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“Into the Wild,” Program Reinforces Loveland Students Love for the Little Miami State and National Scenic River

Students launch Kayaks into the river
Loveland HS Students at Carl Rahe Access

The end of a high school career can be many things.  Nostalgia for childhood experiences and excitement for what lies ahead.  For many of these students growing up in Loveland -  near the Little Miami State and National Scenic River - their shared experience may include canoeing, fishing, biking, walking the trail, or just meeting up with friends for Hawaiian Ice at Nesbit park. However, a capstone experience for these students could be an end of the year river float as part of the “Into the Wild” experience with their classmates.

Into the Wild" at Loveland High School

Over the past three years, Loveland High School has participated in outdoor programming which is designed as an “on the river” kayak experience.   The program combines a study of environmental reading, scientific review of the Little Miami River ecosystem, and first-hand experience  of this natural world that is the heart of the Loveland community.

Leaders teaching Students about the environment
Bill Schroeder and Kristin Henderson

Students come away with a better understanding of the science of the river. Topics include the use of environmental DNA (eDNA), aquatic life present in the Little Miami ecosystem, and understanding the importance of habitat preservations within the Little Miami River ecosystem. “Into the Wild,” is the brainchild of Loveland High School Teacher Kristin Henderson as a special program within the English and Literature department at Loveland High School. It is part science, part literature study, and a lot of learning, outside the physical confines of a classroom.

Little Miami River Float – Celebrating the End of the Year

Through the innovative educational program - partially funded through an Ohio Department of Natural Resources Aquatic Education Grant, supported by Loveland Paddlesports, and led by LMC Board Member, Bill Schroeder -  these students got to experience first-hand, the wonders of the Little Miami River State and National Scenic River and all that it has to offer.  

Educational Programming 

First, the students were visited by LMC’s Bill Schroeder for an in-class orientation session that combined safety information about paddling on the Little Miami River, and the fish, birds, and wildlife they could expect to encounter along the four-mile section they would float. Along the way they could expect to see a great blue heron, kingfishers, turtles, vultures, deer, fox, fish, mussels, beavers, snakes, and even a bald eagle or two. 

Mark Bersani saves the day for the turtle!

A few days later the group gathered at Loveland Paddlesports, boarded two transport vans and traveled upstream toward the launch point at the Carl Rahe Public Access.  But before they even got there,  they had an unexpected treat. The van drivers stopped on the road to rescue a large snapping turtle in the middle of traffic, trying to get to the other side without getting run over by a car.  Using a kayak paddle from one of the vans, driver Mark Bersani air-lifted the turtle gently to a safer grassy area, giving new meaning to the term "paddlesports".

A few moments  later they were streamside, ready to suit up and launch.

Kayaking the Little Miami River

Kayaks launch on the Little Miami State and National Scenic River
Students line up for their day into the wild.

On the float, interpretive activities and information was shared about the Little Miami State and National Scenic River ecosystems and wildlife habitats as discussed and studied, and eDNA sampling was done for the purpose of documenting the fish and freshwater mussel species diversity in that section of the River.

The culmination of this study ended in students enjoying a hands-on experience, kayaking from Carl Rahe to Loveland Paddlesports.  Along the way they stopped and studied any aquatic life and practiced the time honored past time of rock flipping, to fully explore the world of macro invertebrates and the ecosystem of freshwater mussels that support river health.  Of course, there was a bit of water fun.  

That is often a bonus shared by the students and teachers as they discover the joy of learning about nature outside the classroom rather than attempting to bring inside creatures that belong outdoors. We think about that and wonder where that snapping turtle is now. Hopefully not in a display case sleeping, while

nearby students await the ringing school bell calling them to their next class.

For most of these students, they will continue their studies – some moving away from Loveland.  However, all will take with them the love of the Little Miami State and National Scenic River, and their memories of a day when the Little Miami River was their classroom.  

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