Growing Interest in Native Perennial Plantings

ILFHeader(15-year)The Smeltzer Learning Farm near Otho provided a great backdrop for our first of three native perennial plantings Rapid Need and Response workshops we are hosting this summer. A group of local farmers, landowners, and urban residents enjoyed a beautiful evening discussing and sharing ideas of how to increase areas of native perennial plantings in row crop areas, along field edges and around homes.

The Rapid Need and Response format for the workshop had attendees up and working in groups to answer five questions related to the benefits of native perennial plantings, the challenges and barriers for adoption, knowledge gaps and what species they are nurturing on their properties.

Jacqueline Comito, Iowa Learning Farms Program Director, then facilitated the discussion alongside Emily Heaton, Assistant Professor of Agronomy, and Lisa Schulte-Moore, professor in the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management and associate director of the Bioeconomy Institute at Iowa State University.

Through the discussion, the top three lessons I took home were:

  1. Native perennial plants can significantly reduce nutrient loss – both nitrogen and phosphorus – to improve water quality at a relatively low cost.
  2. Perennials are better than any structures we have engineered for water management due to their extensive root systems.
  3. Diversity if nature’s way of hedging its bets to have something growing in different weather conditions – drought, rain, cold, or hot.

There are two more opportunities to join the discussion coming up this summer. Be sure to RSVP to 515-294-5429 or ilf@iastate.edu — we hope to see you there!

June 18, Native Perennial Planting Workshop
5:30-7:30pm
Spirit Lake Community Center
1602 15th St
Spirit Lake, IA
Dickinson County
Partner: Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

July 9, Native Perennial Planting Workshop
10:00am-12:00pm
Whiterock Conservancy Burr Oak Visitor’s Center
1436 IA-141
Coon Rapids, IA
Guthrie County
Partner: Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Liz Juchems

Now Hiring: Assistant Music and Outreach Specialist with Water Rocks!

Do you love to sing, have music/theater performance experience, and have enthusiasm for working with youth? An exciting opportunity is waiting for you at Iowa State University! Spend the 2019-2020 school year traveling across the state with Water Rocks!, delivering high energy educational programs to K-8th grade youth, getting the next generation excited about water and the amazing natural resources around them. Water Rocks! seeks an Assistant Music and Outreach Specialist who has strong vocal music skills, performance experience, is a strong communicator and team player, enthusiastic, and has a great sense of fun in working with youth. This 9-month term position runs from September 2019 – May 2020, with the possibility of renewal.

The Assistant Music and Outreach Specialist will deliver Water Rocks!’ signature high energy, engaging youth outreach programs in schools across the state of Iowa, including Water Rocks! Assemblies and classroom presentations. Water Rocks! Assemblies use music, skits, plays and audience participation to engage K-8th grade students with water and natural resources-related topics, reaching multiple grade levels (hundreds of students) in each hour-long program. The Assistant Music and Outreach Specialist will help lead all aspects of the assemblies, including singing, dancing, acting out skits/plays, training youth peer mentors, delivering STEM-based educational content, and evaluating each assembly. Classroom presentations involve one class of K-8th grade students at a time, to which the Assistant Music and Outreach Specialist will lead a water- or natural resources-based presentation that is high energy, hands-on, interactive, fun, and grounded in sound science! The Assistant Music and Outreach Specialist will lead all aspects of the classroom presentations, including delivering STEM-based educational content, engaging students in discussion around these topics, leading students through games and hands-on, interactive activities, and evaluating each classroom presentation.

The successful candidate will demonstrate exceptional vocal music performance skills, strong oral communication skills, excellent interpersonal skills, enthusiasm, and a great sense of fun in working with youth. Singing skills are a must; on-the-job training will be provided to learn the appropriate scientific content. Regular travel, including some evenings and weekends, is expected.


Learn More and Apply (by May 29):
https://www.iastatejobs.com/postings/40828

Water Rocks! Amps Up Conservation Conversation with Rap Music Videos

New videos pop to the top of the Water Rocks! charts enabling audiences to learn about conservation while having fun!

Water Rocks! has released a series of new rap music videos created to engage audiences with music and messages about conservation topics ranging from soil health (“Royal Soil”) to understanding watersheds (“Watershed Rap”). The videos are available to view and enjoy on www.waterrocks.org.

