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Making water protection a priority both in the classroom and in retirement

Aerial view of a highway bridging two connecting lakes.
North and South Center lakes in Chisago County. Photo: Patrick McNeil

Most children sing for the rain, rain to go away on summer days, but Dawn White looked forward to those showers and thunderstorms as a child.

“I grew up working on a family dairy farm,” she says. “My chores were based around the water cycle. A rainy summer day was a day off in my world.” 

A smiling woman in a magenta jacket stands in front of a snow-covered mountain pass on a sunny day.
Dawn White

White spent most of her life among the 18,866 acres of lakes, rivers, and streams in Chisago County, and as she moved into a career in science education, her appreciation for water expanded. 

“Water had an impact on what I taught and how I taught,” she says. 

White’s students studied water in their local community as well as on the global scale. White created a lesson plan that let students tour rain gardens in North Branch and hear from water experts involved in these projects. She says seeing these water protection practices firsthand had an impact on high school students and adults alike. 

Now retired from her career in education, White remains actively involved in water protection efforts by serving on Chisago County’s Water Plan Policy team. 

“I promised myself that when I retired, I didn’t want to just sit back on my laurels and go, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s a really tough issue,’” she says. “It’s more important to me to be part of the policy making team than it is for me to just stand by and wait for somebody else to make those changes.” 

White has observed the importance of education and awareness in making sustainable change. “There is so much good work being done and so few people that know about it,” she says. “There are so many ways that an individual can make a difference when it comes to keeping or maintaining or improving our freshwater systems.”

“I think people don’t realize that one little person can make a difference,” she reflects. But White’s story speaks to that very potential. 

Learn more in the We Are Water MN exhibit

White shared her story as a part of We Are Water MN, a traveling exhibit and community engagement program that explores Minnesotans’ relationships with water. Chisago County will host the exhibit from June 20 through August 12. 

Chisago County is a scenic and ecologically diverse region that provides ample outdoor recreation opportunities to residents and regional tourists. The Sunrise River, North Branch Sunrise River, Goose Creek, Wolf Creek-St. Croix River, and Big Marine Lake-St. Croix River watersheds are all within Chisago County. These creeks and rivers flow into the St. Croix River and are part of the larger Lower St. Croix River Watershed. Visit the exhibit to hear local stories and learn more about the water here. 

The exhibit will be on display at the following locations:

  • North Branch Area Library (main exhibit), 6355 379th St, North Branch, MN 55056
  • Chisago County History Center (a sampling of We Are Water MN and a historical exhibit about Chisago County lake resorts), 12795 Lake Blvd, Lindström, MN 55045
  • Lindström Memorial Park (outdoor exhibit), 30525 Linden Street, Lindström, MN 55045

Events and Activities

In addition to the exhibits, many events and activities to learn about water issues will take place in Chisago County. Some of these activities include:

4-H Water Watchers | June 21, 9 a.m. - noon | Community Garden, North Branch 
Water Storytelling | July 16, 1-2 p.m. | North Branch Library
Kids Water Poetry Contest | Submit Entries by July 16 
Art + Water Bar | July 17, 4:30 – 7:30 p.m. | Uncommon Loon, Chisago City
Storytelling, Songs & Art | July 26, 6 – 8 p.m. | Hallberg Center, Wyoming
St. Croix River Paddle | July 30, 3 – 7 p.m. | Taylors Falls Lions Club Park
Book Reading | August 8, 6 – 8 p.m. | North Branch Area Library

Find exhibit and event details on the Chisago County Water Resources website.

About We Are Water MN 

We are Water MN is led by the Minnesota Humanities Center in partnership with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Minnesota Historical Society, the Board of Water and Soil Resources, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the Minnesota Department of Health, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and University of Minnesota Extension.

The program is funded in part with funds from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment — which was created with the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008 — and by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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