Our first outing was centered around environmental stewardship, so we decided to host a stream cleanup event on the Dry River in George Washington National Forest in cooperation with Madison Flyfishers Club. We chose this area because it’s only a thirty-minute drive from James Madison University, and a lot of students use the area around the Dry River for hiking, camping, and fishing. To advertise this event, we posted flyers around campus and on our social media account and announced the event in classes and at the dining hall.
Our event ended up being a huge success for both student engagement and environmental stewardship! With over two dozen students actively helping to clean up the river, we were able to collect over 500 pounds of trash. Not only were we helping our community, but we were able to have a great time while doing it. We split up our participants into small groups and had a friendly competition to see who could pick up the most litter. As a result, everyone had a little extra motivation and it resulted in even more garbage being collected out of the river. It was great to see people making new friends and engaging with the local environment simultaneously, and those who came and helped reported feeling a strong passion for the area, even those who hadn’t frequented the area before. Several people told us they had no idea that such a beautiful place was so close to campus, and that they’re excited to come back and experience more of the area, which was great to hear. We are excited to continue helping our students engage in the outdoors and create more meaningful experiences in our local environment again next semester!