as science teachers wanted the students to come together in small, cross-school teams and do real science investigations that mattered in the community in which they lived. For Jeff, as a social studies teacher, and his wife Regina, a dramatic artist, it meant an opportunity to connect responsibly as citizens to the river we depend on, and to use the arts as a way to develop meaningful, functional relationships between strangers and with people you have preconceptions about in regard to socio-economic status, race, religion, gender or age. These preconceptions, they believed, get in the way of listening and solving mutual problems – maintaining a healthy environment on which all of us depend for survival." - Randee Edmundson describing their partnership

Beginning in the fall of 1997, Cleveland Quality Middle School and Mounds Park Academy based their studies at the Minnesota River. The following year they did a comparative environmental study at St. Anthony Falls on the Mississippi River and Lake Phalen. This earliest partnership involved eighty seventh and eighty graders (forty from each school). By the third year they had evolved into student teams that reflected different ways of thinking about the care and restoration of their neighborhood wetland, Ames Lake. Teams included: Water Quality, Ecology, Art and Design, Influencing Public Policy for Sustainability, and Media and Communications.
Cleveland students display the grocery carts they rescued from the bottom of Ames Lake.

Students Research Ames Lake Ecology and Water Quality 
Each year, this hand-selected group of seventh and eighth grade teams collected water samples at Ames Lake, Phalen Lake and the Phalen Wetland and compared their results. Sue and Randee led the Ecology and Water Quality teams respectively. Students did bio-monitoring, studied the restored wetland’s ecology and brought back macroinvertebrates to identify and classify in order to determine the water quality of their local water bodies. They shot photos cataloguing the native plants, created displays and kept records of their data for many years.
“Sue is the kind of lady to keep you on your toes. I wanted to learn from her since I heard of her when I was in the seventh grade. She was academically tough for a reason and preparing us for college. She expected nothing less. A proud physical feature of her was her height which was measurable to many of her Hmong students. Sue Fourniea was why her students focused on academics, because she cared. Outspoken, committed and brilliant - she is part of the foundation to my fortress.”  - A quote from one of Sue's students

Sue helps her science students identify macroinvertebrates.

"The Ames Lake project has allowed me to teach the way that works best for me and for our students. Our students need self-confidence, a reason to be in school, to resolve differences and negotiate with all people. They feel that they have a hand in making an impact on helping their neighborhood environment become a better place."  - Sue Fourniea   

A Shopping Center Transformed Back to Ames Lake

Cleveland students plant prairie plugs in the upland area around Ames Lake in 2000.

The ecology team studied the diverse plants in the Ames Lake restoration for many years.

Sue could be academically challenging, but she also used her sense of humor to engage students in learning. Here’s a poem she wrote about herself in order to share some vocabulary words about the macroinvertebrates that live in Ames Lake.

Sue's Sue-ism


Getting to Know the Neighborhood

The Ames Lake teams did a yearly round robin tour, interviewing and getting acquainted with community leaders in the east St. Paul neighborhood including district council representatives, community organizers, city staff and elders who lived in a high rise apartment complex across from Ames Lake.

The Influencing Public Policy for Sustainability
teams led outreach and educational and arts activities in the community. All Cleveland student teams also participated in the restoration of the wetland and prairie habitats around Ames Lake in 2000.
Karen Swenson, Eastside Neighborhood Development
Corporation, explains why the neighborhood decided to tear
down the Phalen Shopping Center and restore Ames Lake.

Chuck Repke, Executive Director of District 2
Community Council, brainstorms with Cleveland students.
Aloun Phoulavan , Cleveland art teacher reflected on their collaboration.
"I remember the trash piles! Oh, the things we used to find. Thanks, Sue, for adding garbage collector and conservationist to all of our resumes. Sue was really driven and had such vision. Every time I have the opportunity to drive or bike by Ames Lake I think of her determination and I hope the students who participated still feel pride in the beauty of what they all accomplished."
Sue Fourniea and students from her water quality team display their trash collected at Ames Lake.

 A Symbol Emerges

Alloun's students preparing the mold of the heron sculpture casted by local artists. This project reflected the creative teamwork of artists and the community.

Cleveland art teacher Alloun Poulavan led the Art and Design teams. These students worked with the community to create a sculpture at Ames Lake that would reflect both nature and the neighborhood. After three years of prototypes, fundraising and negotiations, all stakeholders agreed on one of the student prototypes. A brass heron sculpture is installed by the shore of Ames Lake near Phalen Boulevard with this stone inscription.

