The Start of a New Adventure!

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img_1969Hello everyone! My name is Megan and I am so excited to be the new Assistant Music and Outreach Specialist at Iowa State University. I will mainly be working with the Water Rocks! program as well as, on occasion, Iowa Learning Farms.

I recently graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City with a BA in Theatre-Cum Laude, with a performance focus. I also attended Des Moines Area Community College for two years to take several of my general education classes. While studying at DMACC, I was lucky enough to take a semester abroad and live in London, England and take classes at the University of London. Although I have been blessed to travel all over, I grew up in Ames, Iowa and it will always be my home.

Over the years, with my background being in liberal arts, I have many eclectic passions and one of them is educating people about one of my favorite eras in history. For the past 6 years, I have been part of a Renaissance Royal Court troupe that travels around the Midwest to give educational programs on the Renaissance time period. The programs range from court life, to weaponry, and basic history of that time period. Most of our shows audience ranges from children to adults.

img_8812When I am not rocking it out with Water Rocks!, I pursue several of my other passions. One of them is performing on stage with ACTORS Inc., the Ames Community Theatre, reading one of the several novels that I own, singing around my apartment, playing piano, watching movies, or hanging out with family and friends.

Megan Kroeger

The Ripple Effect

Backpacks and binders. Construction paper and crayons. Pens, pencils, and Post-its. Back-to-school season is upon us! There’s such an excitement in the air as students get stocked up on supplies in preparation for the start of a new school year ahead.

While school supply shopping in August is symbolic of the back-to-school movement, back-to-school preparations have been underway since June for 64 K-12 teachers participating in the Water Rocks! Teacher Summit workshops put on by our team. These teachers descended upon the Iowa State University campus for two days of learning and full immersion on all things water, soil, and natural resources.

Why train teachers? Educating youth on water, land, and wildlife issues in the natural environment is a team effort!  While the demand for agricultural products is ever increasing, as is society’s demand for clean water, the health of our water bodies and our land rests in the engagement of youth as the future decision-makers. At the same time, schools statewide face ever-tightening budgets and elimination of field trips exposing students to these topics. Enter Water Rocks! and our Teacher Summits.

If we can help classroom teachers expand their knowledge, comfort, and confidence in teaching about natural resources issues and science-based solutions for Iowa’s environment, we can build a cohort of passionate, energetic educators that are on the front lines in reaching the next generation. If we can equip teachers with hands-on games, interactive activities, and ready-to-use materials to help convey conservation concepts in the classroom, we can create a ripple effect in terms of youth water education. Training teachers means the potential for directly reaching hundreds, if not thousands, of students statewide as teachers integrate these Iowa-centric natural resources topics, games, and activities year after year. Training is one of the three keys pillars of the Conservation Learning Group at ISU, and the Water Rocks! Teacher Summits help educators make waves when it comes to integrating natural resources topics in creative and engaging ways with their students.

Over the course of each Water Rocks! Teacher Summit, participants are introduced to agricultural and environmental topics through presentations by ISU faculty and researchers working directly in these fields, broadening their understanding of the current science. How is that information translated back into the classroom, whether it be to 4th graders or high school students?  The Water Rocks! team makes it easy, pairing each expert presentation with a fun and engaging hands-on activity or interactive game that teachers can use with their students back in the classroom. For instance, Randall Cass, ISU Extension Entomologist, spoke to participants about the challenges facing bees and pollinators, which was followed by participants competing in the original Monarch Migration Madness game developed by Water Rocks!. Each school team goes home with an activity kit chock full of ready-to-use educational materials for the classroom. Finally, a field tour gives teachers the opportunity to better understand the connections between land management, water quality, and wildlife habitat as they explored conservation practices firsthand on the ground.

Since 2014, Water Rocks! has conducted 13 summits, reaching 263 teachers, 14 high school peer mentors and 62 Extension and environmental educators—multiplying the impact of our engaging youth water education efforts across the state and across generations!


