On June 27, we had the pleasure of hosting a group of environmental experts from Russia as a part of Iowa Sister States’ Open World program. The group was interested in learning from Iowans about working with youth and the Conservation Station seemed the ideal setting for this exchange. With the temperatures breaking 100 degrees, we were grateful to the ABE department for use of a machine shop so that we could demonstrate the CS in comfort.
With the help of a translator, we had a good discussion about the Conservation Station and engaging youth. It became clear in the conversation that the challenges and demands in working with youth are cross-cultural. Whether working with students in Russia or Ames, we need activities and demonstrations that are fun, engaging and hand-on to connect with and inspire today’s youth. And we all agreed that working with high school students is challenging! The group took countless pictures of the CS–inside and out–and even asked us if we had blueprints available so they could replicate it in their programs.
After seeing the Conservation Station, Viktor, who runs a high school environmental program, proclaimed, “This is my dream!”. He didn’t know where he would get the money to do it but it was his dream. I (Jackie) encouraged him to be persistent in making it happen.
The visitors from Russia made us see our Conservation Station in a new light. It is easy to take for granted what we have in our fleet of Conservation Station trailers and the value of the rainfall simulator, learning lab and hands on activities. When we were at the National Water Conference in Portland, we learned how unique CS was among other land grant institutions. Now we are learning how unique it is in the world.
With the launch of the CS3 this fall, perhaps the best is yet to come when it comes to our youth outreach. We hope that we can keep the CS fleet on the road for many years to come!