Through classroom visits and school assembly programs, Water Rocks! uses a combination of science, music, games, audience interaction, and videos to deliver information, engage with students, and teach the upcoming generation about the importance of our natural resources and ways to improve the environment. Topics include biodiversity, land management, water quality, the importance of pollinators, and things every person can do to contribute to a cleaner and more sustainable ecosystem.

“Music is a powerful teaching tool that helps us learn faster and remember more. Through song, students learn key vocabulary and get a solid grasp of environmental issues,” said Ann Staudt, Water Rocks! director. “Our creative team had fun writing and producing these quirky videos which are designed to appeal to an upper elementary and middle school audience, but we know everyone will enjoy them. We wanted them to be fun and we wanted the science to be solid.”

The rap video series includes “Royal Soil,” “Wetlands,” “Watershed Rap,” “Monarch Milkweed Magic,” “Biodiversity Rap,” and “When We Waste Food.” These six new clips join some eighty-plus Water Rocks! video selections available on www.waterrocks.org. Video content from Water Rocks! ranges from short animation clips to full-length documentaries, offering science-based education for audiences ranging from kindergarten students to adults.

Iowa City videographer Andrew Bentler directed and edited the rap series. Bentler has worked on national television programs such as Z Nation and Mountain Men. The songs featured in the videos are also performed live during Water Rocks! assemblies at schools across Iowa.

To inquire about bringing Water Rocks! and its music-driven conservation education to your school, please visit www.waterrocks.org/wr-school-assemblies

Studio Magic

Today’s guest blog post is provided by Megan Koppenhafer, part of the Iowa AmeriCorps 4-H Outreach program, serving with Water Rocks! in 2017-2018.

When I was young, I dreamed of being a singer. My friends and I would play “American Idol” for hours. As I became more interested in science I realized I wanted to teach people about science through music. This direction was largely inspired by Bill Nye the Science Guy; he had it all, it seemed, between the music and the education.

As I went through my school years I focused on science more and more. Finally, I decided to go to school for Environmental Science but I still wanted to be in that recording studio! Who knew after two college degrees, neither in music, I would end up getting to live a little bit of that childhood dream when I joined the Water Rocks! team as an AmeriCorps service member! In my position I help with Water Rocks! Assemblies and we use music to help teach science across the state of Iowa. We were in the process of developing the new pollinator-themed assembly when I got the opportunity to come out to the studio to record.

Me singing in the studio — trying to hit the right notes and keep tempo, oh my!

When you walk up to the small chicken coop studio in the middle of a cornfield you imagine it will be quaint and, well, Iowan. Junior’s Motel, the studio, is anything but. When you step through the door you are transported to an Elvis recording room type atmosphere.

Todd rocking out in the eclectic sound proof instrumental room. Note the “A Christmas Story” style lamp in the right corner.

There are moments of history covering the walls as you stare, face to face, at The Beatles and other rock group album covers. The legendary Kirk Kaufman, of Hawks: a rock group from the early 80s, runs the studio and records most of the songs for Water Rocks!. He says his inspiration for his studio came from recording sessions he did all over the country with his band.

I shook hands with Kirk and “fangirled” a bit about how cool the studio was and how exciting it was to finally meet the legend himself. Kirk is a conversational but quiet fellow who is definitely a music nerd to his core. Listening to him and Todd talk about old gigs and bass woes made me feel like I was a part of a band, which I guess I kind of am now!

Kirk at the soundboard marking which track would hold which part.

The recording process involves several steps. First, the instrumental tracks were laid. I listened intently, trying to get my part perfect before it was my turn to record. When it came time to lay the vocal tracks down, I was intrigued that we all had to be in separate spaces. Todd explained this was so each mic could be adjusted to pick up our voices in the best way possible. Rarely had I sung with such a short time between practice and performance, and I was definitely a little nervous.

Luckily, in the recording studio, you have an opportunity to fix mistakes. All of the different parts were recorded on different tracks so it would be easy to manipulate a mistake in one track while leaving the other good ones intact. The tracks are all recorded on a big role of tape which runs through a magnet while you are recording. The magnet arranges tiny metal particles as it goes, which is then output as music.

The recording tape on the left and the soundboard on the right with the tracks identified in dry erase marker.