Mikell Brosamle, Galva-Holstein Community Schools, can’t wait for her students to experience the connectedness of the environment around them through the use of games and activities:

“I found the Summit to be refreshing and invigorating. … I received a plethora of useful classroom materials and information on how to present them in a format that kids will LOVE! … With all the hands-on games, intriguing music videos, along with educational activities to support the lesson, the students will be excited about learning how to improve their environment and save habitats by learning that all water is connected. It will teach them that EVERYONE plays an important role and that their choices are important.”


Several teachers acknowledged how much they personally learned about agricultural production, water quality, and the environment around them. Kathy Lynott, from Erskine Elementary School in Cedar Rapids, shared how her personal perspectives have shifted after two days at the Water Rocks! Summit:

“I predict I’m going to drive into a ditch or get pulled over for swerving on the road. This is a result of my participation in the WATER ROCKS! Summit. My erratic driving happened the MINUTE I left the Summit.

 “My eyes are constantly wandering off to corn and bean fields now!? I’m looking at the slope of the fields, if they’re draining into little waterways, what, if any, buffer crops are surrounding the fields, how large the buffer crops are and I’m even noticing the curvature of the fields. My poor husband had no idea what he was in for when I arrived home. … He grew up on a farm so he was already pretty knowledgeable about land and water. He was, however, still open to listen to new ideas especially about the pollution nitrate and phosphorus are causing to fresh water sources.

 “It’s not just nitrate and phosphorus… it’s a combination of trash, poop, loose soil, fertilizers, pesticides, and oil all going into our water. Yes, the same water we drink from. Doing our part by picking up dog poo, recycling and conserving water are small ways we can make a big difference. … Also, the milkweed around our property will now be carefully tended to. I literally mowed AROUND 2 plants I noticed next to the fence line yesterday.”


With back-to-school on the horizon, it’s high time to get those scissors, staplers, and spiral notebooks ready to go. And you can send the kids and grandkids back to school knowing that there’s an amazing cohort of teachers across the state equipped with sound science, brimming with enthusiasm, and ready to rock their students’ worlds when it comes to learning about Iowa’s water, land, and wildlife.

Ann Staudt

The 2019 Water Rocks! Teacher Summits were made possible through funding from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (USEPA Section 319) and Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

Two Months of Adventure

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Over the past couple months, I’ve been having a ton of fun with multiple activities of the Water Rocks! and Iowa Learning Farms water resources internship. I started working for them on May 15th and am constantly impressed by how many different things that we do. During the first few weeks I worked, I was assigned to classroom visits and assemblies.

IMG_0073I had a terrific time developing my own style of presenting our information and really enjoyed working with the kids. They tended to grasp the importance of what we taught quickly through the games of the classroom presentations and the songs and activities of the assemblies. My favorite part of working with these kids are the often hilarious answers that they give to questions. I remember during my first week I was telling the kids that we were going to go back in time 200 years, and I asked how long ago that was. One of the kids immediately raised his hand-he looked really confident-and said “1934.” There are tons of answers like that one during our classroom visits.

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Scott as Mr. Raindrop in the watershed assembly skit.

It is also quite fun to see people break out of their shells during our assemblies. They are very participation driven and we ask kids and adults to come up and dance or sing with us. At first, they are hesitant, then once a few of the other kids come up front, they immediately all want to join in the fun. It gets better as the assemblies go on as well, with more kids willing to come forward. At first I was hesitant to sing the song “Scoop that Poop” but once I saw that the kids loved it I found it was much easier to enjoy.

After the first few weeks of the internship, we started doing field work including midden counting, monarch observation, or nitrate level observation. I like almost every part of these activities (except when my waterproof boots get water in them because my jeans are so wet water leaks in through their tops). The field work experience helped the information I had been teaching come to life. As a chemist, I had limited previous exposure to outdoor scientific activities. This allowed me to see how ecosystems function in a way represented by numbers, as opposed to simple observation.

Photo 3I have also recently participated in going around to county fairs and farmer’s markets with our trailers to inform both adults and kids how to protect our environment. These events are fun because I get to directly engage with people who wish to learn about the things we are teaching.

