Water Rocks! Debuts Outdoor Classroom Programs

Water Rocks! debuted its outdoor classroom program this week at Mayflower Heritage Christian School September 15 in Creston, Iowa and Aurora Heights Elementary in Newton, Iowa September 16. Responding to the ongoing demand for its educational programming during a pandemic, the Water Rocks! team created a turn-key program which can be delivered at school sites while complying with any ISU, government, or school policies for social distancing and safety.

Somewhat akin to bringing a field trip to the school, Water Rocks! presents grade-level targeted, high-energy, science-based lessons that augment classroom curricula. Both schools selected the Water Rocks! wetlands program and reported positive results.

Water Rocks! visit to Mayflower Heritage Christian School on September 15, 2020.

According to Sue Maitlen, third and fourth grade teacher at Mayflower Heritage, the operation could not have run more smoothly. “They did a wonderful job, setting everything up, keeping everyone socially distanced, and coordinating with the school schedule,” said Maitlen. “They had everything planned to the smallest detail and looked after important measures such as sanitizing between groups, reminding students to keep distanced, and wearing masks throughout the programs. And after the program, the students were excited to talk about what they had learned.”

The Water Rocks! educators have adapted learning materials, teaching methods, hands-on activities and games for socially distanced outdoor learning. Providing everything needed to deliver the programs, Water Rocks! brings chairs, tables, sound amplification equipment and all materials – eliminating demands on the school staff.

Students play habitat hopscotch during the Water Rocks! visit to Aurora Heights Elementary on September 16, 2020.

“Water Rocks! has been bringing science-based educational programming to Iowa schools for more than a decade, and we are committed to continuing to support schools and teachers through these flexible and slightly modified delivery methods,” said Jacqueline Comito, Water Rocks! executive director. “Inside a classroom or auditorium, or outdoors on a playground, engaging students in learning about their environment, water issues and natural resources, is a mission that is crucial to helping build a culture of conservation in Iowa and beyond. We can’t wait to get back to the great indoors, but are heartened by the interest in these programs and may even keep the option open to continue after things return to normal.”

Working outdoors helps ensure compliance with strict restrictions on school visits and field trips many schools are implementing. Water Rocks! relies on its extensive experience with outdoor programming, garnered from its Conservation Station trailer activities in public venues, to deliver a COVID-safe educational experience for all participants.

In closing, Maitlen said, “The Water Rocks! program covers a lot of ground using methods that truly engage the students. I would recommend it to any school or teacher.”

Schools can select from four education modules:

  • Natural Resources (Grades K-2)
  • Watershed (Grades 3-8)
  • Wetlands (Grades 3-8)
  • Pollinators (Grades 4-8)

During the fall 2020 semester, these Water Rocks! programs are provided to schools at no cost, thanks to the generosity of Water Rocks! donors and funding partners.

Teachers and administrators interested in scheduling  or learning more about a free Water Rocks! visit to their school should immediately contact Water Rocks! through its website https://www.waterrocks.org/school-visits

Liz Ripley