OSWEGO, N.Y. – Canoe And Kayak Fridays for Students is one of the many science and nature programs SUNY Oswego’s field station, Rice Creek, offers to the university’s students. More than a property for scientific research, Rice Creek offers programs that are an educational, health, and career resource for students.
The new Canoe and Kayak Fridays for Students program allows students to explore the creek by supplying canoes, kayaks, paddles, and life vests. Every Friday from 2-4 p.m. during September through October, students are encouraged to kayak while enjoying the creek’s natural beauty.
“You just grab a life preserver, sign out your kayak, and I will take you down to the water to help you get in and everything. If you don’t know how to row, I’ll just give you a quick instruction. And then I’ll just push you off and you’re good until you come back,” said Rice Creek employee and SUNY Oswego student Rhea Fountaine.
For some students, the program served as an introduction to kayaking and to Rice Creek itself.
Foreign exchange student Danni Xu and her friends found the program on the SUNY Oswego events calendar while looking for an outside activity. Kayaking at Rice Creek was Xu’s first time kayaking, and her favorite part was “enjoying her time with nature.”
Canoe and Kayak Fridays was inspired by a prior mental wellness event the field station held: Fresh Air, Fresh Start, according to Rice Creek’s Assistant Director Kristen Haynes.
The canoeing and kayaking was often the most popular of the recreational activities and the entire wellness event was very successful, according to Haynes.
“We’re actually hoping to expand that and offer more opportunities for students to reap physical health benefits and mental health benefits by experiencing time in nature that way,” said Haynes.
Ecotherapy at Rice Creek
To introduce more students to the physical and mental health benefits of Rice Creek, the field station offers opportunities for “ecotherapy,” also known as nature therapy.
The field station collaborates with the Counseling Service Center staff at SUNY Oswego once or twice per semester to hold a series of group counseling sessions outside on the field station property.
One of the counselors, Corey Brosch, has training in ecotherapy, which entails using nature as a therapeutic means for students. Brosch guides students through walking meditations, according to Haynes.
To add onto Rice Creek’s collaborations with campus offices, SUNY Oswego’s Director of Student Health Services Angie Brown said she interested in partnering with Rice Creek on an upcoming event, depending on the number of medical staffers able to leave campus and spend time at Rice Creek.
The benefits to spending time in nature are scientifically supported, according to Brown. “Sunshine produces vitamin D,” and “bodies of water produce negative ions,” increasing happiness levels of those who spend time in the sun and around water, said Brown.
Brown envisions an event that ties in physical health and mental health benefits, whether it be hiking, walking, or having exercise stations at Rice Creek.
Student work and internship opportunities at Rice Creek
In addition to being a mental and physical health resource, Rice Creek is a work and career resource, especially for student zoology majors at SUNY Oswego.
Zoology major Sonja Anderson wants to be an environmental researcher, and she works at Rice Creek as a curatorial assistant.
“It’s allowed me to experience a lot of researching opportunities such as beaver behavior research and getting overall experience in working with specimens,” said Anderson.
Zoology major Autumn Fluty has both a paying job as a front desk attendant and a one-credit internship at Rice Creek. Fluty’s role as a nature education and outreach intern has helped prepare her for a future career as a zookeeper.
“The job overall has helped me get more comfortable in a public speaking environment and educating other people,” said Fluty.
A message to students from Rice Creek
Whether a student chooses to work for Rice Creek, enjoy time sitting in its herb garden, walk on the trails, try canoeing and kayaking, get more involved in a program, or volunteer, Haynes hopes every student at some point in their time at SUNY Oswego gets to experience Rice Creek.
To make Rice Creek more easily accessible to students, Rice Creek offers green shuttle transportation from the SUNY Oswego campus to many of its programs, according to Rice Creek Director Kamal Mohamed.
“We’re here as a resource for however involved or not involved students decide to become, so I would just encourage them to try it,” said Haynes.