Thanks to the work of ORF senior educator and chief scientist Bernie Moller, ORF mussels have a second home. Their primary residence (when they’re not in school classrooms) needed a renovation. So, we built them a Mussel Motel. This second home in a lake in Greater Cincinnati will enable us to expand the Mussels in the Classroom program to more schools as we will have more mussel ambassadors for the program.
Introduced in fall 2017, our Mussels in the Classroom (MIC) program is open to grades K-12. This is the first classroom-based mussel education program in the U.S. It originated because of the increasing interest and work repopulating rivers with native freshwater mussels.
These animals are our rivers’ natural filters, constantly straining the water and removing particles which they consume as food, leaving the water cleaner. They are long-lived (some to 100 years), slow-growing, and move very little during their lives, serving as excellent indicators of aquatic health.
ORF’s River Explorer and Mussels in the Classroom (MIC) programs give children throughout the region hands-on science learning experiences. River Explorer lets students visit local waterways and be scientists for the day as they learn about water quality and ecology. MIC lets students care for and study freshwater mussels without leaving their classrooms.
In 2020, COVID-19 caused schools to hit pause on any field trips. However, we adapted MIC for COVID safety protocols and virtual presentations. The result was 19 schools participating with more than 1,600 students in Columbus, Cincinnati, and Lexington. As schools re-opened in fall 2021 and vaccines became available we re-started River Explorer and had more than 1,100 students participating from 20 schools. Since 2005, ORF has educated more than 53,000 students.
ORF would like to thank our major funders for helping support this program: Charles Dater Foundation, Elsa Heisel Sule Foundation, Toyota Motor Manufacturing – Kentucky, Honda Manufacturing, International Paper, The Gardner Family Foundation, The Louise Taft Semple Foundation, PNC Charitable Trusts – Josephine Schell Russell Trust, The Marge & Charles Schott Foundation, and Valvoline, Inc.