Overall, I have been impressed with the diversity of how we present our information, even though we are presenting very similar information across all of our activities. I have been given the privilege to travel all across Iowa and see the various communities that we have. It is amazing to see everyone so passionate about what we are presenting. If these next few weeks are anything like the last couple months, I can’t wait to see what they have in store!

Scott Grzybowski is participating in the 2019 Water Resources Internship Program at Iowa State University.  Grzybowski grew up in Albert Lea, Minnesota, and graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Chemistry. He is off to the University of Iowa to pursue a graduate degree in the fall.

Celebrity Status

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I have always been around people younger than me.  Whether it was my thirteen-month younger sister, my six younger cousins, or the kids that I provided care for during the summer.  No matter the relation, these small humans were in every corner of my life, not that I was complaining.  I love being with kids and seeing their unique perspective of the world and how they continuously grow.  Which is why this Water Rocks! internship truly jumped out to me.

IMG_5043In the short amount of time being involved in this program, I have visit been able to educate and inform numerous young minds about the world around them, and what they can do to make Iowa a healthier and cleaner place to live.  Little did I know; I was also going to get the honor of being admired in some of strangest yet heartwarming ways possible.

The first experience was some one-of-a-kind hand-crafted money.  Which was bestowed to me by a sixth grader claiming we were not getting paid enough for what we do.  Each of us that day received two of these unique hundred-dollar bills.  That was not all, the same child came back moments later with three whole pieces of paper and gave each of us large gold replicas of the previous bill, and said, “Here’s a bonus because I actually learned something today.”

The next form of admiration was a fourth-grade begging for the autographs of everyone that presented to him that day.  To say the least all of the interns that day, myself included were a bit dumb-struck.  We had no idea what to say, except asking our supervisor if it was allowed.  When we got the nod of approval, we all started scribbling down our names on the paper. As soon as we were all done the student clung the paper to his chest and gave us a quick thank you before joining the rest of his class lining up at the door.SignaturesLeaving each event, our team discusses the event on the trip back to Ames.  Talking about how we would buy a fancy house with our new found money, get stopped on the street for a picture, or be asked to be featured in Times magazine.  Although small gestures, I knew that what we did truly touched theses students, we helped shape their future in some way.  Whether they do something as small as picking up a piece of trash or going into a career that helps the environment.  I knew this was possible with children that I saw repeatedly, but I did not comprehend that it could be accomplished in fifty minutes or less.  What these kids did reassures me that the same can be done in the outreach events later this summer.   Now I know I have the power to inform all ages of the importance of the environment and conservation.

Clara Huber is participating in the 2019 Water Resources Internship Program at Iowa State University.  Huber grew up in DeWitt and in the fall, she will be starting her sophomore year at Iowa State University, majoring in Biosystems Engineering.

Learning By Doing

WR!HeaderIf you’ve been keeping up with Water Rocks! for anytime in the past six years, you know we love to teach a wide variety of audiences all about our environment and how to conserve it! What you might not know is just how much we learn from our audiences, from young to wise. Even only being on the team for just under a month, I have been able to learn tremendous amounts from students, adults, and communities across Iowa.

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From the small things, like learning carrots are not part of a healthy diet for rabbits during a soils presentation from a 4th grader, to the big things like realizing just how much influence the right knowledge can have on our future generations, I have been absolutely loving what this internship has been able to impart on me in such little time. Of course, I’ve also been able to brush up on my knowledge of the environment through training and teaching our modules, too. It’s been inspiring to see such a young generation so aware of conservation and our environment!

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Given an imaginary plot of land and five million dollars, one student constructed a buffer strip of prairies and wetlands without even knowing what a buffer strip was! Another student constructed a hydroelectric powered greenhouse! I’m not sure I would have thought to build anything but a giant treehouse and an ice cream shop in 4th/5th grade. Both urban and rural schools alike have shown tremendous knowledge on conservation, although rural has been more related to farming and urban to consumption.

