Speech team coach praises Iowa’s beauty

By Willa Simmet 2008

As a young girl Rebecca Kauten spent the summer on her grandparents farm in northeastern Iowa.

“Every night my grandma ma would run the garden hose before din-ner,” said Kauten. “After supper she would go outside with a flashlight and catch night crawlers. Basically, she would draw them out of the ground. The next day Grandpa and I would wake up bright and early, get into his blue truck, listen to the AM radio sta-tion and go fishing until it was too hot. We would bring home a coffee can full of bullheads.”

A now 31 year old, Kauten, water-shed coordinator for the Black Hawk Soil and Water Conservation District and CFHS speech team coach, sits against the lockers in a hallway at Ce-dar Falls High School, as lively mem-bers of the Cedar Falls High School Speech team put the final touches on their pieces for the Iowa High School Association District Large Group com-petition taking place in the next couple of days.

When asked why she enjoys coach-ing speech team students Kauten, glances at the three giggly students working on their Improvisation skills, laughs and says, “It’s fun.”

Kauten, sits up and says a little more seriously, “I worry that this type of program will go away. People don’t even know it exists. After seeing what the real world is like as a college graduate and a working professional, I see that these kids really are learn-ing life skills. There is nothing better than knowing how to communicate effectively.”

Besides helping students improve their communication skills through various speech team events such as a one act plays and improvisation acting groups. Kauten hopes to help students understand the beauty of their natural heritage.

“When I was a teenager I had vocal lessons at Luther College in Decorah,” said Kauten. “Every once in a while, I would get to Decorah early and sit up by Dunning’s Spring – a natural spring and beautiful waterfall and practice my music. People don’t realize that there are these kinds of places in Iowa.”

Through some of her work with the Dry Run Creek Watershed Project, Kauten hopes to help young people understand this beauty and realize that they are living in an age where some of these natural beauties might not be in existence tomorrow.

“Dry Run creek is an impaired waterway because there are certain organisms that are supposed to be in the creek that are not there,” said Kauten. “Our most basic objective is to figure out why they are not there. Then we must figure out what to do to bring them back or keep conditions from getting worse. At the same time, we have to get people thinking about our water differently. If what we have been doing for a hundred years was a good idea, we wouldn’t have the prob-lems that we have today.”

The Dry Run Creek Watershed, a 15,177 acre watershed encompassing approximately 85 percent of Cedar Falls, was designated an impaired wa-terway by the DNR in 2002. Tests indi-cated that the waterway, which makes it way through the neighborhoods of Cedar Falls and is a tributary of the Cedar River, has e-coli concentrations in excess of the State of Iowa limita-tions on waters, which may be used for recreational purposes. A major concern with the test results along all branches of the creek is the potential for human contact with the water in the creek. Developers are constructing housing projects and expanding industrial de-velopment along the creek and within the watershed. Dry Run Creek is also the main carrier of storm water runoff, which worsens the water quality issue.

“Nobody wakes up and says, ‘I want to pollute water,’ ” said Kauten. “Everybody wants clean water, but when they find out what they need to do to have it, they are more reluctant to make changes.”

One of the projects devoted to cleaning up the waterway includes a demonstration practice which involves the students from Malcom Price Lab School, which is located near the creek.

Kauten says involving the kids in the project is no different than encour-aging kids to pick up an instrument when they are in fifth grade.

“It’s more likely to become a life-time habit,” said Kauten. “We want to catch younger people and get them ex-cited about this so they will be excited as adults and also so they can go home and get their parents excited about it.”

Kauten worries about the lack of students exposed to natural heritage.

“When budgets are cut, it’s too costly to pay for fuel for a bus, to have insurance to take the kidds on the trip, and it’s difficult to take kids out of class when they ne3ed to hve high test score3s so the first thing that goes is field trips,” Kauten said. “Parents don’t feel like vorite natural places so how will they get anywhere? It doesn’t work. I think it’s something the kids miss out on because people are focused on so many other things.”

Kauten is working hard for water quality in Iowa because she says if people don’t do something about it then place like her favorite natural spot as a teenager, Dunning’s Spring, are going to become disgusting places.

Kauten, an outdoor enthusiast, shares memory after memory of her favorite natural places throughout Iowa. Kauten makes a note of the immense taking their kids to visit these places so She talks about camping trips at Wapsipinicon State Park, hiking around Ledges State Park, exploring Dutton Cave and the Maquoketa Caves, trout fishing in Echo Valley and hunting for fossils in the Rockford Fossil Park.

“I’m really intrigued by some of the areas around Dry Run Creek,” Kauten said. “They would be the coolest placs to just thorw rocks if I ws a little kid. If I ws a teenager this would be a great place to get away from my parents, you know?”

Kauten makes a note of the immense amount of natural places throughout the Cedar Valley including Hartman Reserve, George Wyth State Park, Cedar Hills Sand Prairie, Thunder Woman Park and the Washington Union Access on the Cedar River.

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