Education and Research

The Boise River outdoor classroom

The Boise River and the natural and man-made ecosystems it supports are incredible outdoor classrooms. Most primary and secondary schools in the Treasure Valley are located within walking distance of a safe, accessible outdoor area inhabited by wild animals, birds and plants – areas that are either adjacent to the river or irrigated with water from the river. Research and local experience show that hands-on outdoor learning is rewarding and effective. When students can get up close and personal with the natural world and witness their dynamic environment, these experiences convey basic scientific information, stimulate curiosity and contribute to their sense of place.

A notable use of the Boise River as an outdoor classroom is Outside Day, an annual event hosted by students at Timberline High School in Boise for nearby elementary school 6th graders.

The Boise River is a ribbon of wild that benefits teachers and students all year round.

In addition to the many teachers who take their students outdoors each year, the Treasure Valley hosts many special educational programs made possible by the Boise River, including the Morrison Knudsen Nature Center, Boise WaterShed and Boise Urban Garden School.

The City of Boise operates the Boise WaterShed Environmental Education Center. The Center offers a number of lessons including Water Quality Field Experience, Explore Your Watershed, Fishing For Fun, and Get in Touch with Nature. Some programs are taught at the Boise River and others are taught inside the Center’s exhibit hall/theater or in the community. The WaterShed reaches an average of 11,000 to 12,000 students each year with lessons and on-site tours, and with the addition of on-site and off-site events, the Center serves a total of 20,000 people per year.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game operates the Morrison Knudsen (MK) Nature Center. The Center offers a unique wildlife experience on a 4.6-acre site along the Boise River. The StreamWalk and Visitor Center provide a glimpse of Idaho’s many landscapes and abundant wildlife. Underwater viewing windows along the stream walk give visitors a fishes’-eye view of the world. Thousands of students visit the MK Nature Center each year.

The Boise Urban Garden School (BUGS) is a specialized, inquiry-based education organization that uses an irrigated organic garden as the setting for its unique learning environment. BUGS cultivates hands-on, inquiry-based education for kids and adults across the Treasure Valley. The students gain knowledge through “real life” experiences in the garden, farm stand, kitchen, and classroom. Students who are able to dig in the soil, plant a seed and watch it grow, are excited to eat the fruits of their labor, and they will understand the science behind a sprouting seed or photosynthesis when it is presented in a traditional schoolroom.

Science and Research

The Boise River and the ecosystems it supports provide an ideal location for research and scientific discovery.  Boise State University, University of Idaho, and College of Idaho all incorporate the Boise River into their teaching and research programs. Having field sites close to campus is a huge benefit for research programs that are always short on funds and student researchers short on time. The Boise River also has lots of public access, which researchers appreciate.

The University of Idaho administers the Idaho Water Resources Research Institute (IWRRI) in downtown Boise. Its staff works with faculty at all of Idaho’s research universities to develop inter-institutional research teams that analyze and help solve Idaho’s pressing water resources problems. Much of the research takes place in the Boise River watershed.  IWRRI also provides an extensive training program for science and natural resource teachers.

Over the years, College of Idaho students have used the Boise Rivers ecosystem to study macroinvertebrate diversity, mottled sculpin habitat diversity and other topics. Research teams are currently studying the effect of toxins on crayfish physiology and investigating the genetics, distribution and movement patterns of redband trout in Dry Creek, a tributary of the Boise River.

In addition to these academic institutions, federal government agencies conduct extensive research on the Boise River to further scientific understanding, as well as to inform land and water management decisions.

The USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Center Aquatic Sciences Lab, located in Boise, conducts hydrology, climate change, aquatic ecology and fisheries biology research -and more – in the Boise River watershed.

The USGS Idaho Water Science Center is also located in Boise. The USGS conducts scientific investigations in cooperation with other federal, state, local, tribal and nonprofit agencies. Studying the Boise River watershed is important not only to the people, fish, wildlife and environment in this area, but also to those downstream. Industry, agriculture, and population growth affect water quality, aquatic biology and water availability.

Protecting the Boise River protects our outdoor classrooms and supports critical research.