After recording all three of our new songs, Todd made sure we had a vocal and an instrumental copy of each so that we could use them in our new Water Rocks! Pollinator Assembly. The process of creating music with a message I care very deeply about was an incredibly rewarding experience. Six year old Megan felt very much like an American Idol.

Be sure to follow us on Soundcloud to hear some of our new Pollinator Assembly songs. For more songs created in “Junior’s Motel” studio check out www.waterrocks.org and go to the Music Videos tab, or check out our YouTube channel WaterRocksISU to see full music videos as they are released.

Megan Koppenhafer

Youth Outreach: Updates from Jack

Hi, again! If you read our blog last month, you may remember me as Jack Schilling, the new AmeriCorps service member serving with Water Rocks!. A lot has happened in this last month and a half, and I wanted to share what I have been up to throughout!

To start, I have done a lot of Water Rocks! school assemblies. At assemblies, we teach in front of a large group of students (usually hundreds of them) ranging from kindergarten all the way up to 8th grade. So far at assemblies, I have taught students about watersheds and soil conservation with games and music to help. I also help with behind-the-scenes work such as organizing our posters before we present, setting up the sound system, and scouting for the nearest bathroom.

Thanks to these assemblies, I’ve been able to continue to sing and act outside of school, even getting to play Mr. Raindrop in the assemblies. Having to learn all the songs, lines, and timing was daunting at first, but now that I’ve adjusted, things are going great!

Secondly, I have helped with quite a few Water Rocks! classroom visits. These interactive presentations are given to one class at a time, so it’s a more intimate setting with class sizes ranging from the teens to over thirty. These visits can take anywhere from a few hours to the whole day, but that is mainly dependent on how far across the state we travel. Some days, it could be a school in Des Moines, and other days it could be all the way up to Decorah.

The classroom presentations don’t have singing in them, but I get to help the students participate in fun games like We all Live in a Watershed, where students get to develop a piece of land to put in our watershed. It’s always funny to see the amount of McDonalds that are drawn! I have also taught modules on biodiversity, conservation, soil, and wetlands.

All in all, this last month and a half has been busy, especially with assemblies, but has been fun and engaging as well. In November, the assemblies will become less frequent, but classroom visits will pick up, meaning more time with a smaller, tight knit group of students. I look forward to the coming months ahead and am excited for more opportunities to teach about water and soil conservation.

Jack Schilling

Schilling is a part of the Iowa AmeriCorps 4-H Outreach program, serving with Water Rocks! in 2017-2018.

Water Rocks! Assemblies are Rockin’!

What do singing, dancing, dog poop, water quality, full audience participation, and a big blue Snuggie all have in common? You’ll get all of these things and more with the brand new Water Rocks! Assemblies!

assembly-headline

This fall Water Rocks! rolled out a creative and exciting endeavor called Water Rocks! Assemblies, using music to teach the science of water quality for kindergartners through 8th grade across the state. The mission of Water Rocks! Assemblies is to educate, challenge, and inspire young people towards a greater appreciation of our water resources. Water Rocks! continues to reach students through its popular interactive classroom visits, but the Water Rocks! Assemblies are unique in that multiple classes, even multiple grades, with hundreds of students, can be reached at one time! Since Water Rocks! took their new show on the road in September, thousands of students across Iowa, along with their teachers, have rocked out with Water Rocks! Assemblies.

During the Assemblies, students learn about watersheds, natural resources, conservation, and land use. The teaching is done through music, dance, theater, games, and interactive lessons. This innovative approach of infusing science and music makes learning fun, and helps students commit valuable information to memory.


A teacher at Beaver Creek Elementary in Johnston said, “The team made the water facts exciting, fun, and informative. I believe my students will remember quite a few of the presented concepts. This was a great experience for my students!”

The Assemblies encourage students to participate by singing, dancing, performing in a play, and answering questions. Catchy Water Rocks! songs like “We all Live in a Watershed,” “What’s in Your Water?,” “Scoop That Poop” and “The Watershed Rap” bring students and teachers to their feet to sing and dance. Teachers are happy to see their students have such a great time while learning.

fb-watershedrap

A teacher from Turkey Valley Elementary school in Jackson Junction told us, “Bringing music into the presentation had students saying they couldn’t get the tune out of their heads – a good thing!”

