Snapshots from State Fair

Water quality takes center stage at the Iowa State Fair when you visit the Conservation Station. Dogs, ducks, a rain machine, watershed game, poo, shuffleboard, prizes… what’s not to love?!   It’s all free. And fun. And educational!

While the Poo Shuffle has big curb appeal, visitors to the Conservation Station must “earn the poo” by first completing one of our educational lessons.  There are multiple options to choose from:

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THE WATERSHED GAME – hands-on fun to learn all about watersheds and how pollution works

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THE RAIN MACHINE – yes, we make it rain!

… or visitors can step inside the (air-conditioned!) LEARNING LAB and check out the “What’s In Your Water?” display. Each of these games/lessons is focused on water quality, and includes both agricultural and urban components. We’re all in this together, and everyone has a role to play!

Then visitors are invited to get in line and compete in the POO SHUFFLE…   It’s a head-to-head competition where visitors learn about the connections between pet waste and water quality, while trying out their shuffleboard skills and competing for some fabulous prizes!

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Dog poo meets shuffleboard in the POO SHUFFLE!

Did you know? 40% of Americans do not pick up their dogs' feces.

Did you know? 40% of Americans do not pick up their dogs’ feces.

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Did you know? 1 gram of dog waste (mass of a paper clip) contains 23 million fecal coliform bacteria. If not picked up and disposed of, that poses some serious challenges to water quality!

The Conservation Station offers fun for all: urban and rural, young and old alike…

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Love this little guy on his tiptoes to catch all of the action in the watershed game!

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… and some of them aren’t even walking yet! You’re never too young to start learning about conservation!

Day 1 of the 2015 Iowa State Fair was a huge success!  While we always talk to large numbers of visitors at the Fair, yesterday was exceptional – our numbers at the Conservation Station were up 60%+ from opening day in 2014.

As Carol mentioned in her State Fair Time blog post yesterday, the Conservation Station is located in Farm Bureau Park, directly east of the Varied Industries Building and south of the Grand Concourse.  Look for the big blue Conservation Station trailer, Conservation Pack dog cutouts, and Iowa Learning Farms/Water Rocks!/Iowa State University Extension and Outreach flags.  You can’t miss it!

Make conservation a part of your visit to the State Fair – we have fun games and activities for all. A big shout-out to Jim and Jody Kerns and their whole crew for being the first Iowa Learning Farms farmer-partners to stop by the Conservation Station at this year’s fair!

Ann Staudt

Recap of Water Rocks! Summit, June 10-11, 2015

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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!

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!)

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.

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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!

…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.

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.

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!”

Emily Rehmann

 

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.

 

Dog Blog: Scoping out urban conservation practices

Join J-Dog and me on our walk as we take a look at several urban conservation practices happening in the neighborhood!

Leashed up, ready to rock and roll!

Last week, I shared my #1newthingforwater for 2015 – working with my HOA to repair several areas on the property that have experienced significant amounts of erosion, and working to get new vegetation established there. Let’s take a look at where things are at now…

We're starting to get some growth here on this slope

We’re starting to get some nice growth here –  this slope used to be completely barren!

Close-up shot

Close-up shot of new grass establishment

 

We have many different walking routes through the neighborhood, but one of our favorites runs along College Creek.  Iowa State University and the City of Ames partnered on the College Creek Restoration Project several years back (read more on the City of Ames Smart Watersheds page – you’ll have to scroll down a bit to get there).  Take a look at College Creek today!

A combination of trees, shrubs,

A combination of trees, shrubs, native grasses, and forbs are being used to protect College Creek from sediment and nutrient loads from the surrounding area.  In addition to stream bank stabilization, these buffers also add great beauty to the neighborhood.

 

Five adjacent homeowners agreed to participate in a

Five adjacent homeowners agreed to participate in a stormwater garden research/demonstration project with Iowa State University and the City of Ames.  Established in 2008, these backyard gardens help to intercept and slow the flow of water that would otherwise run directly into College Creek.

Time for a little break… as the song says, Everybody Poops!

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“Dogs are poopin’ on their walks; geese are poopin’ at the beach.  All these things impact our water, that’s the reason for this speech!” – Lyrics from Everybody Poops

 

 

Scoop the poop

Scoop the poop! Did you know… 1 gram of dog waste contains 23 million fecal bacteria!

