SOCIAL IMPACTS: The Colorado River Alliance and the Mobile River
In celebration of our 20th anniversary year, Impact Austin is highlighting Community Partnerships. From 112 grants totaling $8.26 million to 91 local nonprofits, this is one of our stories
Ten years ago, we helped to build a river. It's a river on wheels, no less, and tens of thousands of people have visited. Read on!
Impact Austin's 2013 Environment Grant was awarded to the Colorado River Alliance (CRA). The CRA is the only Texas nonprofit dedicated solely to the protection and conservation of the Texas Colorado River. They offer natural science education and outdoor recreation programs that encourage the stewardship, awareness, and protection of the Colorado River, particularly to at-risk youth. The CRA also partners with other organizations to organize clean-ups of the lakes that make up the Colorado River.
Since 2009, CRA has partnered with the Lower Colorado River Authority to offer a field trip education experience at the Redbud Center near the Tom Miller Dam. This program annually serves 5,000 students in grades 3-5. But that's not enough for the CRA! In 2013, they proposed to create a second learning experience that would build upon previously-learned content and serve 5,000-10,000 seventh grade students annually. Even better, the proposed Mobile River Learning Experience would come to the kids!
The Colorado River Alliance partnered with Austin ISD and secured funding from Impact Austin to roll out the Mobile River in Spring of 2015. By the end of the school year, 600
students had visited. What the kids found were interactive exhibits and games teaching them about water conservation in the 42-foot trailer alongside 3D models of streams, floodplains and ecoregions. Both teachers and students said they had never experienced anything like it before. Check it out!
The Mobile River program trains and equips educators to deliver up to three in-class lessons that cover these topics: Texas ecoregions and weathering; runoff and infiltration; and water conservation. All lessons are TEKS-aligned and designed to bring real-world experiences into the classroom.
Since opening its doors, the Mobile River has hosted 46,000 people, including students and community members. Students love to go inside the Mobile River trailer and be in a new, immersive environment. Once kids visit, teachers and the CRA report "an overall increase in knowledge about where we get our drinking water in Austin, and where it goes after we use it."
Interested in volunteering with the Colorado River Alliance? Here's their message:
We are always looking for volunteer docents to teach in the Redbud Field Trip Program. No experience necessary! Our biggest volunteer event of the year is the annual Lake Travis Cleanup in September—perfect for families, employee groups, and anyone wanting to help clean and protect the Highland Lakes. Volunteer applications and information are found here.