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

Season’s Greetings

“When I grow up, I want to farm just like you…”


CropOrnamentOne simple, thought-provoking statement in this short video challenges the status quo and gets us thinking about conservation farming practices.

As your family gathers together this holiday season, think about the stories you are sharing with each other and the gifts that don’t come in packages. Does your granddaughter understand how important preventing soil erosion is? Does your grandson understand why there are green cover crops all over the farm? Do your children know that rotational grazing and prairie strips are two ways that you are leaving the land healthier and the water cleaner for them? Do they know that conservation is something you value? If they farm just like you, will they be doing everything they can to protect the land and water resources for generations to come?

It is when we get together with our families and tell stories of our past, we are also CowOrnament
expressing what we hope for the future. Your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews are listening and watching. What are you teaching them through your words and your deeds?

Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday season and a new year filled with peace, good will and good stories!

The Iowa Learning Farms Team

Water Rocks!: The Man

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

Another month has passed by, and with it another month of exciting adventures for me with Water Rocks! Assemblies, classroom visits, and lots of fun all along the way. But on top of these, there is one other thing that I have been working on throughout the past month: our new-old video series, Water Rocks! Man.

New-old. What do I mean by that? Water Rocks! Man originally aired on the Water Rocks! Facebook page in the spring and summer of 2016. Some were short music videos, and others were quick messages about conservation, with our superhero, Water Rocks! Man, featured in each video. Then, like all great superheroes, he retired from a life of heroism, and the series was retired with him.

Fast forward to the present day. Water Rocks! Man (Todd Stevens) has finally come back from retirement, and is ready to teach students about conservation once more. But now, Doctor Pollution (Nate Stevenson) has risen to try and spread pollution wherever he goes, and Water Rocks! Man, along with Agent Ag (Megan Koppenhafer), must stop him while educating about conservation practices.

Throughout the process of filming Water Rocks! Man, although the weather has occasionally not been kind to us (superhero and agent clothing is not warm!), everyone has enjoyed themselves and I’m excited to share the first few episodes soon. The project has certainly kept me busy, as I write, direct, film, and edit every episode. I really enjoy working on videos, especially editing, so it’s been a blast!

Keep an eye out for new Water Rocks! Man episodes throughout the next few months. I, along with the rest of the cast, hope you enjoy them!

Jack Schilling


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

Wetlands Outreach: Tools of the Trade

To wrap up American Wetlands Month, we’d like to showcase some of the outstanding educational tools that the Iowa Learning Farms and Water Rocks! teams have developed to help teach about wetlands and the importance of these amazing ecosystems on our landscape!

Classroom Outreach
Much of our wetlands outreach with youth is done in the classroom. During a 40-45 minute classroom period, students get to explore the fascinating world of wetlands and the importance of these vibrant ecosystems and the biodiversity they support.

welcome to wetlands


We start out by going on an (audio) field trip, exploring the sounds of wetlands. Students close their eyes and are serenaded by leopard frogs, ducks, geese, and other bird sounds.  NO, it’s not the jungle or Amazon rainforest … we’ve traveled to the Wonderful World of Wetlands!

wetlands wordcloudNext students learn several of the different names by which wetlands are called. Some names are more familiar than others – swamp and marsh are very well known, while prairie pothole and fen are new to many students!  Slough (slew) is another fun one – weird spelling, but fun to say. We can’t forget mire and quagmire, as well.

wetlands are uniqueStudents then learn the three characteristics that make wetlands unique, as shown above. This is followed by exploring three very important jobs that wetlands do:

  1. Wetlands act like a Filter
  2. Wetlands act like a Sponge
  3. Wetlands act like a Home (Habitat)

After brainstorming many of the different creatures that would call wetlands their home, our focus narrows, zooming in on the birds and waterfowl. The following is an excerpt from a fall classroom experience with 5th graders:

WR! Staff: “It’s fall, and if we look up in the sky, what are the birds doing this time of year?”

Student:  “Oh!  They’re flying south!”

WR! Staff: “That’s right.  Can anyone tell us what that long journey is called?”

Student: “Migration!”

WR! Staff: “Excellent.  Now the birds’ migration is kind of like us going on a road trip or a vacation with our families.  So let’s imagine we’re going on a road trip…  the car is all packed… and we hit the road.   But eventually we’re going to need to stop.  What are some of the reasons we might need to stop on our journey?”

Students: “To get food.” “You’re thirsty – get something to drink.” “Go to the bathroom.”  (giggling) “Maybe stop and look at the scenery?”  “Get out and stretch.”

WR! Staff: “What if it’s a very long journey that might take several days?”

Students: “We’d need a hotel to rest!”

WR! Staff: “Well, there are a lot of similarities between our road trip and birds migrating twice a year. Birds need to stop for many of the same reasons we would. Thinking about what we’ve learned so far, where might birds stop on their journey?”

Students: “Maybe wetlands?

WR! Staff:  “Exactly!  Wetlands can provide all of those things we just talked about—food, water, shelter, a place to rest and recharge, a place to nest—wetlands are like a restaurant, gas station and hotel all in one!”

WR! Staff: “And when we go on a road trip, what is the name of the major road we travel on?”

Students: “Interstate or highway.”

WR! Staff: “That’s right, the highway.  And when birds migrate, they take the same path year after year, and they travel on the FLYWAY!”