Students in 4th-8th grades are entertained by an activity called “Watershed Broadway.” Peer helpers from the school perform in a play that illustrates how various pollutants move from our land to waterways in the Mississippi River Watershed, eventually making their way to the Gulf of Mexico. A Water Rocks! team member donning a big blue Snuggie plays the part of a raindrop who has just fallen out of the sky, and has to travel to the river. Along the way the raindrop meets some friends who join her on the journey to the river. These friends are pollutants such as garbage, sediment, fertilizer, pesticide, oil, and dog poop. Their journey to the river culminates with a cannonball into the river, in which the audience gets to see how pollution affects our waterways.

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Students in kindergarten – 3rd grades learn about harmful water pollutants by playing a gameshow-style game called “Clean River, Dirty River.” In the game, students are selected from the audience to come to the front. They are each given a picture of an item that can be found in a clean river or a dirty river. One at a time, they are asked to place their item on either the “Clean River” poster or the “Dirty River” poster. It serves as a great visual for younger students to see how pollution impacts our rivers!

Peer helpers are an integral part of the assemblies. Peer helpers are students identified as leaders by the faculty and staff at the school. The helpers sing, dance, and perform alongside Water Rocks! staff. They also encourage the audience to participate in the songs and activities. If possible, high school students are used as peer helpers, which is always a big hit with younger students.

A high school peer helper from Turkey Valley said, “I had an amazing time working with you guys! I learned things about water and watersheds that I didn’t even know. A little girl that told me it was the greatest day ever, and she was so happy that she got to dance with high schoolers. It was the cutest thing ever. Thank you guys for coming and letting us participate in the assembly. We all had a great time, and so did all the students that we talked to! Thanks so much!”

The Assemblies were created keeping Next Generation Science Standards in mind, so that teachers can coordinate classroom lessons with the information presented in the assembly. After each Assembly, teachers are given a packet of follow-up resources that contain workbooks, enhanced learning activities, DVDs, CDs with award-winning Water Rocks! music, and more.

Would you like to bring a Water Rocks! Assembly to your local school? Sponsorship opportunities are available — this is a particularly unique opportunity for Soil and Water Conservation Districts, local businesses, and individuals to show your support for conservation and natural resources education! Water quality matters to us all! Contact Jacqueline Comito at 515-296-0081 or jcomito@iastate.edu to discuss sponsorship to reserve a School Assembly in your local district. Spots are filing quickly for spring, so act today!

Jenn Riggs

Celebrating our Soil!

wsdlogo_upd_enThe holiday season is in full swing, and today is no exception.  Perhaps a lesser-known holiday than some of the others, December 5 marks World Soil Day! Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly back in 2003, World Soil Day was designated “to celebrate the importance of soil as a critical component of the natural system and as a vital contributor to human wellbeing.”

With some of the richest, most fertile soil in the world, we certainly have a lot to celebrate here in Iowa! In honor of the World Soil Day celebration, we have two new videos to share with you today, highlighting the critical importance of our soil resources. We’ve got all ages covered – there’s something for everyone!

Interesting Things Underground

Created by Megan Koppenhafer as part of a summer student internship project, Interesting Things Underground celebrates in song the amazing diversity of living creatures right under our feet!  The peppy tune was written by our friend Marty Adkins with the NRCS.

This music video is great for preschool and elementary-aged students, helping them to see the “millions and billions and trillions and zillions” of unique living creatures in the soil ecosystem. Further, we also have enhanced learning activities + worksheets for Grades K-2 and 3-5 to accompany this video!

 

Keep That Soil Alive

For the middle school, high school, and adult audiences, we are thrilled to share with you a little sneak peek preview of our brand new music video called Keep That Soil Alive!  Dedicated to women who care for the land, this video explores our legacy and connection with the land, landowner-tenant relationships,  and the many different conservation practices that help our soil stay alive and thrive  — all woven together with a Johnny Cash-inspired tune.

Enjoy the short trailer, and stay tuned for the full video release in early 2017!

 

Slow Jam Soil Erosion

Our last video spotlight is NOT a new release, but still one of our favorites – Slow Jam Soil Erosion with the one and only Rick Cruse, aka Poor Rick/Dr. Soil.  Our soil here in Iowa is an incredible resource, but we’re losing that soil more quickly than it can be replenished through the process of erosion.

Let’s give our soil a shout out today on this day of celebration for World Soil Day!

Ann Staudt