OK, time to finish up the walk…  we’ll leave you with one final view of the College Creek restoration project.

Very

Very tempting to go for a little swim!

A beautiful walk on a beautiful evening… thanks for joining us.

Ann Staudt

Summer Library Visits make a splash!

NOTE:  This guest blog post was written by Liz Gotzinger, a summer intern with Iowa Learning Farms and Water Rocks!. Gotzinger originally hails from out west –  California and Arizona – and is currently pursuing Integrated Studio Arts at Iowa State University.

A 2nd grader enjoying the Clean Lake/Dirty Lake game at an earlier event this spring

2nd grader enjoying the Clean Lake/Dirty Lake game at an earlier event

Last Monday, Anna Chott and I traveled to the Algona Public Library as ISU interns for Water Rocks! and the Iowa Learning Farms. Summer library visits are a lot of fun, although it is hard to know ahead of time whether there will be four children or forty! For these events we prepare thirty to forty-five minute presentations on various water-related topics. For this event we brought along the Conservation Pack module and the Clean Lake/Dirty lake activity, along with the Great Poo Pickup Relay Race. This particular module’s target audience is smaller children, kindergarten through about second grade.

Anna and I began to be a little nervous when the only children that had arrived were seventh graders! We waited and thankfully more children arrived, with the youngest being about five, so we quickly modified how we communicated our lesson to engage the current audience. We began and the children immediately were enthusiastic and wanting to have the opportunity to participate by giving answers and helping with the small games we brought along.

Everybody poops...  Students must work together to collect pet waste in the Great Poo Pickup Relay

Everybody poops… Students must work together to collect pet waste in the Great Poo Pickup Relay

The most enjoyed activity and the funniest to participate in is the Great Poo Pickup Relay Race. When Anna and I explain that we are going to play a game with plastic poop and start tossing fake dog turds across the floor everyone is laughing and excited to play. We run the race two to three times if there is a good competition going. The children must wear a plastic bag on the hand they use to pick up the poo and run it to their team’s trash can…

Or else if they touch the poo with a bare hand, they get the dubious “bacteria bling,” which is a glamour shot of some bacteria on a shiny bead necklace which that child gets to take home. We teach them about working together and how small things like picking up after your dog’s messes can help the environment and keep our water clean.

Intern Liz Gotzinger (left) leads students in the Great Poo Pickup Relay at an outdoor classroom event

Intern Liz Gotzinger (left) leads students in the Great Poo Pickup Relay at a spring event

Summer library visits are short and concise. It is so much fun to see the children enjoying the activities and learning something at the same time. What started out as a shaky visit turned into a great time! Thank you Algona for having some fun with us this summer!

– Liz Gotzinger

March Madness: Brought to you by Water Rocks!

Water Rocks! participated in the 2014 Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Annual Conference’s Learning Fair, bringing our own style of March Madness to the Scheman Building.  Remember the good old days of Cyclone basketball, with the Shoot 5-for-5 competition at halftime of each game?  Water Rocks! offered ISUEO Conference attendees our own spin on the popular game, and of course, it’s also connected with water quality – Scoop 5-for-5! The instructions are simple:


1. Bag it.   

Dean John Lawrence

Yes, that is indeed a pile of fake dog poo. Dean John Lawrence shows us how it’s done as he lines up his arsenal.


2.  Toss it. 

Rare form

Aim for one of five trash cans to properly dispose of the pet waste.  Each player gets five throws.  Check out the rare form by Bill Arndorfer (Region 9 Director) and Ron Lenth (Bremer C0.).


3. Win!

Winners

Participants competed to win valuable prizes: autographed pictures of the Conservation Dogs, Water Rocks! wooden nickels, t-shirts, and bacteria bling for those who touched the poo with bare hands.  The Water Rocks! team is pictured here with our Scoop 5-for-5 grand champions, Bill Arndorfer and Ron Lenth, after their sudden death showdown.

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Even Cy couldn’t resist joining in the Water Rocks! fun.  Protecting our water resources takes everyone doing their part!

– Ann Staudt