River Kidz-St Lucie County member, Adian Lewy, 10, speaks at the Clean Water Rally in Tallahassee 2-18-14 as Indian Riverkeeper, Marty Baum, proudly looks on…
River Kidz, a program that was started by two Sewall’s Point fifth grade girls in 2011, now has hundreds of members, has a workbook, is taught in many private and public schools, and has divisions in St Lucie and Lee counties. Kids have been taught about the environment for years, so why is River Kidz different?
River Kidz is different because it teaches kids how to advocate. River Kidz’ mission is to “speak out, get involved and raise awareness because we believe kids should have a voice in the future of our rivers.”
All the River Kidz do includes “art, action, and advocacy.” Kids create art in the classroom and in public about the Indian River Lagoon, St Lucie River, focusing on its animals, seagrasses, as well as the damaging discharges from the canals and especially releases from Lake Okeechobee. This artwork is compiled by teachers and parents along with letters the children write and sent, or personally given, to local commissioners, mayors, policy makers, congressmen and women, state representatives, senators and even the president of the United States.
Kidz learn to speak in public. Last summer in 2013, 11 year old Veronica Dalton, ask if she could speak at the River Rally at the St Lucie Locks. She delivered her own speech in front of 5000 people.
When I was a kid they taught us about sea grasses and seahorses and it was fun; I learned to love the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon but today’s children, if they are going to have the river for their children, have to learn early about its wonders and its issues, environmental and political, so they are prepared to protect and creatively save it in the future.
As a former teacher I know, a child likes nothing more than to have a purpose, responsibility, to be trusted. These kids are rising to the occasion and learning at a young age, to write letters to politicians, to speak out in public, “to do” by deploying oysters and reef balls and to create art to get their message across. If this is what they are accomplishing at ten, what will they do in the future?
River Kidz is my best hope for the future.
River Kidz is a division of the Rivers Coalition: http://www.riverscoalition.org and RIVER KIDZ Facebook.