What our volunteers and youth accomplished in 2022

Thank you to all our 2022 river stewards, youth and partners!

We're so grateful to 959 young river stewards and 1,926 volunteers for joining us to restore habitat, monitor water quality, stencil storm drains, clean up riverbanks and more this year. You made a difference for the river! Here are some of our program highlights for 2022.

About our Stewardship & Education program

Through hands-on restoration activities, workshops and education programs and partnerships, FMR's Stewardship & Education program connects individuals, communities, school groups and youth with our river and its watershed.

Our shared goal on the Stewardship & Education team is to spark connection with, deepen understanding around and invest in the health of the Mississippi River as a source of sustenance for ourselves and the ecosystems of which we are inextricably a part. Here on Dakota homelands — which have been stewarded and continue to be stewarded for thousands of years by Dakota, Anishinaabe and other Indigenous nations — we must prioritize truth-telling and center these voices as we work towards a riverway that is safe, healing and accessible for all.

Expanding our capacity in 2022

To strengthen our programming, in 2022 we had the opportunity to expand our team with three new staff members: katya wesely, Youth Coordinator; Sam Armacost, Stewardship & Education Program Associate; and Naomi Nickel, ESI Program Associate (a former ESI fellow). Each of these new people brought new energy and gifts to our team, helping bring our visions to life.

Highlights from our education program in 2022

In 2022, FMR worked with classes and youth groups in classrooms and outdoors, connecting with our environment and engaging in restoration and stewardship. Thanks to 958 young river stewards from across the Twin Cities metro area for taking the initiative to make volunteering a priority and for all they contributed in 2022: 1,099 volunteer hours and 2,347 education hours through our education and stewardship programs.

Visit our Flickr album with our favorite photos from 2022 to see more of our education, stenciling and volunteering program photos.

Youth Environmental Stewards

In our Youth Environmental Stewards program, we continued to offer K-12 students in schools and groups opportunities to facilitate standards-based learning while addressing local water topics. 

Students applied this learning in their communities. Some groups this year learned about tracking plastic pollution with the Marine Debris Tracker during trash cleanups. Others learned how to identify different plants in the local school playground.

From macroinvertebrate water sampling with 21st Century Academy to removing 73 bags of garlic mustard from the river gorge sand flats with students from Dowling Elementary, our lesson plans and program content integrated STEM education and hands-on learning to address community challenges facing our river and environment.

Environmental Stewardship Institute

In 2022, FMR's Environmental Stewardship Institute (ESI) summer intensive program — part of our career pathways program for high school-aged youth — focused on the guiding theme of biocultural diversity and rivers, highlighting the link between people, the natural environment and culture.

We were excited to be able to expand the summer intensive program this year. In 2022 we doubled the program's size, increasing from 12 to 24 fellows. Fellows created unique and creative projects on a wide variety of topics, from biodiversity loss and accessible gardening to water pollution and environmental justice. 

We also wrapped up our first ESI Advisory Council (the school-year component of ESI) this spring and kicked off our second year this fall, expanding from seven to nine council members. Discover more about the council's work.

How you can get involved in our education program

Interested in our youth programming? Educators can download complete curriculum kits or request in-person classroom lessons for K-12 classrooms in the greater Twin Cities metro area. High school and college-aged youth can check out our career pathways opportunities. Contact education@fmr.org with questions.

Highlights from our storm drain stenciling program in 2022

Together we stenciled 1,458 storm drains in the Twin Cities metro and shared 2,486 flyers with community members to spread the word about why keeping them clean is so important. We want to thank the 563 individuals — families, classrooms, community and corporate groups — who partnered with us this season!

Why storm drain stenciling?

Unlike household water systems, storm sewer flowage pours directly into our local waters, depositing whatever it picks up along the way — cigarette butts, motor oil, road salt, pet waste — directly to the nearest lake or river, unfiltered and untreated. This can harm natural habitats, putting major stressors on animal and plant species, as well as degrade the quality of our water sources.

Watch the video we made this year to learn more about the negative effects of pollutants on the riverway.

To increase community awareness, FMR's storm drain stenciling program provides the equipment needed to paint the message "Keep 'em Clean, Drains to River" next to storm drains. Along the way, participants hand out educational door-hangers and collect the trash that's been left behind.

How you can get involved in storm drain stenciling

Consider picking up a DIY storm drain stenciling kit or scheduling an outing with one of our staff! Find out when you can get started in the spring of 2023 by contacting stenciling@fmr.org, or by filling out this form.

Highlights from our volunteer program in 2022

In 2022, more than 1,900 community members volunteered their time to help the river. We are so grateful to our amazing river stewards who show up all season long to tend to the health of our riverway.

Volunteers matter

Volunteers help stretch limited resources and expand our reach throughout the metro area. Together, we make an even greater impact on the health of the river and our local communities at more than 40 restoration sites throughout the metro.

Seasoned FMR volunteers know how big of an impact a group can make in a short period of time! Whether it's pulling garlic mustard, spreading native seed or hauling and stacking buckthorn, our volunteers make a difference at the sites where we work for years to come.

2022 season impact

In 2022 1,926 volunteers joined us, contributing 6,421 volunteer hours. Of these, 1,222 volunteers joined us for restoration events. We held 62 restoration events this year at 30 different sites around the metro.

We continued to grow our BIPOC River Stewards program, thanks to partnerships with Mississippi Park Connection, Lower Phalen Creek Project, the Bell Museum and Urban Bird Collective. In 2022, we planted trees together, watched the stars and went on a bird walk in the river gorge.

And, an exciting first for our program: the ESI Advisory Council hosted their first ever public volunteer event, a cleanup and guided walk at Indian Mounds Regional Park and Cemetery with Crystal Norcross.

Our Stream Health Evaluation Program (SHEP) returned full-steam in the Rice Creek Watershed District. Thirty volunteers spent their summer and fall sampling streams and identifying macroinvertebrates, which will provide a snapshot of the watershed's health.

How you can get involved in our volunteer program

To stay in touch about volunteer events and stewardship programs, contact volunteer@fmr.org. You can always check out our events calendar for up-to-date offerings, or sign up for our e-newsletter Mississippi Messages.

With a full 2022 season under our belt, hosting over 130 Stewardship & Education events and onboarding three new staff members, we will spend the winter recharging our energy and sorting through our dreams, plans and supplies for another abundant season in 2023.

We are incredibly grateful for your support and look forward to seeing you again in the new year!

Explore all of our Stewardship & Education updates.

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