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KOSCIUSKO — Students from Washington STEM Academy and Tippecanoe Valley High School traded their books and pencils for life vests and paddles to venture through Grassy Creek as part of the tenth annual student rafting program.   

The program, which is made possible by the Kosciusko County Soil and Water Conservation District, The Watershed Foundation, Washington STEM Academy and Tippecanoe Valley HS, aims to educate students about their watershed, and foster a relationship between them and nature. Many of the students had never been on a boat, and hardly any had ever been through a wetland like Grassy Creek.

“The Kosciusko County Soil and Water Conservation District is pleased to be able to offer this type of event to our county.  It is collaboration at its best, involving many local entities and volunteers, working towards common goals,” commented SWCD Program Administrator Darci Zolman.  “I can’t think of a more unique way to learn about the land-water connection, stewardship, and working together as a team.  We are very pleased with this outreach and its impacts.” 

Each raft holds up to ten students and education volunteers from various organizations, including the Lilly Center for Lakes and Streams. Together, the teams make their way down the creek with teamwork and collaboration. During the trip the students conduct experiments to determine the creek’s phosphorus concentration, dissolved oxygen and temperature. Combined, these three indicators tell a story about the health of the water. Conservation Officers from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources follow the rafts on the journey to ensure safety on the creek.

The trips ended each day at Pie-Eyed Petey’s Marina, where pontoon boats captained by Lake Tippecanoe Property Owner’s Association members met them. On the ride over to YMCA Camp Crosley Teen Village on Little Tippy, the students also took a Secchi Disk reading to better understand water clarity and sedimentation.

After lunch the day culminated with a watershed activity that demonstrated how small pollutants on land had the potential for impacting water quality. The students built their own community on a tarp and watched as the water picked up pollutants on the land and collected in dirty puddles. Students also learned the importance of resource management and partnership through various activities presented by environmental educator Rick Glassman.

As the student’s day ended, each should have left knowing that they live on a very fragile watershed.  It is their responsibility to make Clear Choices for Clean Water in their community, for themselves and future generations. Simple actions such as picking up pet poo and planting native plants in their yards were demonstrated as examples of small choices that have a big impact. For more information about how you can be a good water steward, visit

“Opportunities such as this rafting trip provide meaningful moments for students to engage with our local lakes and streams. Our goal is to make deep connections so that we can recognize the human impact and monitor trends over time,” said David Burden Washington STEM Coach. “Students are the future stewards and conservationist that will be responsible for the health of our community. We see tremendous value in participating with the Soil and Water Conservation District to learn alongside experts in the field.”

Many Volunteers have given their time and expertise to make these trips possible. Special recognition should be given to SWCD Supervisors Jon Roberts and Stan Moore and volunteers Sherman Bryant and Sam St.Clair for their continued leadership and making sure the rafts are ready for use each morning and put away after each trip. For more information on raft opportunities, contact the Kosciusko County SWCD at (574) 267-7445 x3 or

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