This guest blog post was written by Emily Rehmann, a high school intern with the Water Rocks! team. Emily will be starting her senior year at Ames High School this fall, where she is involved with band, jazz band, cross country, track, and more.
Teachers from around Iowa attended the Water Rocks! Summit on June 10 and 11. A two-day, professional development workshop, the Water Rocks! Summit is for K-12 teachers and has two main purposes: expanding teachers’ knowledge of water and conservation and giving them resources and lesson ideas to use in their classrooms.
To educate the teachers, different guest speakers spoke about their fields. Dr. Cinzia Cervato, ISU Morrill Professor of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences, spoke about climate change and presenting information on climate change effectively to students in different grades. Dr. Matt Helmers, ISU Professor of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, presented on the importance of soil. He discussed how soil is Iowa’s foremost natural resource but also the main pollutant of water, and he presented ways to solve problems with soil and erosion.
Matt Helmers presents about soil erosion and conservation practices that can help protect the soil.
The Water Rocks! staff and interns presented lessons that are taken into classrooms and libraries throughout the year. Teachers were asked to channel their inner students when participating in the various hands-on activities!
The first module that teachers participated in was the We All Live in a Watershed program, focused on watersheds, water quality, and the collective impact of everyone’s choices.
Teachers combined their small, single hand watersheds to create a large, multiple hand watershed, showing how little watersheds are ‘nested’ in big watersheds. Notice that they also are using their brand new Water Rocks! water bottles!
With five million (imaginary) dollars, teachers got to be creative and do whatever they wanted with their plot of river or lakeside land in the watershed.
Ann Staudt, Water Rocks! science director, describes what was built in the watershed, such as horse ranches and playgrounds.
Each individual received a glass of water representing the water that ‘sheds’ off of their land. Then added to each cup was their main source of pollution, such as animal and human waste (cookie crumbs), fertilizer (green drink mix), or oil (soy sauce). The cumulative effects of each person’s choices in the watershed were shown when all of the pollution was combined together into the large jar.
When each of the small watersheds combined their pollution into the larger watershed, the water quality quickly got worse. In the second picture, Mary Glenn is pouring fertilizer from her land into the watershed.
It was fun to see Mrs. Glenn, since she was my seventh grade life science teacher at Ames Middle School. When I asked her what she enjoyed, she said, “I really liked quite a few of the activities, like the poo races, Jenga, and the water jar water quality activity.” Another Ames Middle School teacher, Kerri Marsh, added, “We do something similar to the water jar activity, but this would be easier to use and clean up after when doing six science classes in a row.”
The “poo race” that Mrs. Glenn was referencing is shown below: the Great Poo Pickup Relay Race!
Teachers pick up fake dog poo in a competitive relay game while learning how animal waste can pollute water if not properly disposed of.
I got to teach the poo relay at the Ellsworth Public Library a few days after the Summit with Megan Koppenhafer, an undergraduate intern. It was entertaining and engaging for the kids, and the librarian gave us superhero capes to wear, fitting the library’s summer reading program theme. We were superheroes for conservation!
Back to the Summit, teachers got to learn more about water quality in the What’s in Your Stormwater? breakout session.
In this session, teachers played Duck, Duck, Pollute, a game that demonstrates how rainwater picks up pollutants as it travels, by using the stormwater sombrero. (They learned quickly not to tag a runner like me!)
Another program that Water Rocks! does for kids is The Wonderful World of Wetlands. It discusses wetlands and the many reasons why they are so important: filtering water, helping during floods and droughts, and providing a place for plants and animals to live.
Habitat Hopscotch shows how it is easy to migrate from Canada to Mexico when there are lots of wetlands to go to…
…but it is much harder when wetlands start disappearing!
The Wonderful World of Wetlands unit also includes Wetlands Bingo, introducing the large diversity of plants and animals that wetlands support, with over 50 different organisms.
Jackie Comito and Ben Schrag presented on how to incorporate music into the classroom. They performed original songs that discuss water conservation and more. They also had more activities for the teachers to channel their inner students and included the teachers in their songs with dances and simple refrains.
Ben waters the teachers, who are pretending to be plants, to help them grow.
At the end of the Summit, each teacher team went home with a Water Rocks! activity kit, full of games and materials that were used in the Summit. Our hope is that the Summit expanded the teachers’ background knowledge about conservation and water and soil quality through talks and gave the teachers new ways to teach their classes with hands-on activities and games. Suzanne Petersen, a fourth grade teacher for Southeast Polk , said, “We are making lesson plans already!”
The Water Rocks! Summit has been funded in part through the Section 319 of the Clean Water Act. Partners of Water Rocks! include Iowa Department of Natural Resources (United States Environmental Protection Agency), Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa Water Center, Iowa Learning Farms, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, and personal gifts of support.