Catawba Riverkeeper’s CREEK program is a multifaceted community outreach and partnership opportunity for youth living in the Catawba-Wateree River Basin. 

CREEK,  Community Resources in Education, Engagement, and Kayaking, seeks to build authentic relationships that empower individuals to be stakeholders in the protection of the river: her creeks, streams, and local lakes. 

The mission pillars of the Catawba Riverkeeper are to educate, engage and protect. CREEK builds on the first two pillars, educate and engage, by creating a connection between local youth and the Catawba River with the hope that one day they will have the passion to protect her.  

We work with local youth organizations in both urban and rural areas with the intention of increasing their understanding of how their local creeks and streams are part of a larger river basin.  Through this program, we offer resources to our neighborhood partners, environmental education, high school ambassador training, service opportunities, and kayak experiences. There is a great need to connect people with their water and to the larger ecosystems of the communities in which they live. We are all riverkeepers! 

Community Resources

Catawba Riverkeeper is a resource for our basin neighbors. CREEK strives to create partnerships within our area to build interest and invest in the idea and work it takes to care for one’s own community. We want to help people understand their connection to the Catawba River. We support and empower community leaders as they engage with the next generation of stewards.   

Our goal is to maintain these relationships, to continue to ask the questions, ‘What do you want to learn?  What are your aspirations for your community?’ and offer support as desired. We truly want to listen.   

Catawba Riverkeeper facilitates a relationship to the river by delivering lessons, sharing educational materials and tools, providing mentor training, and teaching the skill of kayaking. We support learning and growth to empower the next generation of environmentalists.   

Engagement 

Catawba Riverkeeper collaborates with our basin communities through service. As we connect with local outreach coordinators, grassroots organizers, environmental and equity advocates, as well as others invested in the area, we create engagement opportunities. We are ready to support youth efforts with clean-ups, storm drain marking and cleaning of debris, water sampling and stream restoration. We offer the use of our equipment including litter grabbers, gloves and waders, as well as water sampling kits that our staff will process in our lab. 

Staff member Carolina and students of the Movement School participating in a clean-up.

Education 

The education component of the CREEK program aims to sow the seeds of interest in protecting and preserving the Catawba River, her creeks, and streams in students of all ages. Through interactive, hands-on learning experiences, we teach environmental education topics related to water quality, the interconnectedness of ecosystems that makes up the Catawba River basin, conservation, plastics/pollution, native flora and fauna, safety, local history, and the work of the Catawba Riverkeeper. Our goal is to create a sense of connectedness to the river starting in the neighborhood creeks and streams and then extending that to the lakes and the river at large, as well as why, what we as humans do matters to the environment and how to conserve and take care of the nature around us. 

Catawba Riverkeeper offers a special program to support high school and young adult leadership development. Our CREEK Ambassador Program allows these individuals the opportunity to certify in one or each of our three focus areas:  education, engagement, and kayaking.  These older students are mentors for the younger children in their neighborhoods.  Through our CREEK program we share state standard-aligned lesson plans and help prepare individuals to teach those lessons. Lessons in a Box are a great way for our Education Ambassadors to teach about environmental topics. Groups can choose from a variety of lesson plans that will arrive in a box complete with online resources, activities, and materials from the Catawba Riverkeeper. Students may also certify as an Engagement Ambassador and assist our staff with service-oriented events like clean-ups and water sampling. Kayaking Ambassadors have interest and skill on the water and are prepared to work with our staff as we lead youth kayak groups in their communities. Catawba Riverkeeper will also offer team building opportunities as part of our Ambassador program to encourage collaboration, build trust, develop strengths, and improve communication, all while having fun! 

Intern Ike Nwoko demonstrates water sampling at a nearby creek with local Boys & Girls Club members.

Kayaking 

The CREEK program would like to get kids on the water, especially those who may have never had this opportunity. We will provide ‘Kayak 101”, a lesson in safety and skill with an opportunity to launch a kayak and paddle on the Catawba River. Guides will also share recreational and community service opportunities the riverkeeper offers through kayaking. Why is this important? When people connect with and have an enjoyable experience on the water, they are more inclined to protect her. 

For more information and to book a program for your group, contact Shannon Bognovitz at shannon@catawbariverkeeper.org.

The CREEK program is FREE thanks to scholarships provided by The River District by Crescent Communities and our generous members. For more information on the program, contact shannon@catawbariverkeeper.org.

Support the CREEK program! The River District by Crescent Communities is matching gifts from individual donors up to $2,500!