RiverWorks Expands Waterways Knowledge For High School Students

The Waterways Journal
21 November 2011
By David Murray

How important are the waterways? What kinds of jobs exist on the waterways? How did the people who work there, get there? Is this a place where I
could work someday?

The "Who Works the Rivers" program for high school students is jointly sponsored by RiverWorks Discovery and the Waterways Association of Pittsburgh. The program first provokes these questions, then provides answers for hundreds of high school students looking for a way ahead in an uncertain economy. The program's success has led to its expansion and new sponsors, and has inspired other communities with important river industries.

From its origin in Pittsburgh. Pa., the program has recently expanded to Mobile, Ala. New sponsors include Cooper Marine, the Alabama State Port Authority, the Mobile County Soil and Water Conservation District. GulfQuest, the Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway Association, and the Mobile Engineer District.

RiverWorks Discovery's program is the only national river education curriculum that includes the story of inland waterways navigation as part of its content. The hope is that at least some of the eager students experiencing the program may find their way to the rivers, to provide the next generation
of river workers — and, perhaps, leaders.

The program's interactive displays, including two large-scale puzzles of commercial towboats and a working model of a lock and dam, were showcased at
the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas during the September SmartRivers conference in New Orleans. The programs sponsors in New Orleans included AEP River Operations, Associated Terminals, Ingram. the Port of New Orleans, St. James Stevedoring, and Turn Services, who provided RWD programming to more than 700 children during a three day period.

RWD also exhibited at the recent National Waterways Conference in Fort Worth, Texas and the Waterways Council Inc.'s Annual Symposium in Pittsburgh. Pa.

The first "Who Works the Rivers?" program was offered in Pittsburgh last fall aboard the Gateway Clipper Fleet in partnership with Waterways Association of Pittsburgh.

RWD's partner RiverQuest presented an interactive session using material from RWD's " Energy and Our Rivers" curriculum created by the National Energy Education Development Project.

Following the group session, students attended a mini-career fair and met representatives from a full range of river industries, from non-profit to military to recreational to industrial.

"The goal is to give the students more information about the opportunities for jobs and careers in the river sector," said RiverWorks Discovery program director Errin Howard.

Hands-on artifacts and activities, along with time to enjov the ride on the river, helped make the job fair atmosphere more fun for the students. said Howard.

"Pre- and post-tests of previous events were so encouraging that the Pittsburgh Waterways Association is now offering the program three times, once in
the fall, spring and summer," she said.

Follow-ups showed that after exposure to the program, 64 percent of students had a greater knowledge of the kinds of jobs available in the waterways industries, 75 percent demonstrated an improved knowledge of why rivers and waterways are important to Pittsburgh, and 64 percent showed interest in the waterways as a possible place to work.

RiverWorks Discovery and Who Works the Rivers are programs of the Smithsonian Affiliated National Rivers Hall of Fame, located at the National
Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque. Iowa.