I’ve gained valuable insight on to how audiences of different ages respond to activities and have been able to enhance my communication skills greatly. Even on the commutes across Iowa, I have been able to better understand the different landscapes, agricultural practices, and arrangements of different parts of the state. Each piece of this internship has been valuable to me, and I know I will continue to learn more and more as the summer goes along!Photo 1

From learning it’s way more fun to be vibrant (check out those awesome nails), the power of a freeze pop in a 5th grade classroom, and just how competitive a game of hopscotch can get, I have been thoroughly enjoying my time at Water Rocks and can’t wait to see what the rest of the summer has in store!

 

Emma Flemming

Emma Flemming is participating in the 2019 Water Resources Internship Program at Iowa State University.  Flemming grew up in Des Moines (Roosevelt High School). In the fall, she will be starting her junior year at Iowa State University, majoring in Environmental Science and International Studies.

The Epic Outdoor Classroom Adventure


Today’s guest blog post is provided by Joshua Harms, part of the
Iowa AmeriCorps 4-H Outreach program, serving with Water Rocks! in 2018-19.

On May 7th Ann and I were tasked with an adventure to go teach 8 We All Live in a Watershed presentations at the Carroll County 5th Grade Outdoor Classroom. This adventure started at 7:15 when Ann and I left the parking lot. Our drive was about an hour and a half which isn’t much compared to some of the other epic journeys across Iowa that we have taken. After we arrived at Swan Lake State Park Nature Center in Carroll, we were met at the door by our contact Anjanette Treadway. She then showed us to the room in which our presentations would take place so that Ann and I could set up.

When Ann and I had finished setting up we made our way to the commons area where orientation was taking place with 170+ 5th graders and their teachers. During orientation Anjanette explained that one of the speakers did not show up. This speaker happened to be someone that was going to talk about bees/pollinators. As Ann and I heard this we started thinking if there would be any way that we could help Anjanette out. Now it just so happened that we had brought one of our pollinator games along with us because Anjanette had requested to borrow it for another event that she was hosting a few days later. So we came to an agreement that we would split up and I would teach a modified pollinator presentation while Ann would teach the watershed presentation. 

Now to be honest I was a little nervous because I had never taught an entire presentation by myself let alone 8. I had around 5 minutes to quickly come up with talking points to accompany the game. After I quickly came up with some talking points, I made my way to the place in which I would be teaching to start the epic adventure of doing 8 presentations all by myself. As the day of presentations went on I started to feel really comfortable with what I was doing plus I was also remembering more things that I could talk about.

I taught the students that pollinators actually complete the process of pollination on accident as they fly to different flowers looking for nectar. I also explained that these creatures are responsible for a lot of the different foods that we as people enjoy. After explaining the process of pollination and how important it is, I focused in on monarch butterflies in particular. I explained the super long journey that they take, known as migration. I emphasized that this journey comes with lots of different challenges and that led right into a game called Monarch Migration Madness.

The Monarch Migration Madness game is all chance-based. There are 10 circles in both the summer habitat (with each circle depicting a milkweed plant) and winter habitat (with each circle depicting an oyamel fir tree). I started off by giving each student a number, which represented which number circle they started on in the summer habitat. After they got to their starting positions, I counted down from 3 and then the students migrated to the opposite side of the room, where the winter habitat was, and at that point they could pick any number circle. The only thing is that there cannot be any more than 3 monarchs per circle. After they made their migration, I read a situation that would affect some of their habitat, removing the designated oyamel fir trees as called for in the situation. This game goes on for several rounds until there are only a few remaining monarchs. When the game was complete I then finished off with some different things that we as people can do to help our pollinator friends continue to thrive.

I was definitely a little worn out after the completion of all the presentations, but all that was left was to pack up and drive back to Ames so I wasn’t complaining. During the drive back Ann and I talked about how we felt our adaptation to the situation went. We came to the conclusion that it went quite well. As we eventually arrived in Ames we knew that the epic adventure had come to an end. It was an exhilarating and successful adventure—the students had FUN, they learned a ton about the environment around them, and I felt a lot more confident after giving 8 presentations on my own!

Joshua Harms

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