This Great Blue Heron sculpture, created by students at Cleveland Junior High School, is our gift to Ames Lake Neighborhood. May it inspire environmental consciousness in the community, a sense of ownership and appreciation of our wetlands.

After the brass heron was complete, students held a community dedication ceremony and installed the sculpture on the edge of the Ames Lake wetland.

"$500,000 to Realize Our Dreams"

During the recognition dinner, Randee recalled the next phase of the project Sue was advocating,

The next three years we had $500,000 to realize the dreams we imagined - multiple partners including dramatic artist specialist, technology specialist, Harding High School, Cleveland Quality Middle School who would do the Ames Lake Project by designing actions and projects to address neighborhood needs. Then we would add another grade level to the process at B. C. Elementary to raise the younger students to learn the foundation of ecology and living systems at Belwin. Each year the new students built on what was learned and created by the students the year before.
“In the fourth year of the All-Ames Lake Partnership, Sue came to me and said 'We’ve got to write this Federal Environmental Magnet grant proposal offered through SPPS.' Together we got our teachers and principals to generate their parts needed and we submitted a proposal. The next three years we had $500,000 to realize the dreams we imagined - multiple partners including a dramatic artist specialist, a technology specialist, Harding High School, and Cleveland Quality Middle School who would do the Ames Lake Project by designing actions and projects to address neighborhood needs and adding another grade level to the process at Battle Creek Elementary, to raise the younger students to learn the foundation of ecology and living systems at Belwin. Each year the new students built on what was learned and created by the students the year before. " - Randee Edmundson

Jill Danner

Jill Danner, RWMWD Citizen Advisory Commission member and retired teaching assistant at Harding High School, recounted one of her fond memories of the project during the Recognition Dinner. She credits Sue's creativity and fun-loving personality in making the Ames Lake project successful.

“Sue was always willing to support whatever crazy idea Randee, Steve and I came up with. Sending teams made up of one high school student, one middle school student and one elementary student into the woods in February to start a fire sounded like a great idea. It was so fun we did it two years. Sue has been a great supporter. She is fun to be around." - Jill Danner

Liz McCambridge

"Sue was my Rock"

Liz McCambridge, social studies teacher at Cleveland Quality Middle School, led the Influencing Public Policy for Sustainability Ames Lake Teams.

Liz shared her thoughts,

“I have had the most rewarding, inspiring, fun years in my twenty years of teaching and being a team leader in the Ames Lake Project. The students have been motivated, awesome learners who have taught me more than I have taught them. And you, Sue, were the glue that held it all together. You were my rock. By-the-way, we were asked what word comes to mind when we think of you and that would be "honorable."

Dramatic Artist Jayy Dubb Joins the Team

When Randee became the coordinator for a new federal grant project, she asked for a recommendation for a dramatic artist from Jeff Theune's wife Regina, an artist who had worked with Cleveland on the first phase of the Ames Lake Project. 

Regina's first recommendation was James Williams (Jayy Dubb) who has a life-long history of working with youth and was instrumental in using dramatic arts in order to change relationships between students, teachers, community partners and nature for the Ames Lake Project.

Sue's water quality team dramatizes their experiences at Ames Lake collecting macroinvertebrates.

Jayy Dubb used theater games to find common ground, be curious about the unknowns in a relationship and take greater risks. His work helped everyone, students and teachers, share productively in the work and to create dramatizations each year that reflected their relationships and experiences in the program. His inspirational words have culminated in the teams' honoring storytelling.

Jayy Dubb coaches teams to help them reflect on their experiences.

Jayy Dubb (aka James Williams) has a long professional history of working in theater. This history includes The Kennedy Center, Off Broadway and Chicago, The Guthrie, The Penumbra, Park Square, Pillsbury House and other theatres in the US and Tanzania. He has used theater arts with incarcerated youth to write, create and perform their own stories in Minneapolis through the Pillsbury House Theater community programs. He has also worked with Minneapolis Washburn High School and St. Paul Central High School Public School Theater. 

