Living River of Words

Information contact (520) 724-5375 or email Environmental EducationLiving River of Words is a regional coordinator providing local support for River of Words®.

Living River of Words: Youth Poetry and Art
Living River of Words (LROW) introduces children to watersheds and wetland habitats through a multi-disciplinary series of science investigations and the practice of poetry and visual arts. After exploring these topics, children ages 5–19 have the opportunity to share their impressions with entries of poetry and/or visual art to Living River of Words: Youth Poetry and Art Contest.

We are in the process of revamping the LROW program for virtual learning in 2020. Please keep an eye on this page. We will share more details when they are available.

Living River of Words Youth Poetry and Art Exhibit 2020

2020 LROW CoverFor the safety of our community during the COVID-19 pandemic, Pima County Libraries are currently only open for limited services, and patrons are asked to make their visits as short as possible. Once services are restored and patrons are able to spend more time inside, we will work with library staff to install the Living River of Words traveling exhibit — featuring the artwork and poetry of this year’s local and international finalists — in its first location. The schedule for the season will be posted here once it has been determined. Thank you for your patience!

Until then, please enjoy the digital version of the exhibit book in PDF format or browse the gallery of finalists and winners on the Pima County NRPR Facebook Page.
photoLiving River of Words Partners with the Living River Project
Since it began attracting people to the region more than 12,000 years ago, the Santa Cruz River has undergone a series of dramatic changes. Initially a flowing life force teeming with fish, frogs, and other wildlife, the river all but dried up over the last century as groundwater pumping increased along with the human population and its ever-growing demand for water. Today, however, thanks to the release of effluent — or highly treated wastewater — into the river, certain sections of the Santa Cruz River again flow year-round. This practice is not only re-creating our flowing river heritage, but is also supporting important wildlife habitat and building a valued community amenity. As effluent helped create a thriving river ecosystem along this corridor, the community responded by building numerous river parks and The Loop recreational trail ( to provide easier access to this river bounty. Effluent in the Lower Santa Cruz River is not new; two wastewater treatment plants have been operating on this section of the river since the 1970s. What has changed is the quality of the effluent being released. In its largest public works project ever, Pima County recently completed the upgrade of the two wastewater treatment plants. The upgrade significantly improved the quality of water released into the river, a key ingredient for a healthier river. The river now attracts walkers and bikers and is a popular birding destination from the Sweetwater Wetlands to the Marana Flats.

The Living River Project aims to gauge conditions of this valuable ecosystem and track the impacts of our community investment. All Living River reports and associated documents for the Lower Santa Cruz River are available for download on the Sonoran Institute website at

In 2014, EPA grant funding for the Living River Project allowed for a pilot project to bring student groups on field trips to the flowing portions of the lower Santa Cruz River. This partnership made possible the expansion of the environmental science, poetry, and art residencies for students to prepare entries to the Living River of Words: Youth Poetry and Art Contest. This successful model is continuing into the 2015-2016 school year. Please look at the LROW Brochure for information on how your student or school can be a part of the Living River of Words.

LROW is also a partnership with the Regional Flood Control District.

Living River of Words Youth Poetry and Art

Living River of Words (LROW) sets the stage for learning, inspires science inquiry, and excites creativity. The cycle begins with teachers who invite LROW arts and science instructors to their classrooms. Students are introduced to the concept of watersheds and study wetland habitats through a multi-disciplinary series of science investigations and the practice of poetry and visual arts. After exploring these topics, children ages 5–19 have the opportunity to share their impressions with entries of poetry and/or visual art to Living River of Words: Youth Poetry and Art Contest.

Living River of Words: Youth Poetry and Art Contest entries are accepted anytime. The submission deadline for the contest is February 1, 2020. Independent entries are welcomed as well as entries from schools, home school students, and other organized youth groups.

LROW is a regional coordinator providing local support for River of Words®

For more information contact (520) 724-5375, email or visit

Living River of Words: Youth Arts and Science

These multi-disciplinary programs are offered to K–12 schools with an interest in participating in Living River of Words: Youth Poetry and Art Contest (LROW). Participation in these programs is not required for contest entry. A limited number of LROW Arts and Science residencies are available free of charge to Pima County public schools.

The LROW Arts and Science Residency include:
Mandatory pre-trip classroom presentation.
Field study trip that includes science and art activities.
Post-trip art or poetry classes.

The duration and specific lesson plans for the LROW School Residency are determined at the time of scheduling and tailored to accommodate group size, grade level, and time available.

Pre-Trip Classroom Presentation

In preparation for the field study trip, students receive an introduction to the concepts of watershed, water quality indicators, and wetland ecosystems.

Field Study Trip

During the field study trip, students have the opportunity to experience firsthand the riparian habitat of the Santa Cruz River, Agua Caliente Park, Sweetwater Wetlands, and other wetland habitats in Pima County. The group is divided into three small groups to rotate through the science and art activities.

1. Water Quality
Students learn the concept of water quality and the importance of water quality monitoring. Under the supervision of the instructor, students take water samples and measure the temperature, pH, turbidity/ transparency, nitrates, and dissolved oxygen. The students review their data and discuss how water quality may affect plant and animal diversity and distribution.

2. Aquatic Macroinvertebrates and Riparian Habitats
Students collect, observe, and identify macroinvertebrates and explore the connection between land use activities, water quality, and the presence or absence of aquatic macroinvertebrates.

3. Drawing and Painting, Photography, or Poetry
Students spend quiet time by the water and work with an artist to capture their experiences through journaling, sketching, and/or photography.

Art Component

(Teachers select one Art Component)

Drawing and Painting
Students work with an artist during the field trip to get firsthand inspiration for their art projects. In the classroom, students learn principles of basic design such as color, shape, and line, as a means to illustrate their experiences and demonstrate learning. Students create original art pieces using a selection of painting and/or drawing media and are encouraged to submit their work to Living River of Words.
Lesson Plan

Students work in small groups and one-on-one with a photography instructor to learn and practice the concepts of photo composition and the use of light and shadow, shape and form, to take photographs during the field visit to a wetland habitat. Back in the classroom, students work with their digital images to prepare submissions to Living River of Words.
Lesson Plan

Poetry Writing
During a field trip to a wetland habitat students work with a poetry instructor to compile a vocabulary list based on their surroundings and outdoor experience. In the classroom, students read original works by published poets and are introduced to poetry writing tools such as rhythmic verse, metaphor, couplets, imagery, and personification. Using the inspiration and vocabulary from the field experience the students create original poems. Additional class time may be necessary for students to prepare their poems for submission to Living River of Words.
Lesson Plan
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Tucson, AZ 85741

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