Another Great Year of Making A Difference in the Lives of Youth in the PN Region

Written by: Annette Ross

Kids at daughters and sons event in Boise, Idaho.
Kids at daughters and sons event in Boise, Idaho.
In 2015, several dynamic educational opportunities and programs were organized and co-sponsored by the Bureau of Reclamation Pacific Northwest Region to support and engage young people between the ages of 5 to 35. The PN Region is committed to increasing youth's activity on public lands in four categories, play, learn, serve, and work.

Linking Young People to Reclamation

The Otto Otter Canal Safety Program was successfully delivered to over 35,000 excited elementary school students. Otto Otter, Reclamation’s water safety mascot, engaged in children's activities all over the region. The program was delivered through various venues from classroom settings to county fairs. Students learned the importance of canals and ditches, and how to stay safe around them.

During the months of June through September, six Catch a Special Thrill (C.A.S.T.) events were hosted for disabled and disadvantaged children. The events occurred in different locations in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington State.

These special events provided enthusiastic kids the unique opportunity to enjoy a day of fishing on the water. At one event a participant said, "The boat ride was the greatest ever. I can't wait until next year." As one boat captain put it, "the kids just love to ride on the boat and spend time on the water; catching just one fish, or catching the legal limit is what makes the day even more special." A total of 118 kids participated with nothing but "smiles."

At our 5th annual Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day/Let's Move Outside event, 23 students participated. This event allowed girls and boys to understand what a parent does during the workday through presentations and interactive activities. Let's Move is an initiative launched by First Lady Obama which is dedicated to solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation so that children born today will grow up healthier and able to pursue their dreams.

In our community-based and outreach program called Lunch Buddy, 50 Reclamation employees volunteered as one-on-one mentors. Lunch Buddy is held each month at a local school in Boise, Idaho. The purpose of this program is to build self-confidence and self-esteem with at-risk children. Each year, more and more children are added to the list to participate.

Other activities the region participated in are: Koulee Kids Fest, Wenatchee River Salmon Festival, Idaho Salmon and Steelhead Days, Sawtooth Salmon Festival, school tours at Grand Coulee Dam, and Earth Day events in Washington State.

Each Father's Day weekend at Grand Coulee Dam, the Koulee Kids Fest is held and it offers parents and kids an opportunity to fish, ride paddle boats, play games, and much more. This year, 129 kids participated.

In September, the Wenatchee River Salmon Festival, one of the first nature festivals in the United States, celebrated its 25th anniversary in conjunction with the 75th celebration of the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery. The three-day educational event celebrates the annual return of the salmon to the Wenatchee River. Reclamation employees presented "Macro-invertebrates Mayhem and Watershed Detectives" activities. Roughly 3,000 students in north central Washington participated in hands-on interactive activities.

Nearly 1,200 excited fifth grade students participated in Reclamation's Living River Exhibit at the Idaho Salmon and Steelhead Days event. This event is a three-day, hands-on educational celebration designed to increase awareness and appreciation for salmon and steelhead resources in the Pacific Northwest Region. The students learned about river dynamics, river restoration, and habitat improvement projects Reclamation has worked on.

The Sawtooth Salmon Festival was held on the Stanley Historical Museum grounds. It is also and educational event that celebrates the return of the salmon from the Pacific Ocean to Salmon River tributaries. Kids learned about the remarkable salmon and steelhead, and their amazing 900-mile journey through presentations and hands-on activities. Twenty-five kids participated in the event. Grand Coulee sponsored VIP Hard Hat 2-hour tours at Grand Coulee Dam and the Visitor Center for more than 1,900 excited students. The tour guides shared technological, historical, and geological facts about the Dam and its history.

Another big event was the Chief Joseph Dam and Colville Confederation Earth Day. Nearly 475 students were able to take part in generating electricity through wind, solar and mechanical means. Several volunteers from Grand Coulee Dam participated.

Young People Working for Reclamation

In 2015, the PN Region hired many students in various occupations using several student partnership programs such as the Student Conservation Association. For the first time, Reclamation was able to hire a former SCA student in the PN Region through the Public Lands Corps Act program.

Through the Northwest Youth Corps, the PN Region hired two new crews in the month of July. They worked on a habitat improvement project which consisted of thinning trees, shrubs, and fuel reduction. The NYC is an organization that provides opportunities for youth and adults to learn, grow, and experience success by combining education and job skill training with outdoor adventure. The partnership was made possible by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation along with other government agencies.

The PN Region served thousands of young people last year. We will continue to engage youth in 2016. If you would like to volunteer with any of our children or youth activities, please contact Annette Ross at Let's continue to make a difference!

Students participating with the Living Rivers Exhibit at the Idaho Salmon and Steelhead Days in Idaho

Published on January 22, 2016