Currently, James Williams is playing the part of Gloucester in King Lear at the Guthrie Theater through April 2, 2017. To learn more about Jayy and his theater collaboration, watch for a future article in the Ripple.
"Be alive to the new thing. To work out the next step. That's the ultimate goal. Because then you understand there always is the next thing. That you're never through learning. That you don't know all the facts. You haven't read all the books. You don't know all the stories, because there is a next thing that happens. There is a new thing that can come if you're present in the room, and you're always challenging, and you're looking for the new thing -- the next thing automatically comes." - Jayy Dubb's advice to the Ames Lake Team

And, sure enough, the "new thing" came along for Sue Fourniea.

Accomplishments at Battle Creek Middle School

Sue's science students marched in the WaterFest Parade at Lake Phalen.

When Cleveland Middle School changed identity and became the upper campus of Farnsworth Aerospace, Sue and many of the teachers, moved on to other schools. Sue went to Battle Creek Middle School where she proved to be a powerhouse for Watershed District projects over the next eight years. 

At Battle Creek, Sue’s classes helped prepare for a Watershed District creek erosion project by cutting large quantities of buckthorn which were used to create brush bundles and then installed on a stretch of the creek, along with other native plugs in order to slow erosion.


Here Battle Creek Middle School students trim buckthorn growing alongside the creek.

Sue supervised students trimming buckthorn that would be used to create brush bundles for an erosion project.

Simba Blood, RWMWD Natural Resources Technician, helped students assemble buckthorn bundles. Sue filmed the process.

Battle Creek students worked with the Watershed District to install plugs with the brush bundles they created.

This Wasn’t the Only Project her Students Tackled

Students recruited a neighborhood homeowner and worked with her to build a rain garden in her yard. 

In later years, Sue's classes partnered with other science classes to construct two more rain gardens with residents in the neighborhood. In the spring her students crossed the bridge over the creek, performed site assessments on the property, then returned to excavate, build berms (some with rock walls) and plant these intensive projects. 

Her students also helped install shrubs and native grasses and forbs in front of the school.


Battle Creek students removed sod in a nearby residence in preparation for the construction of a rain garden.

These rain garden projects involved a lot of soil moving. Teamwork with many classes was necessary.

The final product was a rain garden that captured driveway runoff in order to protect Battle Creek's water.

Each fall Sue brought her classes to Battle Creek to do stream monitoring.

For the past two years her classes have also done storm drain stenciling in the neighborhood. 

Sue has a propensity for involving other science teachers and classes into projects and helping to grow the program at Battle Creek Middle School. The school is adjacent to Battle Creek and opportunities for engaging students continues to evolve.

Sue demonstrates the use of a Secchi Disk to measure Battle Creek's water transparency.

Battle Creek eighth grade science students identify the macroinvertebrates that are
living in Battle Creek.

Sue involved other classrooms into the creek bank erosion project.

Here students pound in live willow and red osier dogwood stakes as a way to help stabilize the bank.

Sue's Students Take on Global Issues

In addition to local efforts on water-based issues, during the 2011-2012 school year, Sue’s students took on a global issue by participating in Women and Water, a collaboration that culminated in a large-scale cultural event at the Regis Center for the Arts at the University of Minnesota along with multiple schools in the spring of 2012. Sue’s students worked with spoken-word poet and teaching artist, Tou Saiko Lee, to write and perform poems in response to serious issues about lack of clean water on a global level. 

Amanda was a student at Cleveland Middle School and a member of the Influencing Public Policy for Sustainability Ames Lake Team. She presented her poem and was part of a student panel at the National Science Teachers Association Conference in 2003.

Amanda's Poem
 The neighborhood, that’s what’s important to me
And what I want to do is influence policy.
I have fun while I work, I work in my group
To keep the ‘hood clean, we work as a troop.
Community builds when you care for a place
You work with your friends and you work face to face…
There is happiness, love, there is friendship, and trust.
Yes, community builds and it’s worth any fuss.
Of course, there’s the water…it’s our life… understand!
It controls what we do, so saving it’s grand!
The adults who are here must know how much they need
To lead kids to the water, and then let the kids lead…
For kids do what’s right, when the way is made plain
They will care for the land, plants, water and grain.
You must care for the land, if you care for yourself
You must get out and work, not stay on a shelf.
For you are the future, and your work will show!
It will keep the land safe it will help all things grow…
Keep up all your effort, keep it up with your might!
When you fight for the land, you are doing what’s right!

Thank you to Sue for your incredible efforts at empowering youth to care about their environment!