Migration patterns

After engaging in an exchange like this, the students get to play Habitat Hopscotch. Students are invited to “summon their inner birds” and migrate from Canada to Mexico, with each hopscotch square representing wetlands in different states along the Mississippi River Flyway.

Each round of Habitat Hopscotch gets more challenging as wetlands (hopscotch squares) are removed due to different environmental scenarios such as draining for agricultural use, building a new shopping mall, climate change, etc. After the game’s completion, we lead a follow-up discussion with students to talk about what the loss of wetlands means to migrating birds based on their experience.

IMG_3491IMG_2520Students then get introduced to many of the other creatures that call wetlands home in a competitive game of Wetlands BINGO.  The hands-on approach and game show theme fosters a high level of engagement and curiosity throughout!


Videos, Webinars, and Print Resources
Beyond classroom programs, our team offers an abundance of additional resources – videos, webinars, and print materials — to help people of all ages learn more about wetland ecosystems…

For elementary and middle school students, check out our super silly, super fun music video Wetlands Have Real Important Jobs to Do!

WetlandsHaveRealImportantJobsThe Conservation Dogs are all about wetlands, too! Check out Episode 4 and Episode 10 in the Adventures of the Conservation Pack series, where wetlands take center stage.

C-Pack-Charlie-WetlandsFor middle school and high school students, our new music video All About That Bog is a big hit!


Our award-winning film Incredible Wetlands helps students and adults explore the biologically productive, and diverse, nature of wetlands and the vital role they play to life on Earth.

IncredibleWetlandsWetlands have also been featured several times in the Iowa Learning Farms webinar series. Check out these archived webinars to learn more:

Wetlands as Nutrient Sinks in Agricultural Landscapes, presented by Bill Crumpton
Iowa DNR’s Wetland Monitoring Program, presented by Jacklyn Gautsch

WetlandsImplementationAlso check out the Wetlands Implementation 4-page fact sheet in our “It Begins With You” series.

Thanks for joining us on this journey through American Wetlands Month!

Ann Staudt

Sneak Peek: Life is a Flyway

Wetlands are unique transition zones between land and water, and are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world. The three most important functions of prairie wetlands are waterfowl habitat, nutrient removal and flood control, as Jackie referenced in her blog post last week (A Wetlands Walk with Charlie).

First things first, let’s talk about habitat. Wetlands here in Iowa provide habitat to an abundance of creatures, including mammals, insects, reptiles, and amphibians, as well as countless microorganisms unseen by the bare eye. However, some of the most beautiful (and iconic) creatures found in wetlands are the migratory birds!

Ducks in wetland Iowa


Did you know? 46% of threatened and endangered species in the US depend on wetlands for their survival.

The epic migratory journey that these birds make twice each year is aided by flyways — routes that have historically provided migrating birds with food and water along the way, as well as suitable habitat and resting places. Each season, more than 100 million North American birds use a flyway to migrate – that’s 50% of all migratory birds.

The importance of Iowa’s wetlands cannot be overstated, as our state straddles two of the major North American migratory bird flyways: the Mississippi River Flyway and the Central Plains Flyway.


Much like gas stations, restaurants, and hotels that we utilize when traveling on the highway, wetlands are a one-stop-shop for migratory birds traveling along the flyways. Wetlands provide critical resting stops – an opportunity to refuel, rest and recharge – as well as feeding and nesting grounds.

2012-07-14 18.11.55copy


Last school year, we were visiting the 4th and 5th grade classes at Madison Elementary in Cedar Rapids, and describing the importance of wetlands along with the highway/flyway comparison. One student raised his hand, brimming with much enthusiasm, and proclaimed, “Hey! It’s like that song ‘Life is a Flyway’ (referencing ‘Life is a Highway’).”  We were not about to let such a great idea pass us by, and so right then and there the video concept was born.

In celebration of International Migratory Bird Day (Saturday, May 14) as well as American Wetlands Month, here’s a sneak preview of our newest Water Rocks! music video titled Life is a Flyway, slated for full release this fall!

Ann Staudt

Buzzin’ About Pollinators

While many pollinators across the country and across the globe face great uncertainty, the Water Rocks! team recently released a new music video celebrating pollinators and the amazing work they do! Inspired by the one and only T.Swift and her infectiously catchy pop tune “Shake It Off,” Please The Bees takes us back to the days of summer school and a colony of students that are unBEE-lievably bored out of their minds. The minutes pass like hours until a few special guests show up and turn the hive upside down…   Watch Please the Bees now!





Check out Please the Bees on the Water Rocks! website, YouTube, and TeacherTube.

We are also pleased to announce that Please the Bees will be receiving recognition at the 2016 Iowa Motion Picture Association Awards Gala on April 16. Stay tuned for further details!


Bees-05(monarch)Beyond the bees, another pollinator that has been the subject of much media attention is the iconic monarch butterfly. Since 1996, eastern migratory monarch populations have declined 84 percent, largely due to the loss of native milkweed plants. A recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, on which Iowa State University scientists collaborated, investigated the very real possibility that monarchs could face “quasi-extinction” in the next 20 years. Read the full news release for more information: Iowa State University researcher helps to forecast the chances of monarch butterfly survival.

Our treasure lies in the beehive of our knowledge.
     We are perpetually on the way thither,
        being by nature winged insects and honey gatherers of the mind. 
-Nietzsche, 19th-century philosopher and poet

Ann Staudt