Friday, December 6, 2013

Can I Get Any Dumber?
By Andy Andrews

Oh yes, I can get dumber but I have to work at it! For many years I have volunteered for Save the Salmon introducing macro invertebrates to school age children. The program is part of the Salmon Watch program established by the World Salmon Council of Portland and has been dead for a number of years but found new life again this year. It was suggested that I again volunteer to teach macros. I have no formal training in macros so I'm self taught in some aspects of this subject. I feel I have something I can share in teaching macros so why not? But I also have a second reason for teaching in that it forces me to learn about our environment.

So this fall I gave one class at Eagle Creek in the gorge and it went well. For my second class at Humbug Creek near Camp 18 (18 mile post from Seaside) I decided to ramp things up a bit. I've never given scientific names to the the major bugs we study, but I decided to take a leap of faith that I could pull it off. So for three weeks I studied the order names for Stoneflies (Plecoptera), mayflies (Ephemeroptera) and last but not least the caddis fly (Trichoptera). For three weeks I spelled the scientific names and worked at pronouncing the names and schemed at how I could enter those names into my program. My timing was less than impeccable. As I waited with three other volunteers at Camp 18 for the bus load of kids to unload, I was feeling very secure in my program and felt I could get my point across on why we use those funny names for the bugs. The point being that the order names we use, which are latin-based, is that those names can be used around the world to describe specifics about a certain bug. If in France, I don't have to know french to describe what I know as a stone fly because I can use the word Plecoptera. It was not important that these kids learn the order names as long as they understand why the names exist.

There is another reason I like to teach these children. They always teach me something new with every class. And standing at Camp 18, I was about to learn a really big lesson. There were about thirty-five students on the bus and after about half of them got off the bus I knew my program was in big trouble! All but three of the children were latinos, and English was their second language and I was about to try to teach them Greek and Latin. The only dummy in this class was the guy who was leading the class. I explained my problem to their teacher and she said the kids were sharp and they should learn why order names are in latin. I had 40 minutes to deliver five or six points that I considered important, including the importance of latin names for the order of bugs. I felt all four sessions (two before lunch and two after) went fairly smoothly, with one bad!

During one secession I wanted the kids to remember the number 1500. It was just an approximate number, not exact. So I asked when did Christopher Columbus discovered America? For answers I got 1900, 1750 and so on. No one knew the date I was looking for (1492). It then dawned on me that Mr. 'C' wasn't a big guy down south. And why should he be? He sort of kicked the door open for some spanish dudes to come to central America to steal, murder and pillage the country. I'm pretty sure they don't celebrate Columbus Day in Mexico. The kids were great because for all my foolishness, they didn't beat this gringo up. They laughed and seemed to have a good time. There was a chaperone with each group and they said I did a good job and the kids had fun during the class. In all classes, the kids are well mannered, attentive and anxious to participate.

Volunteers are needed for:
  • Developing Educational Materials
  • Recruiting Volunteers
  • Training / Mentoring volunteers
  • Assisting Teachers and Students With Community Service Projects
  • Serving on Committee
  • Organizing Special Events
  • Publicity
  • Program Evaluation
  • Web and Computer Support
  • Make a Financial Contribution To Salmon Watch
  • Other:_[your abilities here! 

I challenge you to join in this great program and teach others more about our environment - or learn something for yourself even! Some of the children who show up for these classes had never even been on a family picnic in the out of doors.......

The kids are the future outdoorsman and conservationists; they are an empty book waiting for someone to start filling in the pages!

For information on how YOU can help
please email
lizanne -at-