The River Stewards announce upcoming project

Cover for “Into the River” by Sammy Miller and Noël Michel. Photo courtesy of Horgan.

Katie Horgan | Contributing Writer

The Rivers Institute is working on a couple upcoming projects to educate the UD community on Dayton’s natural resources. 

The River Stewards program is a three year cohort based interdisciplinary group that engages University of Dayton students with the local community. The program is housed under the Fitz Center for Leadership in Community and is made possible by program head Leslie King, as well as graduate assistant Kam Lee. 

Beginning during the students’ sophomore year, stewards meet with numerous community leaders in order to build relationships and educate themselves on multiple social justice issues facing Dayton. The program builds to a self-organized capstone project that primarily takes place during the students’ senior year.

The 2024 cohort is in the beginning stages of their capstone. This project involves multiple community partnerships including Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, Miami Conservancy District and Bike Miami Valley.   

The project has two primary components, both involving adapting previous cohort capstones. The first part of this project is being completed in partnership with Boonshoft Museum of Discovery. 

A previous cohort created The RiverMobile, a mobile museum exhibit that traveled to local Dayton grade schools in order to educate children on the river and Dayton’s watershed. Though the RiverMobile saw great success when it was first created, the traveling aspect of the exhibit needed to be adapted. As of last week, the exhibit has been transferred into the interactive water table exhibit in Boonshoft. The 2024 cohort is set to do programming in the next few months in order to engage visitors with the exhibit.

The second aspect of the project involves constructing a Storybook trail. Governor Mike DeWine’s wife, Fran DeWine, feels very passionate about Storybook trails and raising children’s literacy in Ohio. Because of this, the Rivers Institute was able to receive a grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. 

In partnership with Miami Conservancy District, the stewards will work to install the one-mile trail along the pavement bike path near Carillon Historical Park. The location was chosen for its accessibility and proximity to the Great Miami River. 

The book that will be featured on the Storybook trail is also a past steward capstone project. The 2020 cohort chose to write a children’s book titled “Into the River” that would educate local children on Dayton’s rivers. 

Copies of the book are available for purchase through the UD bookstore and a PDF can be found for free online. Local grade schools can request books for their students free of charge.

The 2024 cohort encourages the UD community to experience its various projects. The RiverMobile exhibit at Boonshoft is open now and will even be staffed by stewards on certain weekends. In addition, the Story Book Trail will most likely complete construction this spring, and will have an unveiling ceremony in the fall.

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